Static Vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which is Best?

Different types of stretches work your muscles in specific ways. So which is best for your workout? Learn about dynamic and static stretching here. 

Static Vs Dynamic Stretching

To most people, a stretch is a stretch. But did you know that there are different types of stretching? Depending on the type of exercise you’re about to embark on and your fitness goals, you may choose a particular style of stretching to get the most out of your workout. The two main types of stretching are dynamic and static. One involves motion while the other does not. I’ll explain each and give you some examples of when to work them into your daily workout. 

What is the Difference Between Static and Dynamic Stretching?

Here’s the main thing to remember: static means still, and dynamic means motion. Think of static stretching as a slow, relaxing stretch. Your muscles are stretched in a static or fixed position. On the other hand, dynamic stretching involves constant movement that gets the blood flowing through your muscles. 

Another difference between dynamic vs. static stretching is the duration of time that you hold the stretch. With a static stretch, you reach your muscle’s stretch point and assume the position for around 30 seconds. The muscle is only stretched for a second or two with a dynamic stretch as you constantly proceed through a range of motion.

What is Static Stretching?

Static stretching is the most common type of stretching, the one that we think of when we consider a “stretch.” You’re doing it when you bend forward at the hips to touch your toes. In a static stretch, you slowly extend the muscle to the maximum point where you feel comfortable. Hold it there for 10-45 seconds. Slowly relax out of the stretch, then repeat. 

Saying that static stretching doesn’t involve any movement is a misnomer. Of course you are moving into the stretch, but the motion is slow, precise, and calculated. Yoga is a type of static stretching. Muscles are manipulated into a position, then held there to build strength and flexibility.

Static stretching is a type of progressive stretch. The muscle fibers lengthen progressively through time and repetition. This type of stretching is best for increasing muscle flexibility or regaining range of motion after an injury.

Active Stretching Vs. Passive Stretching

Active and passive are both types of static stretching. With both types, a gentle stretch is achieved and held for a period. However, with active stretching, you use the strength of your own body to achieve a stretch. Think about yoga poses like Warrior or Bird Dog. These are examples of active-static stretching.

In the passive style, your reach a stretch with the help of an outside force. This could be gravity, a wall or floor, or a piece of equipment. When you extend your thigh backward and pull up on your ankle, you are doing an active-passive quad stretch. 

You can also achieve passive stretching with the help of another person. Physical therapists and trainers often use passive-static stretching to help patients recover from injuries and improve mobility. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is a type of passive-static stretching that is often used for rehabilitation. 

Who Should Do Static Stretching?

Static stretching is safe for everyone. It’s the ideal stretching method for older adults, those who are out of shape, or those recovering from an injury. Since it’s so gentle, there is little chance of injury. You control the depth, speed, and repetition of your stretch. Static stretching can be an excellent pre-exercise warmup for activities that require flexibility, like ballet or gymnastics.

Static stretching is ideal for getting your body limbered up and working out those kinks in the morning. It’s also recommended for post-exercise cooldown. However, this isn’t the best type of stretching for athletes who want to improve their performance. Overstretching muscles can take away some of that muscle tension you need to power through your workout. This can reduce the explosive power and momentum you need for movements like a sprint, vertical jump, or quick turn.

Examples of Static Stretches

Any stretch done slowly and held for a determined amount of time is considered a static stretch. Some examples of static stretches are:

  • Quadriceps stretch
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Butterfly 
  • Figure four
  • Lateral flexion stretches
  • Lunge
  • Posterior capsule stretch
  • Cobra stretch
  • Head-to-knee forward bend

What is Dynamic Stretching?

The word “dynamic” is synonymous with change, activity, and progress. As you probably guessed, dynamic stretching deals with muscles in constant motion. In a dynamic stretch, a muscle group is repeatedly moving through a full range of motion. It reaches its maximum tightness then immediately relaxes.

Dynamic stretches can be a series of motions that promote momentum before exercise. Or they can be designed to mimic a specific sport or activity. The repetitive motion allows your muscle fibers to lengthen progressively without losing any of their stored energy. As you repeat the motion, you can increase your ROM just a little more. You should repeat dynamic stretches about 10-12 times.

Dynamic Stretching Vs. Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching is a type of dynamic stretching that is less gentle on your muscles. Rather than a slow, controlled movement, ballistic stretching involves quick bouncing or jerking motions. In this type of stretch, the momentum of your body forces the muscle past its original range of motion.

Ballistic stretching works by inhibiting the muscles’ stretch reflex through quick, jerking motions. Though this type of stretching is not recommended for everyone, it can be beneficial for athletes who regularly perform quick actions. This includes sports like basketball, volleyball, and martial arts.

You can adapt most static stretches to dynamic-ballistic stretches by adding a quick bounce. Try to push the stretch farther with each bounce. But make sure to always warm up with slow static stretching first to loosen up your muscles.

Who Should Do Dynamic Stretching?

Personal trainers and coaches agree that dynamic stretching is the best way for athletes to prepare for a workout. It’s like a stretch and warm-up in one. Dynamic stretching will help to raise your muscle temperature, increase blood flow, and help you to loosen up. Whether you’re a competitive athlete, a weightlifter, or just someone who likes an excellent cardiovascular workout, you should incorporate dynamic stretching into your warmup routine. It’s best done after a brief warmup to prevent strains and muscle soreness.

Different dynamic stretches promote sport-specific movements that can help to improve your speed and agility. Soccer players, for example, might practice leg swings and high kicks. Swimmers might do arm circles. Remember to save the static stretching for after your workout since it can decrease performance. 

You should not do dynamic stretches if you are recovering from an injury unless cleared by your doctor or therapist. People over age 65 should also consult a doctor before incorporating dynamic stretching into their daily routine.

Examples of Dynamic Stretches

Any stretch that involves constant, repeated motion is considered a dynamic stretch. Some examples of dynamic stretches are:

  • Torso (trunk) twists
  • Arm circles
  • Leg swings
  • Walking lunges
  • Butt kicks
  • Hip circles
  • Lunges with a twist


Stretching isn’t just for athletes. Everybody should stretch– every day. Stretching will help to enhance your flexibility and joint range of motion. It can relieve pain, reduce the risk of injury, and help you heal from specific injuries. And it just plain feels good. So think about your fitness goals and try to fit dynamic or static stretching into your daily routine.

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Dr. Kristina DeMatas

Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Read bio.


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