Static vs dynamic stretching: Benefits and disadvantages comparison

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Kevin Mangelschots

We’ll be talking about static vs dynamic stretching today to figure out what they’re best suited to.

I would say that it all depends on what the goal of the stretching is. Let me explain why.

Benefits of dynamic stretching

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  • Excellent warm-up

    One of the benefits of dynamic stretching is that it serves as an excellent warm-up tool.

    That’s because you exert quite a bit of energy with these movements. As a result, your blood circulation will increase, as will your body temperature. This way, your body is ready to perform at a high-intensity level.

  • Increasing mobility

    Your muscles will loosen up over time if you stretch to your limits. This leads to an increased range of motion in the joints, tendons, and muscles.

  • Increased explosiveness

    Your joints and muscles will become looser due to the stretching. This means your muscles can contract to their full range of motion much easier.

    This lends itself to sports, where we need to deliver a maximum amount of force as quickly as possible. Examples of sports where such explosive power is required are soccer or Olympic weightlifting.

  • Sport-specific warm-up

    A skinny young woman running.

    Performing these sport-specific stretches is a great way to get your body ready for the sport that is about to follow.

    This is because athletics are a sequence of continuous dynamic motions.

  • Improving motor skills and nervous system

    These stretches are often sport-specific. That means that a dynamic warm-up frequently tries to mimic the movements that the sport requires as closely as possible.

    This way, we can drill the motions that are needed before we perform our particular sport.

    We can use these exercises as a way to practice our motor skills because these movements are sport-specific.

  • Improves posture

    Young woman sitting up straight in front of a laptop.

    Muscle imbalances are typically the cause of poor posture.

    Stretching and strengthening these specific problematic muscles that cause bad posture is required to get the proper alignment of the muscles and joints.

  • Improves blood circulation

    Stretching involves spending energy by moving your body. Thus, increasing our blood flow by the blood vessels opening up.

    Good blood circulation is important for our general health. It prevents diseases such as strokes, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

  • Aids to decrease stress

    Stretching, and exercising in general help to decrease the stress we’re experiencing.

    Our muscles will usually tighten up when we’re feeling a lot of stress. This is precisely where dynamic stretching comes into place.

    Try to focus on places such as the neck, your shoulders, and your upper back that are typically affected by tension.

Disadvantages of dynamic stretching

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  • Less effective at increasing range of motion

    One of the disadvantages of dynamic stretching is that other stretching methods are more effective at increasing the range of motion of our muscles, such as static stretching, for instance.

    This is especially true if you need to be very flexible for sports like ballet or gymnastics.

    Note that dynamic stretching can still play an important role as a warm-up.

  • Not the safest form of stretching

    The risk of acquiring trauma might increase since the movements are performed dynamically and at a moderate to high pace.

    This leaves less room for error compared to static stretching. You can also take the stretch too far, which can lead to injuries.

  • Can be tiresome

    Image of a cat sleeping while smiling.

    Performing too many stretching exercises can tire you out, particularly since dynamic stretching involves performing active movement patterns.

    While being exhausted at the end of a workout isn’t bad, and sometimes even desirable, it isn’t good since a warm-up is designed to prepare your body for physical activity, not to tire you out. That means you should never perform your stretches and warm-up to the point of fatigue, since it’ll impact your training negatively.

Benefits of static stretching

  • Increasing mobility

    Static stretching is effective at increasing the range of motion of our muscles. Even more so than dynamic stretching.

    If flexibility is your goal, then performing a static stretch, preferably after a workout, is your best bet. That’s because performing static stretches before working out hurts our strength.

  • Improving recovery

    Picture of a man on armchair resting on balcony, fall season during day.

    Statically stretching after playing sports helps to release lactic acid from our muscles which allows us to recover at a faster rate after training.

    This allows us to perform our next workout faster than if we hadn’t done any stretching exercises after playing sports.

    Releasing lactic acid from our muscles also prevents them from cramping up when exercising.

  • Decreased risk of injury

    One of the benefits of static stretching is the reduced risk of injury since it is a slow-paced stretching style where you take your time to ease into the movement rather than using brute force or performing explosive movements.

    This leaves more room for error so to speak when compared to dynamic stretching.

    This means that it’s perfect for people recovering from an injury, but also for those who have more wear and tear on their body due to advanced age.

  • Suitable for all ages

    Image of an older man holding a cane.

    Not everyone is flexible like a cat or (unfortunately) in the best shape of their life.

    Luckily, it’s typically incredibly safe to perform static stretching exercises.

    It’s adjustable from individual to individual. Just take on a comfortable position that you can manage, and hold it for a couple of seconds without straining yourself too hard.

  • Increased blood flow

    Engaging in any movement increases the blood flow through the body. Thus, even something as “simple” as stretching helps to pump blood more effectively through your system.

    That’s because our muscles press on the arteries that are present in our body. This consequently releases chemicals that expand the arteries (vasodilation) so more blood can flow through.

  • Improves coordination and balance

    Static stretching can help to improve our coordination since we need to employ multiple muscles at once in sync.

    Especially for the more complex stretches when standing. That’s because some stretches involve standing on one foot rather than two. This quite obviously requires a lot of stabilizing action of our ankle muscles, and even our hip muscles.

Disadvantages of static stretching

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  • Decreases your maximum strength output when performed right before strength training

    Performing a static warm-up right before lifting weights temporarily decreases the strength you can deliver because it relaxes the tendons and muscles that are being stretched.

    The strength a muscle can generate is the biggest at the muscle’s resting length. This means that artificially lengthening the muscle with stretching (or shortening the muscle for that matter) decreases the amount of maximum force that that muscle can generate.

  • Increased risk of injury when performed right before playing sports

    Passive stretches before working out increase the risk of physical injuries since they temporarily decrease our strength.

    Naturally, our strength plays an essential part in stabilizing our bodies during exercise. That’s why this drop in strength can cause us to acquire trauma that we wouldn’t have had if we didn’t stretch statically before training.

  • Can take a long time if you want to perform a full-body stretching routine

    Image of a clock, with the words, 'don't waste your time' written on the notebook beside it.

    Static stretching can be quite time-intensive compared to dynamic stretching because you are required to hold the stretch for a considerable amount of time while simultaneously needing multiple sets for the stretching to be effective.

    This means it can be difficult to perform a good static stretching routine when you are short on time.

  • Not advised as a warm-up routine

    Your body cools down when performing static stretching as a warm-up because you don’t exert much physical energy since it’s not very physically demanding.

    This means that a static warm-up is not suitable for preparing your body optimally for the physical activity that is at hand.

    That’s why dynamic stretching before playing sports is advised.

Static vs dynamic stretching comparison

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If we compare static vs dynamic stretching, then we can conclude that dynamic stretching is better before you start exercising to warm up, and static stretching to cool down after training or to lengthen the muscles.

If you need to be statically flexible for your sport, like for let’s say ballet or gymnastics, then increasing flexibility and range of motion of the muscles involved are very important.

In these specific cases, performing static stretching exercises is more appropriate to lengthen your muscle length.

However, when warming up for both ballet and gymnastics, dynamic stretching exercises would still be preferable.

If you play a sport where maximum and/or explosive strength is essential, like weightlifting for example, then I would advise performing dynamic stretching exercises as a warm-up right before exercising.

That’s because performing a static warm-up right before exercising will have negative effects on strength and endurance training, while a dynamic warm-up will not.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is dynamic stretching?

A young woman stretching dynamically in a cave.

Dynamic stretching can be defined as the movement of the joints and muscles through their range of motion.

This means you are going through a movement, and this motion is the part that we call stretching. These movements are often repeated numerous times to get the blood flowing through the body and to make sure the muscles are loose and relaxed.

It’s typically used as a warm-up routine before commencing sports activities.

The motions that are used are regularly in alignment with or mimicking movements that the sport or physical activity requires.

These dynamic stretching exercises get the blood pumping through the muscles, which in turn helps to warm up the body in addition to the muscles. A couple of dynamic stretching exercises are ‘high kicks’ or ‘knee to chest’.

What is static stretching?

Picture of a man performing static stretching exercises on a track.

Static stretching involves getting in a position where the stretch is then held for a certain period. Typically, this holding phase varies between 15 and 30 seconds. The stretching exercises are then repeated multiple times to make sure the muscles are loose and relaxed. This stretching phase is frequently repeated 3 to 5 times.

Examples of static stretching exercises are touching your toes while standing up, or hamstring stretches. These stretches are usually performed by using your muscles to hold the different positions. This is called active stretching.

Another person or external force like a wall is sometimes used to hold the position. This is called passive stretching because it doesn’t involve the muscles to hold the position.

Final note

My advice would be to perform a static stretching routine after your workout or on rest days, and performing a dynamic warm up routine right before working out.

That’s because dynamic stretching is in general a much more effective way to prepare your body for physical activity.

This way, you get the benefits from both forms of stretching, while negating most of their usual disadvantages.