Stretching is a lot like flossing. We know that it’s important and that we should be doing it. We know that it helps our bodies in the long run. Yet so many of us still skip this important activity altogether.
And just like skipping flossing, failing to properly stretch is a mistake. Done right, stretching helps us improve our range of motion, flexibility, and recovery time. For anyone serious about their fitness, stretching is non-negotiable, both before and after workouts. That goes for everything from weightlifting and gymnastics to basketball, volleyball, and rec league hockey.
Typically, a complete stretching program consists of both static and dynamic stretches. The question is, what’s the difference? And when is it best to do one or the other? Here’s a closer look at the difference between static and dynamic stretches, common applications, and some examples.
The Difference Between Static and Dynamic Stretching
The difference between static and dynamic stretching comes down to a simple thing: movement. A static stretch is, generally, any position you hold—often at the limit of a given joint’s range of motion—to increase flexibility. A lack of movement—hence the name static—is common to all of these stretches. No bouncing, changing position, or repetition of movement.
Applications of Static Stretching
- Post-workout recovery
- Preventing bruising and soreness
3 Examples of Static Stretches
- Standing hamstring foldover (touch your toes)
- Seated groin and inner thigh stretch
- Overhead triceps stretch
A dynamic stretch is any repetitive, more challenging motion aimed at loosening up muscles and joints. Usually, dynamic stretches are sports- or activity-based motions one repeats a number of times. If it feels challenging, it’s supposed to be. Watch professional athletes before a game or match and you’ll likely see them go through some form of dynamic stretching routine.
Applications of Dynamic Stretching
- Pre-workout warmup
- Endurance and conditioning training
3 Examples of Dynamic Stretches
- High knees
- Walking lunges
- Lateral crossovers
Understanding the difference between static and dynamic stretching is the first step toward incorporating these important movements into your workouts.
If stretching remains on your list of need to do that more (ahem, right next to flossing), try this: select three to five dynamic stretches and perform them before your next workout. After your routine, perform three to five static stretches. Set a goal to apply this stretching routine to each workout for two weeks.
You’ll be amazed at the difference.