Dynamic versus Static Stretching

Muscle flexibility may be one of the BIGGEST causes of sport related injuries (and non-sport/non-traumatic injuries) and pain I see from a physical therapist perspective and a CrossFit training perspective. If this is one of the biggest issues, I want to get down to the bottom of why the individual is tight and what is the best way to fix the dysfunctions. I recently posted about posture and how staying in certain positions for hours on end causes detrimental effects to the muscles being shortened or lengthened for that period of time. Today, I want to distinguish between dynamic and static stretching in order to undo the effects of your day job. There is a time and place for both types of stretching, but when and where do you use them?

First off, what is static stretching? A static stretch is a lengthening of the muscle while the body is at rest with a hold for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. 30 seconds is the minimal hold required to get a physiological change in the muscle length. If performed properly, this stretch will lessen the sensitivity of the tension receptors found in the muscle allowing for a relaxation and a greater length to be gained.

Dynamic stretching is stretching while moving. For example, in a sport such as soccer where kicking is involved, in order to lengthen the muscles required to pass through the motion of kicking a soccer ball, actively go through the motion of kicking the ball in a very controlled manner to gradually increase the range of motion you get with the leg. Be careful not to exceed one’s range of motion or passive stretch ability (this becomes a ballistic, or bounce, stretch that can put too much tension on the muscle).

You have the definitions, now which one do you use and when?


Dynamic stretching is the preferred stretching technique for PRE exercise/competition warm ups. This stretch prepares the body for the physical exertion it is about to undergo (soccer kick).

1. Dynamic stretching promotes blood flow to the region. This allows the muscle to feel loose as compared to when stretching the same muscle statically. This in turn prevents injury to cold muscles that have not been stretched prior to activity.

2. Dynamic stretching allows for increased flexibility for more than one muscle group. For example, a leg swing involves a stretch of the hamstring, gluts  hip flexors, quads, and lower back.  Because our movement patterns for any activity we do typically involve more than one muscle group (functional activities), the dynamic stretch is more effective in respect to our normal patterns.

3. Dynamic stretching is also effective in promoting strength and stability and enhancing the nervous system, additional key components to proper muscle function.

This form of stretching prepares the body for physical exertion and sports performance.  DO IT BEFORE.

Static stretching is good POST workout/competition. Many studies have shown that static stretching reduces explosive movements and strength output; therefore, you do not want to perform a significant amount of static stretching before the activity. You have two receptors, a static and dynamic receptor. Dynamic activities (running, jumping, kicking, being athletic) use the dynamic receptor so you want to stress the dynamic receptor when warming up.

Static receptors respond and improve flexibility and cool your body down after you exercise. DO IT AFTER.

Any questions about when/where/how/why to stretch please let me know!