Dynamic Warmup vs Static Stretching: The Great Debate!

Updated: May 16, 2021

October 3, 2017

Jeremy Campbell, MS, PES, CPT

There has been an ongoing debate over the last few years as to what is the best type of stretching/warmup for sports performance; Dynamic vs Static. Before we continue, let me give you the definition of both Dynamic and Static Stretching:

Static Stretching refers to the techniques used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. These techniques generally lengthen a muscle to an elongated position, and that position is usually held for a period of time usually lasting between 30 seconds and 1 minute. An example of a static stretch can be seen below:

Woman stretching single hamstring on a floor with workout gear
Woman stretching

Dynamic Stretching refers to the techniques that use momentum or movement of the limb or trunk to move muscles through full range of motion. These dynamic stretches are controlled movements and and should be completed with an emphasis on form. An example of a dynamic stretch can be seen below:

Athlete dynamic stretching outdoors on a football field

So which is better for you in terms of preparing for vigorous exercise or athletic performance? Recent studies show that athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have shown that static stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent! At the neuromuscular level, there is an inhibitory response to static stretching. Holding that prolonged stretch can leave the muscle less responsive and weakened for up to 30 minutes after. That temporary reduced responsiveness and weakness puts any athlete at a greater risk for injury if they are transitioning from static stretching into a workout or game. 

To achieve optimal sports or athletic performance, dynamic stretching is what you should be doing before your workout, practice or event. These dynamic movements activate all of the joints and connective tissues that will be relied upon during the training session/event. By activating the joints, connective tissues and muscles, you are priming the body to respond and move more efficiently. The selection of dynamic stretching exercises depends on the specific training an athlete is preparing to do. In general, dynamic workouts should start with slower, more controlled movements, then gradually increase speed. This mimics the demands of a workout. 

For optimal recovery after workouts, sports or athletic performance, static stretching is what you should be doing. Your muscles are warm and joints and connective tissues are better prepared to be moved and held at the end range of motion. The efficiency of the stretch becomes greater and the increased risk of injury due to temporary reduction of strength and responsiveness is now minimized. 

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