Static, dynamic, ballistic, passive, active….

Do I stretch before I exercise, or after, or both???

Stretching should be a vital part of our exercise routine and not an after thought every now and again.
If you want to help prevent injuries and train better – you will integrate stretching into your fitness routine.
Various types of stretching exist and can be quite confusing as to what to do and when, in this blog we will try and make things a bit clearer.

Types of Stretching


  • Stretch is held in a challenging yet comfortable position, usually held for longer periods of time 10 – 30seconds. This is the most common form of stretching and is beneficial to improve overall flexibility, but less useful to improve functional movement.


  • Dynamic stretching uses moving body parts to gradually increase reach, speed of movement or both. This should be done in a control manner.  Examples of dynamic calf stretching – standing on edge of a step, drop your heel down and then raise up.  These are usually repeated 10-12 times and are most commonly used amongst sports people.  This should not be confused with ballistic stretching.


  • This stretch involves assuming a position and holding it with no assistance other than the opposite muscle group eg. Calf stretch – while sitting, pull your foot towards you and hold – while in this position the opposite muscle group will relax more, you may have heard your physio refer to this as reciprocal inhibition. These stretches are normally held for 10-15 seconds.


  • When you assume a position of stretch and hold it with another body part or with assistance from equipment. For example when stretching your calf – stand on the edge of a step and let your heel drop over the edge. These stretches are useful to reduce muscle spasm and muscles healing after injury.  Relaxing stretches such as these are useful for cooling down after exercise to help prevent muscle soreness.


  • Uses momentum of a moving limb to force it beyond its normal range of motion, quite often using a bounce movement in/or out of the stretch position. This is not a useful stretching method and is more likely to result in tighter muscles with the potential to cause injury.

All stretches are static or dynamic and passive or active as shown below.
Other terminology such as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) or active isolation are all variations of the above stretches.

So what is the best stretch to do….

Most experts now agree that although static – passive stretching is beneficial to improve flexibility; people should be doing more dynamic active stretches as these will lead to greater improvement in functional movement and work well to warm up muscles, helping to reduce risk of injury.

Come and try out a stretch class at a studio near you to get more advice on stretching and techniques.

Static – passive stretch                                 Dynamic – passive calf stretch



Static – active calf stretch                                                           Dynamic – active calf stretch