Emmet’s Blackboard

Ballistic Stretching

Welcome back to the return of Emmet’s blackboard. This lecture hopefully dispels some of the mistruths of ballistic stretching and provides the informational basis of some of the coming technique videos.

Okay guys, welcome back to the next series of Emmet’s blackboard.

First off, just a bit of an apology on the hiatus on the videos front, for the moment. A lot of exciting projects are happening in the background, which we will be revealing over the next couple of months. Keep an eye out for them, there are many things you’re going to enjoy. We have new videos, a new website…a bit of everything, really.

So, we’re doing a topic today that is a touchy subject for many people. There will be a load of people who dislike this video just based off the title alone. So, to you, fuck you.

For the rest of the people still watching, hopefully we can clear up some things.

Today we’re going to talk about ballistic stretching. I will start with a quote from Mel Siff, paraphrased slightly. You can find the original in Supertraining.

There’s no such thing as a dangerous exercise. There are only exercises done dangerously.

Now we’ll put that into context. First off, with ballistic stretching, we need a working definition of what it actually is. Ballistic stretching is using momentum to overcome our passive range of motion.

In the same way that if I had never squatted before, for example, and went into a gym and said to myself, “You’re a strong guy. Stick 200kg on that bar and squat it.” By the time I’d unpacked the bar, I’d be lying on the floor clutching my spine, with a lot of plates on top of me. Not an enjoyable experience.

If I’d done the smart thing and put a bar on my back, then worked up over the course of years to squatting 200kg, my injury risk would be effectively zero.

Same thing with ballistic stretching. We don’t want to use our full speed immediately in these types of stretches. I’m going to talk about the different types of ballistic stretching we have. We don’t go full speed. If we can use a teeny bit of momentum to move us 0.5-1cm further in a stretch than we normally achieve in a passive range of motion, we have made a gain.

We don’t need to go a massive distance beyond it…but we can.

We don’t need to use that much momentum; we can go slow. We have two types of ballistic stretching, in my mind anyway. The most common is the pulsing type, where we get into our end range, back out of the stretch, then pull in. The pulsing type is great; you go in, out, in, out. High frequency, generally 60bpm.

Then we also have the fire and forget type of ballistic stretch. We say something like, do a high kick as high as you can.

In all the ballistic stretching, we set up a couple of rules. We can achieve maximum safety and gains this way.

With all of these, we need a little target to reach. This tells us we’ve gone beyond our passive range of motion, and it acts like a little stop so we can’t go further than we intend to, thus limiting it.

If we were to high kick, we could place our hands slightly above our kick level. We warm up, find where the stretch comes on, place your hands there so you’re kicking into your hands, thus limiting your stretch from going farther and farther into a possibly dangerous zone.

If you go onto PubMed or other places to find an actual injury from ballistic stretching, it’s difficult. All we know is that people shit themselves about it, and we can’t really back it up wit the science.

We also have the pulsing type. Bear in mind we will do a lot of exercises using this, as it’s literally the most productive, fastest, and most maintainable form of flexibility I have discovered.

Some of you might have seen my Instagram where I put my toe on my head in the front bend. I can now get out of bed in the morning and put my toe on my head within about 3 minutes of waking up. I never achieved that with other forms of stretching.

Same with my hip flexors; they’ve loosened up massively using these types of stretches.

It’s the same idea. With these forward bend stretches, we use a target. I use my fist, something on the floor to reach and touch, which also limits my range of motion to stop me going beyond it.

Also, my bounce speed is anywhere between 40-80bpm. We bounce in, hold, bounce, hold.

There’s another type I haven’t used specifically myself, but have seen good results coming from it. Justin from Well Rounded Athlete mentioned it on his Instagram: pulsing in, then using the pulse to overcome a stretch, then holding that stretch for 10-15s.

There’s no set rules for how to do this; it’s just what works for this. My own suspicion on the pulsing type of stretching is if you get into stretching per the classification of Thomas Kurz, we have passive stretching, then passive stretching to or beyond your pain limit.

We can stretch into our pain limit and not let ourselves go farther. With the pulsing, we can go into that zone where, if I were to push you into it, it would hurt too much for you to maintain that stretch.

But here, we go in for a second, then are out. In for a second, then out. We can build up a lot of time in that new painful range of motion, but without getting scared of the pain, or without spending a lot of continuous time in that range, though we do cumulatively. It’s very effective.

That’s my quick rundown on ballistic stretching. In terms of studies, I coach more people in a week than most studies have in their groups. I’ve been doing this for years. My injury rate from this is zero. I have never injured anyone from doing this properly. I’ve never had one of my students who’s a bit r**arded, which they are sometimes – sorry if you’re listening, guys – had them injure themselves training alone by using this. I am very certain it’s safe.

Give them a go. I will be posting these exercises, including the fabled How To Get Your Toe Into Your Nose stretching. That’s coming up in the next month.

Welcome back to Emmet’s Blackboard !