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Dynamic and static stretching: what’s the difference?

You probably know that stretching before and after a workout is important. But did you know that not all types of stretching have the same effects, benefits and uses?

Dynamic and static stretching are two of the main categories of stretches to be aware of. Let’s take a closer look at what they are and how to use them.

Dynamic stretching: best for your warm-up

If you play sports or workout regularly, you’re probably familiar with the idea of a warm-up. Done before physical activity, a warm-up is designed to prime the body’s systems – neural, cardiovascular, and muscular – to be ready for physical activity.

Studies have shown that dynamic stretching as part of a warm-up increases power, sprinting and jumping performance and that it is more effective than static stretching or no stretching at all (10).

So what is dynamic stretching? Dynamic stretching is a series of active movements that cause your muscles to stretch and your joints to move through their full range of motion. The stretched position is not held for any length of time.

Examples of dynamic stretching:

Leg swings

  1. Stand on one leg (supported by a chair or wall if needed).

  2. Swing the opposite leg forward and then backward in a controlled motion.

  3. Remember to keep your posture straight – engage your core to avoid arching your back.

  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

Lunge with twist

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

  2. Step your left foot forward into a lunge, with your front knee bent in line with your front foot.

  3. Engage your core and twist your upper body to the left.

  4. Return to centre, then step your left foot back to start.

  5. Complete 10 reps on each side.

Arm circles

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and arms out to each side at shoulder height.

  2. From the shoulder, move your arms in small circles.

  3. Circle arms 20 times, increasing the size of the circles each time.

  4. Repeat, reversing the direction of the circles.

Static stretching: best for your cool-down

On the other side of things, static stretching is best performed after physical activity. As the name suggests, when performing static stretches, you should stretch your muscle as far as possible without pain, then hold the stretched position for 20-45 seconds.

These stretches form an important part of your cool-down routine, and regularly performing them can increase your muscle and joint flexibility, which lowers your overall risk of injury.

While static stretches are most appropriate for a cool-down, they have also been shown to improve flexibility, lower and upper-limb power and ball speed when combined with dynamic stretching in a warm-up (2).

Examples of static stretching:

Hamstring Stretch

  1. Step one foot forward, either on the ground or a low stool, with foot flexed upward.

  2. Lean forward from the hips with a flat back, until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.

  3. Hold this stretched position for 45 seconds, then release.

  4. Repeat on the other side.

Seated butterfly stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with legs extended in front of you.

  2. Bend your knees, drawing your heels towards your groin, feet touching.

  3. Hold your ankles and use your elbows to press your knees down to either side. Apply gentle pressure, until you feel a stretch in your hips and groin, but no pain.

  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and release.

Chest stretch

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and shoulders relaxed.

  2. Stretch hands behind your back, interlacing fingers if possible. You should feel a stretch across your pectoral muscles, but no pain.

  3. Squeeze shoulder blades together, opening the chest and looking straight ahead.

  4. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)

Another type of stretching you may want to explore is PNF. Focused on increasing muscle elasticity, range of motion and performance3, PNF reportedly has a similar level of effectiveness as static stretching (4,5).

Whether dynamic or static, its proven that activity-specific stretching, tailored to your workout and body offer the most benefit. So, if you’re starting a new physical activity or looking to improve your performance, get in contact with your chiropractor today to discuss personalised stretches.


1. Opplert J, Babault N. Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature, Sports Med, 2018

2. Hsu FY, Tsai KL, Lee CL, Chang WD, Chang NJ., Effects of Dynamic Stretching Combined With Static Stretching, Foam Rolling, or Vibration Rolling as a Warm-Up Exercise on Athletic Performance in Elite Table Tennis Players, J Sport Rehabil, 2020

3. Hindle KB, Whitcomb TJ, Briggs WO, Hong J., Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): Its Mechanisms and Effects on Range of Motion and Muscular Function, J Hum Kinet, 2012

4. Lempke L, Wilkinson R, Murray C, & Stanek J., The Effectiveness of PNF Versus Static Stretching on Increasing Hip-Flexion Range of Motion, Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2018

5. Oliveira Borges M, Muniz Medeiros D, Borba Minotto B & Silveira Lima C., Comparison between static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation on hamstring flexibility: systematic review and meta-analysis, European Journal of Physiotherapy, 2018


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