Ballistic (Loaded) Stretching with the ProBar Mobility Stick
There is a lot out there in the blogosphere and Internet about whether ballistic stretching is good or bad for you, and the differentiation versus dynamic and ballistic is confusing depending on the article you read. We have 3 exercises for you that illustrate various forms of ballistic stretching.
Ballistic will often be described as jerky short range of motion movements targeting athletes, whereas dynamic stretching involves a full range of motion not going beyond the muscles’ and tendons’ normal range of motion (as if one could stretch beyond, which is not possible as it would imply having elastic or extendable bones…). Some contraindicate ballistic stretching for lay people, others call it dangerous. Our stance is: there are no bad movements, just bad execution of movements.
One common and more familiar ballistic exercise is the kettlebell swing and its ballistic nature lies in the momentum generated by the kettlebell. Properly done, it is an exercise designed for swinging a kettlebell you cannot simply raise frontally with a slow lift. Think more of a wrecking ball on a crane that needs to be swung to generate power.
Indian Clubs are perfect examples of ballistic movements. Yet, they are by no means “jerky”, without any bouncing motion that could be considered dangerous for your health. Rather, they employ a smooth gliding action with a gentle pull on the shoulder muscles, which are loaded by sheer action of the weight in the hands and therefore are getting better primed for heavier lifts later on. More body parts are engaged with more advanced movement patterns, but the crux is shoulder dominant.
Take the basic Forward Slash ProBar exercise to get back to our ProBar world here. Think, by analogy of execution, of swinging your arms forward as if trying to shake off some water from your hands. By adding a short weighted ProBar in each hand, the added weight adds leverage to the movement.
When slashing, the process is not that difficult as you benefit from the swing and the momentum it generates. Stop the movement at any point and now the weight is being felt as heavy “statically”. Imagine this: hold a bucket of water close to you, at arm’s length or at the end of a broomstick. The weight of the bucket is the same, the leverage isn’t.
While we’ve all seen the guy in the gym swinging his dumbbells up while doing biceps curls, he’s doing it ballistically. A cheat curl, essentially, designed to move more weight.
The loaded movement of the forward slash with the dual weighted ProBars, one in each hand, gently loads the shoulder and allows it to move in both flexion (when going forward) and extension (going backwards). As the muscle gets warmed up during the process, you can increase your range of motion. The resulting increased mobility in that shoulder is “loaded mobility”.
The “low to high” swing is performed in a transverse plane of movement with also two short weighted ProBars (vs the sagittal forward slash), and the load allows better engagement in the core musculature upon rotation, but the upward (as well as downward) extension of the movement gently “pulls” the body into a fuller range of motion. Gradually increase that range as you become more familiar with the movement.
The “lumberjack chop” performed with a single weighted short ProBar is also a ballistic movement and its purposeful “stop and recoil” action, as if pulled back by an elastic, creates more tension on the core and grip strength to stop the short weighted ProBar from moving further forward, as opposed to following through like after hitting a baseball with a bat. By adjusting the speed of movement, you can work on a wider “swing” and more range of motion, from shoulder to hip, unilaterally.