Dynamic Stretches for Runners

Dynamic Stretches for Runners + Pre-Run Warm Up Routine

What’s your pre-run routine like? Do you have a cup of coffee and a small carbohydrate-based snack, lace up your running shoes, and stretch your muscles to loosen them up?

If you are doing static stretching before your runs, you may want alter your routine. Static stretching before a run can increase your risk of injury and dampen your running performance.

Dynamic Stretches for Runners

Static Stretches before a Run: Friend or Foe?

You would think that static stretching would loosen the muscles and prevent injury; according to this survey on Runner’s World, not stretching enough is what runners cite as the number one cause of injury. However, quite the opposite is true. No research supports the myth that static stretching prevents injury.

Static stretching involves holding a position at the end of your range of motion (i.e. fully extending your hamstring and touching your toes) for 30 seconds to one minutes. Static stretching attempt to increase flexibility by lengthening the muscles and tendons. When done to a muscle that has not been warmed up, you risk stretching too far hyperextending the muscle. Additionally, overstretching before a run can throw off your stability, which can lead to various running injuries.

Not only can static stretching possibly lead to injury, it can also negatively impact your performance during that workout. Static stretching before a run decreases your running economy by decreasing your your power output. Essentially, static stretching before a run increases the energy cost of running at the same pace. You’ll fatigue earlier and have a higher perceived exertion than you would without stretching before the run.

Dynamic Stretches for Runners

So how should you warm up for a run if you’re not supposed to static stretch? Rather than holding a stretch at the end of your range of motion, dynamic stretching relies on momentum to gently move your muscles throughout your range of motion. Dynamic stretches prepare your muscles, particularly your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes, for the movement of running without risking injury.

I perform these dynamic stretches for runners each day before I head out on my run. This seven move routine takes under five minutes and requires no equipment, so there’s no reason to skip it!

Dynamic Stretches for Runners

Arm Circles: Extend your arms directly out from your body and parallel to the floor, so that they form a T with your torso. Slowly rotate your arms forward, so that you trace a small circle with your fingertips. Do ten repetitions, slowly increasing the size of the circle, and then reverse for ten repetitions.

Forward Leg Swings: Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Slowly swing your right leg forward so your foot comes off the floor and then squeeze your glutes to swing your leg behind you. Keep your knee soft as not to hyperextend. If needed, stabilize yourself by resting your hand on a wall or chair. Do ten to fifteen swings on the right legs, slowing increasing your range of motion as you go, and then repeat on your left leg for ten to fifteen repetitions.

Lateral Leg Swings: Bring your right leg slightly in front of your body, swing out to your right side, and then swing across your body. If needed, hold on to a wall or chair for stability. Do ten to fifteen repetitions and then repeat on the other leg.

Hip Circles: Stand in a neutral position with your hands on your hips. Slowly circle your hips to the front, around to the right, back, and to the left. Repeat ten times, and then reverse the motion for ten repetitions.

Half Squats: Stand with your knees hip-width apart. Squeeze your glutes and lower down and back into a slight squat. While keeping your glutes engage, return to standing. Repeat for ten to fifteen repetitions, increasing your range of motion as you progress.

High Knees: Stand with your knees hip-width apart and your arms bent at right angles by your side (as if you were about to start running). Slowly raise your right knee up to hip height, return to start, and repeat with your left knee. Repeat for ten to fifteen repetitions for each leg.

Butt Kicks: Stand with your knees hip-width apart and your arms bent at the elbows. Raise your right foot up and back, as if you were going to kick yourself in the butt. Lower down and repeat with your left leg; repeat for ten to fifteen kicks for each leg.

If you are doing a tempo run or speed workout, follow these stretches up with 1-2 miles of easy running. 

Questions of the Day:
How was your Labor Day?
How do you warm up for a run?

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16 Responses

  1. I use alot of these dynamics stretches before a run as well. It definitely feels good to get the muscles moving, but I haven’t static stretched before a run in years! It’s funny because I still see so many people doing it before races (including my husband…).

    1. I see a lot of people doing it also! I think elementary and high school gym classes had students do it (at least Ryan’s and my did, and we were in different parts of the country), so it seems to be ingrained in people’s minds.

  2. I do a combo of some static stretches and mostlly dynamic stretches. We do these types of moves with the group before our runs. I do a lot a glute activation exercises and other things to warm up my ankles

  3. I’m pretty horrible and actually use my walk down four flights of stairs, down my parking garage ramp as my pre-run warm up. Sometimes I will do a quad stretch, or hamstring hang, but it’s usually just until my watch syncs. I should really get better at warming up…

  4. I only warm up for runs at the track and before a race, otherwise I never warm up or stretch. I know, I AM A BAD EXAMPLE. I don’t get injured though, and I’ve been logging massive miles for years, so I’m just going to go with it. My non-stretching ways will catch up with me one day I’m sure. :/

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion we should all follow your example, because (a) no injuries and (b) can you teach me how to be that fast? I do think no stretching is better than static stretching before a run, so I’m pretty sure you’re going to be outrunning all of us for a long, long time.

    1. It really amazes me how many people do it! I did it until a few years back when I read that it could cause injury. I think the way PE class was taught for several years made us think we need to stretch before anything else.

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