The Best Dynamic Stretches Before Running

Dynamic stretches before running are a complement to reduces the risk of injury. Today's article is a review of the most recommended ones for a routine.
The Best Dynamic Stretches Before Running

Last update: 21 February, 2021

It’s always a good idea for athletes to do some stretches before running. This is because starting to run with stiff muscles could lead to trouble. Keep in mind that warming up isn’t enough by itself for running, due to its characteristics. So, stretching before running promotes good performance and helps prevent injuries.

The stretching exercises to do prior to running aren’t the same as the ones you would usually do afterward. Dynamic stretching, especially of the lower body, must be a part of this warm-up routine.

Stretches before running

The best way to stretch to improve the range of motion and prevent injury during workouts is to do dynamic stretches. In fact, according to the latest research, static stretching doesn’t reduce the risk of injury.

Spending 10 to 15 minutes warming up before running with dynamic stretching improves the range of motion and relaxes muscles while increasing heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow.

Alternating quadriceps and piriformis stretching walk

The alternating quad and piriformis stretch walk is a dynamic stretch that targets the quadriceps, glutes, and piriformis muscle while activating the entire lower body musculature.

To do it, stand upright and bring the left foot to its corresponding buttock, keeping the knee in line with your hip. Grab the ankle, but do so carefully — you won’t stretch the anterior muscles properly if you bring out the knee.

Then, step forward with the same foot and lift the opposite foot (the right one). Place the ankle at hip level, and bring the knee out. Lower the foot to step back and repeat. Switch sides after several repetitions, bringing the right foot to the buttock and the left foot to the hip after stepping.

A woman stretching.
Stretching before running reduces the risk of injuries associated with sports practice.

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Dynamic hip-opening stretches are great before running

This stretch focuses on the deep external rotators of the hip. Adopt a standing position and then, bend one knee. Then, lift it toward your chest, holding it with your hand.

Now, bring the knee outward — about 90 degrees. Use your hand to stabilize and guide the movement. Bring the knee back to the chest and support it. Repeat several times, alternating sides.

Toe touch (Frankenstein walk)

The toe touch exercise, also known as the Frankenstein walk, is a great warm-up exercise before running. This is because it increases muscular endurance and stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It also activates the hip flexors and quadriceps.

Stand with your arms outstretched in front of you (zombie pose). Then, take a step, extending one leg, straight in front of you, and raising it as high as you can or as far as your flexibility allows. Now, grab the top of your foot with the opposite hand. Finish the step and repeat with the other leg.

It’s important to maintain an upright posture throughout this exercise, activating the abdominals and lifting the leg as high as possible.

The worm

This is a dynamic warm-up exercise that targets the entire core and hamstrings. It’s quite intense and good for raising your body temperature and heart rate.

Start in a standing position and then bend forward from the hips and place your hands on the floor. Slowly “walk” forward with your hands until you reach an upright plank position — keeping your arms and legs straight. Slightly tilt your pelvis and squeeze your glutes to further engage the core muscles.

From this position “walk” your hands toward your feet — keeping the legs straight as far as possible for a further stretch in the hamstrings. Return to a standing position and repeat.

Arm circles

Finally, here’s an upper-body exercise to dynamically stretch and warm up the pectorals, deltoids, and upper back, all at the same time. To do the arm circles, stand with your feet – a shoulder-width apart. Then raise your arms outward in a cross, palms down.

From this position do forward circles and then backward. Going fast isn’t important here, it’s mainly to open your back and chest with every movement.

A jogger stretching.
Don’t neglect stretching your upper body before running, it also moves with every sprint.

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Stretches before running make it safer

It’s important to cool-down after every running session in order to gradually recover your regular heartbeat and the elasticity of your muscles.

This is because the muscles are warm after running and it’s an optimal time to do static stretching. Keep in mind that stopping suddenly and starting to stretch can lead to problems — such as loss of balance.

On the other hand, in order to stretch after running and to be effective, it is important to keep in mind that stretching cannot be done in a hurry. It is necessary to maintain static stretching for 20 to 30 seconds. Otherwise, it’ll hardly have any effect.

Add running to other activities

Keep in mind that stretching after running doesn’t necessarily improve flexibility. Its main purpose is to restore the elasticity of the musculature. The muscles would shorten otherwise, and it would lead to problems with reduced range of motion, cramps, and even muscle imbalance.

This is why, in addition to stretches before running, you must do a separate workout to improve flexibility – such as yoga or Pilates. These types of exercises are quite useful for improving specific parts of the training that you cannot achieve either by running or strength training.

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Stretching is a very important part of training and should be done before and after exercising to avoid injuries as well as stiffness.

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