The best dynamic stretches to do before a run target the major muscles you’ll be recruiting during your workout, including the quads, hip flexors, hamstrings and glutes, DeRienzo says. That said, running also involves your arms, back and shoulders, so a good pre-run stretching routine will also help relax your upper body. The stretches you do before a run should mimic the movement patterns you’ll do during your actual workout, DeRienzo says. Movements like high knees and butt kicks, which are exaggerated versions of a running stride, are a good way to prime your body. These types of moves can also help provide a dose of cardio, which is another important aspect of a good pre-workout warm-up routine.
How is stretching before running different from stretching after running?
Pre-run stretches should focus on dynamic movements (as mentioned) while post-run stretches should focus on static movements.
Dynamic stretches help raise your core body temperature, increase your heart rate, warm up your muscles, and prepare you for more intense movements, DeRienzo says. That’s why this type of movement is a great choice before a race. Now, these dynamic stretches may sound more like typical workout exercises than you might think when considering stretches, but rest assured they are still functioning in the form of stretching (while providing many other benefits, such as a mini dose of cardio.)
Static stretches are best kept after your run, as they can be detrimental before a workout: Research suggests they can potentially reduce strength, power, and explosiveness if done just before exercise, as SELF has previously reported.
However, after a workout, static stretching can play a role in your recovery as it can provide mobility benefits, Marcia DennisPT, DPT, owner of Just Move Therapy in Florida and co-host of the Disabled Girls Lifting podcast, previously said SELF. Plus, since your muscles are already warm after your workout, it’ll be easier to get that stretch right, Denis added.
Post-run stretches should take about the same amount of time as your pre-run stretches (so, about five to 10 minutes) and should focus on the same muscle groups as your warm-up, says DeRienzo. This means that before and after your run, you should incorporate leg stretches (especially thigh stretches) as well as stretches that hit the glutes, hip flexors, and upper body.
What are the benefits of stretching before running?
The benefits of stretching before running include reducing the risk of injury and increasing range of motion in key areas including the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes. Over time, this can translate to better performance on your run, says DeRienzo.
It’s not a magic formula that will immediately make you run faster, she cautions, but with time and consistency, a good pre-run stretching routine can lead to noticeable gains.
Indeed, if you are able to stick to a regular stretching routine, you can improve your range of motion, and the more range of motion you have, the more muscles you will be able to activate, as SELF already has. reported. Greater muscle activation, in turn, can lead to strength gains. And having stronger muscles can undoubtedly make you a more powerful and efficient runner.