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Dynamic Stretching for Runners: Benefits and Techniques

Introduction to Dynamic Stretching for Runners

Running is a high-impact sport that puts significant strain on our bodies. To ensure we can continue running for years to come, it's crucial to take good care of our bodies and incorporate various components into our training plan. One such component that often gets overlooked is dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching is an active movement or series of movements that warm up our muscles and joints, preparing our bodies to perform. Unlike static stretching, where you hold a stretch in a stationary position, dynamic stretching involves continuous movement and stretching of muscles and joints. It's an integral part of a well-rounded training plan for runners.

Woman stretching her calves as she walks

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching

Before we delve into the benefits of dynamic stretching, let's understand the difference between dynamic stretching and static stretching. While dynamic stretching involves constant movement, static stretching focuses on stretching a particular muscle by holding a position for a prolonged period, usually 30-60 seconds.

It's important to note that static stretching should be avoided before a workout. Research has shown that static stretching cold muscles and joints can increase the risk of injury and reduce strength and power output. Save static stretching for after your workout when your muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching.

The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching offers numerous benefits for runners. Incorporating dynamic stretches into your warm-up routine can:

  • Warm up your muscles, joints, and nervous system

  • Dynamic stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, loosens them up, and prepares them for the upcoming workout.

  • Reduce the risk of injury

  • By activating and preparing the muscles for the specific movements of running, dynamic stretching helps minimize the risk of strains, pulls, and other injuries.

  • Enhance your performance

  • Dynamic stretching improves your range of motion, flexibility, and mobility, allowing you to perform at your best during your training sessions and races.

  • Reduce muscle soreness and stiffness

  • By increasing blood flow and loosening up the muscles, dynamic stretching can help alleviate post-run muscle soreness and stiffness.

  • Elevate your heart rate

  • Dynamic stretching raises your heart rate, preparing your cardiovascular system for the demands of running. Improve balance and agility

  • Dynamic stretching exercises that involve controlled movements help improve your efficiency, balance and agility, essential for maintaining proper form and preventing falls during running. Mentally prepare you for your workout or race

  • Dynamic stretching provides a few minutes to focus your mind on the upcoming workout or race, allowing you to mentally prepare and set your intentions.

When to Incorporate Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching should be an integral part of your warm-up routine before running, weight training, or engaging in any form of exercise. It's essential to dedicate time to warm up properly before your workouts to reap the full benefits of dynamic stretching.

Before you begin your dynamic stretching routine, warm up your body with 5 minutes of light cardio to increase your heart rate and body temperature. This can include activities such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling. Then set aside another 5-10 minutes for your dynamic stretches.

7 Dynamic Stretches for Runners

Now that we understand the importance and benefits of dynamic stretching let's explore 7 dynamic stretches specifically designed to prime your body for running. These stretches target key muscle groups involved in running and help improve your range of motion, flexibility, and overall running performance. Remember to perform these stretches in a controlled manner and never hold a static position.

Hurdles Front and Back

Benefits: Opens up hips and works stability.

  • Stand with your feet hip-length apart.

  • Lift your right leg, bent at 90 degrees, straight out in front of you.

  • Abduct to the right by opening your leg outward as far as possible as if you were going over a hurdle.

  • Bring your leg back to the center as if you were going back over the hurdle.

  • Repeat with your left leg.

Front and Back Leg Swings

Benefits: Loosens up hips and stimulates blood flow.

  • Stand on your right leg, and swing your left leg back and forth.

  • If you need help balancing, you can hold onto a wall.

  • Switch sides and repeat the same motion.

Lateral Leg Swing

Benefits: Increases range of motion in the hips.

  • Stand on your right leg.

  • Position your left leg, so it is slightly in front of you.

  • Swing your left leg from side to side.

  • If you need help balancing, you can hold onto a wall.

  • Switch sides and repeat the same motion.

Knee Hugs

Benefits: Improves hip mobility, stretches glutes and lower back, and improves balance and stability.

  • Stand with your feet hip-length apart.

  • Lift your left knee up to your chest.

  • Press your knee against your chest.

  • Hold for 1 second.

  • Repeat with your right leg.

  • Alternate legs.

Dynamic Quad Stretch

Benefits: Activates quads and improves balance and stability.

  • Stand on your right leg.

  • Using your left hand, take your left foot and pull it up toward your butt.

  • Hold for 1 second.

  • Repeat with your right leg.

  • Alternate legs.

Table Tops

Benefits: Loosens up glutes and improves balance and stability.

  • Stand with your feet hip-length apart.

  • Lift your left leg onto a table, keep your knee bent at 90 degrees, and abduct. Your shin should be parallel to the floor.

  • Place your left hand on your left knee.

  • Gently push your left knee downward, keeping your back straight.

  • Repeat with your right leg.

  • Alternate legs.

Reverse Lunge with Rotation

Benefits: Loosens up hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.

  • Step backward with your right foot and bend your knee until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle and almost touches the ground behind you.

  • Rotate toward your left knee.

  • Rotate back to the center.

  • Lift your back leg and bring it forward to your starting position.

  • Alternate legs.

By including dynamic stretching in your running routine, you can help ensure that your body is adequately prepared for the demands of running, enhance your performance, and reduce the risk of injuries, ultimately contributing to a more enjoyable and successful running experience.


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