If you’re a runner, you know the affect tight muscles can have on your form and your run times. Running specifically targets the quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles. That means stretching these muscles both before and after a run is essential to reduce the risk of injury.

Healthy, flexible joints will help you run comfortably and keep working towards your next personal best. Here are some of the best leg stretches to do before a run and after a run.

Stretches before running

Doing dynamic stretches before a run will warm up your body and loosen your muscles. Try each one of the following stretches for 30 seconds:

  • Inchworm

Start in standing position. Put your hands on the floor and walk out into plank position. Walk your feet forward towards your hands and repeat.

Targets: hamstrings, chest, shoulders

  • Frankenstein walks

Start standing tall. One at a time, kick each leg forward as straight as possible, reaching your opposite hand towards your foot.

Targets: hamstrings

  • Butt kicks

Start in a tall standing position and alternate kicking your heels towards your bum.

Targets: hamstrings, glutes

  • High knees

Run on the spot, lifting your knees high enough to touch the palms of your hands.

Targets: calves, quads, hamstrings

  • Leg swings      

Let your leg swing forwards and backwards to loosen up your hip.

Targets: hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves

Stretches after running

After you’ve finished your run, your muscles are full of lactic acid. Static stretching will help speed up recovery and reduce any pain and stiffness. For each of the following stretches, try holding them for a minimum of 30 seconds:

  • Quad stretch

Find something steady to hold onto. With your knees together, bring your right foot to your right hand and tip your pelvis under bringing your heel to your bum.

Modification: Kneel on the ground in front of a wall and bring one knee up the wall with your foot pointing upwards. Lift your chest up as high as you can and notice the stretch in your quad.

  • Calf stretch

Standing upright, step forward with one leg and bend at the knee until you feel your back leg begin to stretch.

Modification: Find a step and stand on it with both feet. Drop one heel off the edge until you feel your calf stretching.

  • Glute stretch

Standing upright, take your right foot and put it across your left knee. Start to sit back into a squat, keeping your weight across your heels. The deeper you sit, the more you’ll feel the stretch.

Modification: Sitting on the floor, bring your left leg in and cross your right leg over, using your left arm to pull your right leg in (also called “the pretzel”).

  • Hip flexor

Come to a kneeling position and step one foot forward leaning into the front leg. To increase the stretch, step your front foot forward even further.

  • Hamstring stretch

Standing straight up, step one heel forward and sink your bum back and down, bending the back leg.

Modification: Stand with both feet together and cross one ankle in front of the other. Let your body roll down and reach your hands towards your feet.

  • Upper back

Standing up straight, clasp hands over your head and reach up, rotating to one side and then the other.

  • Lower back

On your hands and knees in a tabletop position, bring your belly button up as high as it will go, rounding your back. Then let your belly button drop for a concave back position. Slowly alternate from one position to the other.

If you have any questions about the best stretches for runners, ask one of the coaches at your local David Lloyd Club.

This video was produced with the help of Adam Salter, Experience Manager at David Lloyd Beckenham.