If you’re an avid 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, so stretching these muscles both before and after a run is essential to improve flexibility, increase joint mobility, and 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:
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.
- 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. 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 together and reach forward, 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.