The best dynamic stretches to do before a run target the main muscles you’re going to be recruiting during your workout, including your quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes, DeRienzo says. That said, running also involves your arms, back, and shoulders, so a good pre-run stretch routine will help loosen up your upper body as well. The stretches you do before a run should mimic the movement patterns you’ll be doing during your actual workout, DeRienzo says. Moves 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 help provide a dose of cardio too, which is another important aspect of a good pre-workout warm-up routine.
How is stretching before running different than stretching after running?
Stretching before running should focus on dynamic movements (like we mentioned) while stretching after running should focus on static movements.
Dynamic stretches help increase your body’s internal temperature, raise your heart rate, warm up your muscles, and prepare you for more intense movement, DeRienzo explains. That’s why this type of movement is a great choice before a run. Now, these dynamic stretches may look more like typical workout exercises than what you might think when you envision stretches, but rest assured they’re still functioning as stretches (while providing a bunch of other benefits too, like a mini dose of cardio.)
Static stretches are best saved for after your run, since they can be detrimental prior to a workout: Research suggests they can potentially reduce strength, power, and explosiveness if done right before exercise, as SELF previously reported.
After a workout though, static stretches can play a role in your cool-down since they can bring mobility benefits, Marcia Denis, P.T., DPT, owner of Just Move Therapy in Florida and cohost of the Disabled Girls Who Lift podcast, previously told SELF. Plus, because your muscles are already warm from your workout, it’ll feel easier to get that good stretch, Denis added.
Post-run stretching should take about the same amount of time as your pre-run stretching (so, about 5–10 minutes) and should focus on the same muscle groups as your warm-up, DeRienzo says. That means that both before and after your run, you should incorporate leg stretches (especially thigh stretches) as well as stretches that hit your glutes, hip flexors, and upper-body.
What are the benefits of stretching before running?
The benefits of stretching before running include reducing risk of injury and increasing range of motion in key areas, including your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. Over time, this can translate to better performance on your run, DeRienzo adds.
It’s not a magic formula that will immediately make you run faster, she caveats, but with time and consistency, a good pre-run stretch routine can lead to notable gains.
If you’re able to stick with a regular stretching routine, you can improve your range of motion, and the more range of motion you have, the more muscle you’ll be able to activate, as SELF previously reported. More muscle activation, in turn, can lead to strength gains. And having stronger muscles can no doubt make you a more powerful, efficient runner.