So, what exactly is dynamic stretching and why is it good for runners?
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching where the joints and muscles are stretched through their full range of motion; unlike static stretching, these movements are not held in an end position. Dynamic stretching is best utilized before running as part of a warmup routine as mentioned in our 6 Paths to Injury Free Running blog. It will prepare the muscles and joints to be used while running and will get your blood flowing and heartrate up prior to your run.
In many cases, these stretches will either mimic some part of your running form or stretch certain areas used while running. One important note, these are part of your warmup routine but not your entire warmup as you should also jog a bit and even do some strides in addition to dynamic stretching.
While they can also be used post-run, I like to pepper in some casual static stretching at the end of a good run but, if you add dynamic stretching to your post-run, I’d advise keeping it less strenuous.
Here are 7 of the best dynamic stretches, which you should be able to complete in less than 10 minutes as part of your warm-up routine along with videos where available.
Front Back Leg Swing
Reach your left hand out and steady yourself against a pole, wall or tree for balance. Swing your left leg in front of you, keeping it as straight as possible; once you’ve reached a point where you feel the stretch in your hamstring, swing your leg back and allow momentum to swing your leg back.
Do this 10 times, then reverse yourself and repeat for 10 times with your right leg; this exercise will help you gain flexibility with your hamstrings and hip flexors.
Front Butt Leg Swing
Like the Front Back Leg Swing, reach your left hand out and steady yourself. Swing your left leg in front of you, keeping it as straight as possible; once you’ve reached the stretch point, swing your leg back and bend your leg bringing your foot up towards your butt. It should feel as if you are trying to kick your butt with your foot.
Do this 10 times, then reverse yourself and repeat 10 times with your right leg; this exercise will help to gain flexibility with your hamstrings, glutes and quads.
Side to Side Leg Swing
Stand facing something to provide you balance (a wall, railing, fence, etc.) and reach out with both hands. Swing your left leg across your body as far as it will go while keeping your leg straight and your body facing forward (do not turn your body); then, allow momentum to swing your leg back and outward as far as it will go.
Continue this for 10 reps with your left leg, then reverse and repeat with your right leg; this will help both the hip abductors and adductors.
Lunge with Rotation
Stand with your legs under your shoulders, and lunge forward with your left leg, keeping your knees over your toes; while you are lunging forward, rotate your upper body toward and over your left knee. Stand back up and repeat with the same leg for 10 reps, then switch and do the same using the right leg; this exercise will help with your hip flexors, glutes and calves.
Mountain Climbers are a great exercise to get your heart rate up and activate a wide range of muscles including deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors.
Start in a plank position with arms and legs long, pull your right knee into your chest keeping your abs tight; quickly switch legs and pull your left knee in and your right leg back. Continue switching sides simultaneously so that you are using a “running” motion.
Cross Body Arm swings
As we’ve discussed in our Good Running Form blog, it is important to keep your upper body loose and positioned well, and the simple arm swing will help you gain flexibility in your chest and shoulders. Stand with your legs shoulder length apart, and your arms extended parallel to the ground; begin swinging your arms across your body for 30 – 45 seconds.
Shoulder Circle Shrugs
Shoulder circle shrugs specifically stretch the trapezius which is the muscle found on the top of the shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders in big forward circles. After you have done 15 to 20 reps, switch directions.
Remember to do these dynamic stretches as part of your warm-up, along with some jogging and strides and you’ll be both ready to run and more likely to do so injury free.
Rich Flaherty is a middle of the pack runner and triathlete, whose only real claim to fame is his daughter Bekah Brooks qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first marathon.