What are the best Stretches for Running?

What’s really important for exercise, but most people don’t do? Stretching!

What are the best stretches for running? Isn’t necessarily a question we get asked a lot by runners; however from our experience in biomechanics, it’s certainly an important one. More than half of our customers have less than the required flexibility for efficient running and a large percentage of the injuries we see could have been prevented with a good stretching programme!

Why Stretch?

Well for starters as discussed above, a good stretching programme can not only help reduce the possibility of injury, but can improve overall athletic performance. Also depending on your sport or activity then regular stretching can mean the difference between actually being able to do what you want to do or not!

  • Stretching improves muscular range of motion (ROM), muscles with a greater ROM can be stretched further without tearing or damage, thus reducing the risk of muscular tears/sprains.
  • When muscles on both sides of a joint are correctly stretched and in balanced tension then the joint can sit in a more neutral position and therefore in most cases there will be less stress on the joint.
  • Joint ROM is greatly affected by muscular ROM, so in order for joints to function correctly it is imperative that the muscles that move the joint are well stretched to avoid any restrictions or imbalances in movement.
  • The act of warm down and stretching helps the body to recover from exercise including flushing out waste products that can cause aching and soreness.

Should I stretch before or after exercise?

This is a question that raises some debate, as many argue that stretching before exercise is a waste of time as cold muscles shouldn’t be stretched and also any benefit is lost through the exercise itself. However stretching before exercise can help to reduce injuries and improve mobility before starting. The key here is the type of stretches used and how well you warm up.

Before exercise

Avoid static stretching and instead perform some relevant mobility exercises to a low intensity (dynamic stretching). So for running, arm and leg swings, high knee thrusts and leg kick backs are all great mobility exercises to add to your warm up.

After exercise

Gently cool down, by slowly lowering your heart rate whilst still moving (bring your run down to a walk, rather than just stopping). Then move onto at least 6 minutes of static stretching, holding each stretch for at least 20 seconds, but ideally 30 seconds to a minute.

The best stretches for running

So now you know how to stretch, what are the best stretches for running? Here is our list of the most important stretches for running, we have covered all of the main muscle groups active in running.

Calf Stretches

Calf Stretch
These calf stretches will target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calf.

 

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring stretch
Aim to get your chest to your knee, this stretch isolates the entire hamstring muscle group.

Inner Thigh Stretch

Inner thigh Stretch
Keep the extended leg straight and lean away from it for maximum stretch on this inner thigh/groin stretch.

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch
Focus on pushing your hips forward to enhance this stretch and stare at a spot on the floor for easier balance.

Gluteals Stretch

Glute Stretch
By using your elbow to force the flexed leg towards the outside of the body you can get the most from this glute stretch.

Groin Stretch

Groin Stretch
Using your elbows to push down on the inside of the knee you can really enhance this groin stretch.

 

So that is our list of the best stretches for running, remember static stretching after running and dynamic stretching before running. If you have any good stretches to share with your fellow runners, comment below.

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.