Want to Run Faster? Follow This Guide to Mobility Exercises for Runners

Doing targeted mobility exercises for runners can make a big difference in your range of motion and running speed
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Runners are always looking for that ​thing​ to help them get faster and stronger. While racking up more miles and strength training certainly improves performance, you don't want to overlook your mobility routine.

Mobility is your ability to move your body through the intended range of motion of your different joints, according to David Jou, DPT, a physical therapist and co-founder of MotivNY. Basically, your mobility is how well you can move different parts of your body without any limitations, aches or pains.

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When your goal is to shave minutes or seconds off your mile pace, mobility may just be the secret to increasing your speed. Running efficiently requires good range of motion in the upper back, hips, ankles and feet. Without proper mobility, your running form and technique go out the window, slowing you down.

When there's an area of your body that lacks mobility, other parts compensate, says Natalie Niemczyk, DPT, CSCS, creator of Revolution Running Physical Therapy. These compensations demand extra energy, which can cause you to fatigue, taking a toll on your overall speed.

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Not to mention, poor mobility increases your risk of injury, particularly in your hips, knees and feet, Jou says. That's why runners want to make it a point to do mobility work every day.

How to Get Started With Mobility Work

Ideally, you should incorporate mobility exercises for runners into your usual warm-up, especially if you want to shave time off your pace, according to Sam Chan, DPT, a New York-based physical therapist. Speed comes from the power in your muscles. But when you launch into a run without any kind of dynamic warm-up routine, you can't get the maximum firing power out of your muscles.

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So, if your usual running schedule is five days per week, aim to do five pre-run mobility sessions per week, too, Chan says. And if you build them into your dynamic warm-up, you basically feed two birds with one seed.

When it comes to the nitty gritty, you should choose movements that focus on running-specific muscles and joints. So, your pre-run dynamic mobility warm-up should focus most on your lower-body, including your ankles, hips, glutes and legs.

Generally, you only need to spend about 10 minutes on your mobility routine to give your body the warm-up it needs. But if you're feeling a little extra achy or fatigued, you can also foam roll your muscles, focusing on the glutes, hamstrings and quads.

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6 Best Mobility Exercises for Runners

Now that you know how to incorporate mobility into your running routine and which muscles deserve your focus, it's time to hone in on some specific exercises. Before your running workouts, do 10 reps of each of these moves, Chan suggests.

These mobility exercises for runners focus on all the major muscles and joints needed to improve your form and increase speed.

Move 1: Half-Kneeling Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch

Improving the movement and flexibility in your hip flexors enhances your ability to drive your legs forward and back, Chan says. Extending and driving your leg into the ground propels each stride forward, which is how you increase your speed.

This stretch helps improve your hip flexor movement and strength, making it one of the top hip mobility exercises for runners.

How to Do It

Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Get on your left knee. Plant your right heel about two feet in front of you and bend your right knee to 90 degrees.
  2. Push your hips back a little and bend your torso forward with a flat back.
  3. Press your hips forward and simultaneously twist your torso to one side.
  4. Pause for a moment and repeat.
  5. Once you finish all the reps, repeat on the opposite side.

Move 2: Half-Kneeling Ankle Mobilization

Ankle dorsiflexion (bending your ankle to point your foot up) is part of every step you take when you run (or walk). And although it may seem like such a small motion, it can make a big difference where speed is concerned. Elite runners tend to show more ankle dorsiflexion than newbie runners when they run at fast speeds, according to a March 2015 study in ​Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

So, building more mobility in your ankle is a small but substantial tweak that can help you boost your pace.

How to Do It

Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Kneel on the ground with your left knee on the floor.
  2. Plant your right heel about two feet in front of you and bend your right knee to 90 degrees.
  3. Place your hands on your right knee.
  4. Lean forward gently and push your right knee as far forward as comfortable, allowing the ankle to bend forward.
  5. Pause here for a moment then return to the starting position.

Only push your knee forward as far as is comfortable, Chan says. At first, you may not be able to drive it very far forward. With time, your range of motion will increase.

Move 3: Tall Plank Ankle Pump

Your core is what helps you keep an upright posture while you run, which is necessary if you want to run quickly, Chan says. After all, have you ever seen a fast, slumped-over runner?

This plank variation warms up your trunk, helping keep your spine straight and chest up as you run. Plus, this exercise warms up your shoulders, improving your arm swing and helping you gain momentum as you run.

How to Do It

Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Full Body
  1. Come into a high-plank position with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Keeping your palms rooted, raise your right foot an inch off the ground.
  3. Drive your right knee up toward your chest.
  4. Simultaneously, push forward and point your left toes, shifting your body forward a few inches.
  5. Pause here, then bring your left foot back to the starting position.
  6. Do all your reps here and repeat on the other side.

Tip

To make this move a little easier, you can put your raised leg back down between repetitions instead of keeping it up.

Move 4: Knee Pull

An important part of sprinting (and accelerating in general) is driving your knee upwards as quickly and powerfully as possible, Chan says. This mobility exercise mimics that movement pattern.

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Put your weight in your right leg.
  3. Drive your left knee up and grasp your left knee with your hands.
  4. As you bring your knee up toward your chest, come up onto your right toes.
  5. Pause here for a moment.
  6. Reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
  7. Do all your reps here and then switch sides.

Move 5: Glute Pull

Your glutes are the biggest muscles in your lower body (and entire body, for that matter) and they're key players when it comes to running quickly.

The gluteus maximus (the lower glute muscle) helps your hips bend and extend, which is what drives you forward while you run. Waking your muscles with glute exercises up before you run is necessary if you want to get as much power (and therefore speed) out of each stride.

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Put your weight into your right leg.
  3. Drive your left knee up and gently take hold of your left leg.
  4. Carefully pull your left ankle slightly to the right side of your body.
  5. Simultaneously pull your left knee up toward your chest.
  6. Pause here for a moment.
  7. Bring your left leg down to the ground and repeat.

Move 6: Standing Knee Extension

This move mimics how your hamstrings move during during running. Along with your glutes, these muscles help your hips bend and extend, driving your legs forward to gain speed, Chan says.

The more mobile and speedy you can become with this motion, the faster you can run.

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level All Levels
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Put your weight into your right leg.
  3. Drive your left knee up toward your chest.
  4. Straighten your knee as far as comfortable, kicking your foot out.
  5. Pause here for a moment.
  6. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  7. Switch sides after you finish all your reps.

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