The 8 Best Stretches to Do Before Running

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media
1 of 10
Prev
Next
credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Skipping pre-run stretches or warm-up sessions is a recipe for a workout injury. Running with muscles that aren't properly prepped can result in a muscle strain that keeps you off your feet — and off the road or trail — for days, weeks or even months.

But starting with a five- to 10-minute jog or walk followed by dynamic stretching before running helps prepare your muscles so they’re ready for your run. Focus on stretching the major muscle groups you'll be using — quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors — and don't forget moves that also warm up your abs, back and calves. Here are eight stretches to do before running that hit all those areas.

Static vs. Dynamic Stretches Before Running

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Dynamic stretches (ones that incorporate movement and take joints through their full range of motion) are generally better for pre-run stretching warm-ups than static still stretches that you hold for extended periods of time. They not only better prepare your muscles for the workout to follow, but may also provide a performance advantage over static stretches, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Spend eight to 10 minutes doing the following dynamic stretches before running, recommends athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz, CSCS. Triathlon coach Scott Seamster, CSCS, suggests saving static stretches, which you can hold for 30 seconds to two minutes, for after your run to help with recovery.

Print it! Here's a Printable Version of this Pre-Run Warm-Up Routine

1

Walking Lunge

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Not only do walking lunges open up the major muscles used while running — specifically, the quads and hip flexors — but they also simulate the forward motion of running, which makes them particularly useful as a pre-run stretch, says triathlon coach Scott Seamster.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together, and then take a long step forward with your right foot. Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and the back knee until it almost touches the ground. Stay here for a few seconds and work to straighten the back leg so you feel a stretch through the front of your left thigh. Then, rise up and take a big step forward with your left knee to get the stretch on your left side. Continue this way for about 10 lunges (five on each side).

2

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

If you sit at a desk all day, you probably have tight hip flexors, since they’re constantly in a state of flexion. This makes this pre-run stretch extra important before you work out, says athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz, who suggests performing this dynamic version of a kneeling hip flexor stretch.

HOW TO DO IT: Start in a lunge with your front knee at 90 degrees. Begin to straighten your back leg, so you feel a stretch along the front of your back thigh. Keep your front knee aligned over your toes. Raise your arms over your head and hold for a few seconds, then release. Continue in a dynamic motion, shifting forward as you raise your arms up, then lowering your arms as you come back to the starting position. Repeat five times, and then switch sides.

Read more: 20 Essential Checks to Help You Run Faster

3

Side Stretch

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Side stitches are a common complaint among runners. Although the cause of these annoying pains is unclear, fitness expert Stew Smith, CSCS, says you can help prevent them by doing this torso stretch before running.

HOW TO DO IT: You can do this from a standing position (as pictured above), or as athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz recommends, you can add a side stretch to a kneeling hip flexor stretch (from the previous stretch). Bring your arms over your head and, keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right, and then to the left, bending at the waist. Do this movement dynamically, holding for one or two breaths on each side before switching.

4

Dynamic Pigeon Pose

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz recommends doing this variation of yoga's classic Pigeon pose to stretch the glutes and the iliotibial (IT) band that runs along the outer thigh.

HOW TO DO IT: Fold your right knee in front of you on the floor so your knee is pointing out to the right slightly and the outside of your thigh and shin are on the floor. Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and the top of your thigh, shin and foot on the ground. Now add a torso twist by bringing your right hand up behind your right ear, and then twisting to your left so your elbow comes across your body. Repeat five to eight times, and then switch sides.

Read more: 12 Running Mistakes You Could Be Making

5

Hip Circle

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Your hips bear the brunt while you’re running, so opening up the joints and muscles of that area before hitting the pavement can help prevent injury. A few minutes of hip circles is an easy way to do this.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart. Begin to circle your hips in one direction, almost as if you’re hula-hooping. Make the circles wider and wider until you’re working your full range of motion. After about six to 10 rotations in one direction, switch directions. To deepen the stretch, for one round, pause briefly at the front, back, left and right points in the circle.

6

Around-the-World Lunge

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Warm up and stretch all the major muscles of your legs with this lunge variation that gets you to move in all direction. “I like to work every plane of motion,” athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz says. “This helps to keep the hips as open as possible.”

HOW TO DO IT: Start with your left leg stationary and lunge backward with your right foot, holding the stretch for a moment, and then come back to center and lunge forward with your right foot. Follow with a side lunge, lunging out to your right and holding for a moment. Last in the rotation, do a curtsy lunge — bringing your right leg behind your left leg and bending your knees as if you're curtsying. Repeat this lunge pattern five times, then switch sides, lunging with your left leg.

7

Calf Raise

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Every time your foot leaves the ground during a run, your calf muscles contract to make that happen. Give them some pre-run love by doing a simple, dynamic calf raise.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand on the edge of a stair facing in, so that only the balls of your feet are on the stair and your heels are hanging over the edge. Hold onto a stair rail for balance, if necessary. Rise up on your toes, and then slowly lower your heels so that they come below the stair and you feel a stretch through your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for a moment before rising up again and repeating. You can also do the stretch on one foot at a time.

Read more: 11 Myths About Running Debunked

8

Standing Quad Stretch

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media

Open up your hip flexors and quadriceps with a dynamic version of this classic stretch. Use a wall for support or challenge your balance by performing the stretch without support.

HOW TO DO IT: Bend your right knee and grab your right foot or ankle from the outside. Pull your foot in toward your right buttock and hold it there for a count of 10. Repeat three to five times and switch sides. Keep your torso upright and your head and shoulders aligned over your hips during the stretch. It’s important not to overstretch before your workout. Just take the stretch to the point where you feel resistance, not pain or discomfort.

Can Glute and Hip Tightness Affect My Lower Back

credit: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media Yolanda Cano/Demand Media
Overview

Skipping pre-run stretches or warm-up sessions is a recipe for a workout injury. Running with muscles that aren't properly prepped can result in a muscle strain that keeps you off your feet — and off the road or trail — for days, weeks or even months.

But starting with a five- to 10-minute jog or walk followed by dynamic stretching before running helps prepare your muscles so they’re ready for your run. Focus on stretching the major muscle groups you'll be using — quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors — and don't forget moves that also warm up your abs, back and calves. Here are eight stretches to do before running that hit all those areas.

PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.