The 10 Most Effective Flexibility Stretches for Runners

The 10 Most Effective Flexibility Stretches for Runners

Running is one of the most popular types of exercise in the world. In America alone, roughly 60 million people run daily. While it’s an excellent way to get in some cardio and lose weight, running without incorporating flexibility stretches can be dangerous.

Skipping on flexibility training won’t only cause muscle tightness, it could also lead to achy joints as well as unnecessary pains in places such as the hip for many runners. Identifying the right flexibility exercise or stretching exercise to perform before a workout can do wonders to prevent soreness and tight muscles.

The good thing is that there are many types of flexibility stretches you can perform both pre- and post-running. Here are ten of the most effective flexibility stretches you can add to your stretch routine before and after your next run.

1. Quad Stretch

This can be done both before and after running. Your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) are some of the most important muscles used when running. To keep these muscle fibers nice and flexible, doing a few quad stretches to improve blood flow helps:

  • Standing straight without leaning forward, lift one of your legs so the heel is touching your bum
  • Grab that heel with one of your hands and force it towards your bum so you feel the quads tighten and stretch
  • While keeping your knees as close together and the other leg as straight as possible, hold that position for about 30 seconds before switching legs

2. Hamstring Stretch

This move is a popular one, popping up in many yoga pose moves. This hamstring stretch can be done while lying down on a yoga mat:

  • Lie of your back making sure that your lower back and hips are levels on the mat
  • Bending one knee while keeping the other leg extended on the floor slowly straighten the knee to the leg that is extended by grabbing its back with both hands
  • While keeping your hips on the floor, pull that extended leg towards you keeping it as straight as possible and pulling it as close to you as possible
  • Hold that position for 30 seconds before switching legs

3. Calf Stretch

Like your quads, your calves work extremely hard when you are running. To avoid leg muscle tension, they need to be stretched out when you are done.

  • Find a flight of stairs or use an exercise step for this stretch
  • Making sure that the balls of your feet and toes are on the very edge of the step, simply drop one heel towards the ground while bending the other knee
  • You should feel a tight stretch in the calf of the leg that you dropped
  • Hold this bent knee position for 30 seconds before switching legs

4. Hip and Back Stretch

Designed to benefit your hips and lower back, this stretch is easy to incorporate into any workout routine:

  • Sitting on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you, lift one leg and cross it over the other while bending that knee and keeping the other leg straight on the ground
  • Pull the bent leg to your chest while twisting your upper body to look over the corresponding shoulder
  • Hold that position for about 30 seconds before switching legs

Triceps Stretch

5. Triceps Stretch

Probably the most common type of stretch, the triceps stretch is beneficial to the upper body and is simple enough to do:

  • Standing upright, put one of your arms across your body so that its elbow is near the opposite shoulder
  • Using the other hand, push that elbow as close to the opposite shoulder as possible, so you feel your triceps stretching
  • Hold that position for about 30 seconds before switching hands

6. Butterfly Stretch

This stretch is designed to stretch both the inner thighs as well as the groin area:

  • Sitting on the ground and keeping your back straight, bend your legs so that your knees are pointing outwards in opposite directions and the soles of your feet are touching
  • Wrapping your hands around your feet, slowly slide both feet towards your pelvis as far back as you can
  • Slightly leaning forward, press your knees to the ground as far as you can (you should feel some stretching in your inner thighs at this point)
  • Hold that position for about 30 seconds then return to the starting point and repeat for about five times

7. Hip Flexor Stretch

Designed to help you stretch your hips, this stretch is simple enough to perform:

  • Kneeling on one knee (you can place a pillow under that knee for comfort) flex your front leg and keep it at a right angle
  • Slightly move forward while lifting the heel of the foot that is kneeling down
  • Pull that heel as close to your buttocks as much as possible while keeping your pelvis and abdominals contracted and stable
  • Hold that position for about 30 seconds before switching legs

8. Knee Hug Stretch

This stretch is designed to benefit your lower back. Research shows that about 80% of adults tend to experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. These pains, ranging from mild discomfort to more serious soreness, can be caused by a variety of things including running. This knee hug stretch can help remedy this:

  • Lying down on a mat or the floor, bend both knees and keep them as close together as possible
  • Wrapping your hands around your legs at the shin area, pull both legs gently towards your chest as far as possible so it looks like you are hugging them
  • Hold that position for 30 seconds before releasing and doing it again

9. Child’s Pose Stretch

This yoga pose stretch benefits the muscles in your back, torso as well as shoulders:

  • Kneeling with your toes pointed behind your body, rest your bum on the back of your feet
  • Bending forward at the waist, slowly lower your chest to your knees
  • Stretch your arms out in front of you with your elbows straight
  • Hold that position for 30 seconds while stretching as deeply as possible before releasing then going again

10. Seated Hamstring Stretch

Yet another hamstring stretch, this one requires you to be seated:

  • Sitting on the floor, extend one leg while the other leg is bent at the knee and its foot resting on the inside of the thigh of the extended leg
  • Bending forward with your back as straight as possible, reach out and hold the foot of the extended leg and pull it gently towards your upper body to feel the stretch
  • Hold that position for 30 seconds before switching legs

Runners legs

This list covered a wide variety of stretches, but there are many more out there! Whether you are static stretching, passive stretching, dynamic stretching, or active stretching, any movement aimed at improving flexibility will also help you improve as a runner. Flexibility is just as important as cardio, strength training, or any kind of exercise! The more varied your workout routine, the stronger you’ll be overall.

The stretches listed here are some of the most effective yet easy to perform flexibility stretches for a runner. Doing them immediately after each run will keep you nimble and minimize your chances of injuries and muscle pulls.