A 5-Minute Dynamic Stretching Routine All Runners Need Now

A 5-Minute Dynamic Stretching Routine All Runners Need Now

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History has shown a huge flip-flop on the statics vs. dynamic stretching topic in recent years: I’ll call it, The Stretching Saga.

The Stretching Saga comes down to this: whether to do static stretching or dynamic stretching before exercising. Oddly, it still divides many runners now.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Back in the day, athletes primarily did static stretches before exercising.

In fact, my Dad would sit in front of the TV for 30 minutes before his Sunday night hockey game, doing every static stretch in the book.

But now, we know better. You know better, because you’re reading this article (smarty pants).

The Stretching Saga is Over: Dynamic stretching is much better for pre-run warmups. We’ll talk about why in a moment.

But which dynamic stretches are best? How many should you do before a run?

Hold tight, and keep reading…answers to those questions (and more!) are coming up shortly!

What is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching is the act of stretching by active motion instead of by holding a single stretch for a period of time (usually 30 seconds or more).

While it wasn’t always the prescribed running warm up that it is now, dynamic stretching is catching on across the sport for it’s benefits.

A sampling of the benefits of dynamic stretching include:

  • Stretching more than 1 muscle at a time
  • Increases blood flow & body temperature
  • Simulates the movement of the activity
  • Improves your range of motion
  • Prepares you mentally, with body movement instead of sitting

Those are all great benefits for runners because it means your body becomes prepared for your run!

Dynamic Stretches vs. Static Stretches

Ok, you might be wondering why static stretching has gone by the wayside in recent years in lieu of dynamic stretching?

It’s a great question.

The answer, is that numerous studies show that dynamic stretching equates to better performance and it reduces the risk of injuries*.

Honestly, I just don’t think anyone was paying attention to this years ago.

But the topic has picked up steam in the last 10 years or so, so studies have been conducted to provide scientific evidence for dynamic stretching over static stretching as a pre-run warm up.

But don’t give up on static stretching yet! It has it’s purpose too: static post-run stretching.

So to recap:

  • Dynamic Stretching: Pre-run (or pre-exercise)
  • Static Stretching: Post-run (or post-exercise)

RELATED: Check out these 10 Post-Run Stretching Exercises for Improved Recovery.

A 5-Minute Dynamic Stretching Routine for Runners (for a Perfect Pre-Run Warm Up)

Alright, ready for the meat of this post: the dynamic stretching routine?

Let’s go!

How to Do the Routine: Select all (or a combo of) the dynamic stretches below and do each for 10-12 reps, then move onto the next one.

Remember, this is a warm up, so the point is to ease your body into the movements (don’t go hog-wild trying to rush through…just do what you can at a leisurely pace, and keep your heart rate low).

Bridges

Activate your glutes (butt muscles) with bridges. Glutes are uses a lot in running, so activating them early is beneficial.

To Do a Bridge:

  • Lay on your back with your hands at your side
  • Put you feet on the ground in front of you, about 1 foot away from your butt
  • Tilt/rotate your pelvis (hips) towards your upper body to make your back straight (you don’t want an arch in your back)
  • Then, engage your butt muscles (as my husband says: “like you’re holding in a fart”) and slowly lift your hips straight up, and then back down.

Leg Swings

Image credit: https://yurielkaim.com/dynamic-stretches-for-runners/

Leg swings introduce motion into your legs in a way that simulates running (but in a much less intense way). It warms up the glutes (butt muscles), the hamstrings, and the thighs (quads) well.

Ever go to a race? You’ll see TONS of runners doing this warmup before the race!

How to Do Leg Swings:

  • Stand with your back straight and core (abs) engaged
  • Start swinging one leg forward and backward, starting with a small range of motion and slowly increasing it
  • Important: make sure your body doesn’t flop around while doing this move. Keep your hips horizontally-aligned and use your arms for balance.

Side (Lateral) Leg Swings

Image credit: https://www.skimble.com/exercises/9462-lateral-leg-swings-how-to-do-exercise

Side leg swings are similar in concept to regular (front to back) leg swings.

These help warm up the inner and outer thighs and hips. Swinging your legs left and right requires activation of the hip muscle which is used a lot during running.

How to Do Side Leg Swings:

  • Stand facing a wall and put your hand flat against it
  • Engage your core (abs) and firmly plant your standing leg in place
  • Lift the swinging leg off the ground slightly, and swing it left in a slow & controlled motion, then swing it right. That’s 1 repetition.
  • Same note as I stated above for the regular leg swings: don’t let your core move around. You want the legs doing all the work to get the most benefit from this dynamic stretch.

Calf Raises

Image Credit: https://www.skimble.com/exercises/9462-lateral-leg-swings-how-to-do-exercise

As runners, we use our calf muscles in our running form, both to help propel us forward but also as stabilizers when landing and turning left or right.

Warming up the calves helps reduce tightness during your run – in fact, this is one dynamic stretch I can’t live without (unless I want crampy, tight calves…which I don’t).

How to Do Calf Raises:

  • Stand straight with your core engaged and shoulders back
  • Slowly lift onto the balls of your feet (the front cushy part near your toes)
  • Hold in that lifted position for 2 seconds
  • Slowly lower back down.

Lunges

Ok, now we’re getting into the more “intense” dynamic stretches.

Be careful – the intent is NOT to do a full workout before your run. Rather, you want to use the muscles involved in this move just enough that they become “activated” and ready to go for the run.

How to Do Lunges:

  • Stand straight up with your back straight, shoulders back, and feet hip-width apart
  • Engage your core and slowly step forward, bending your knee until it’s at a 90 degree angle (tip: don’t let your knee go too far forward over your foot, it’s bad form and may cause knee pain!)
  • Lower your knee on the ‘planted’ leg so it’s at a 90 degree angle and almost touching the ground
  • Slowly bring yourself back to a standing position.

If this move is too challenging for you, or requires too much effort for a warm up, try doing the modified standing lunge seen here (sorry for the shakiness…I’d been filming strength videos for 10 hours at this point and my muscles were mush!):

Butt Kicks

Image Credit: https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/kick-your-own-butt-with-glute-kicks.html

I usually save this one for last, because it builds the most heat.

Butt kicks simulate the motion of running while also getting your heart pumping a little.

Mini-cardio session! (But again, don’t go full-force…this is a warm up, not a workout).

How to Do Butt Kicks:

  • Stand straight up with your core engaged, shoulders back and feet hip width apart
  • Bend your knees slightly
  • “Flick” or “kick” one leg back so it’s hitting your butt, or almost hitting your butt.
  • Alternate legs: left butt kick, right butt kick, and so on

Summary

So there you go – a 5 minute dynamics stretching routine for runner’s that will work wonders at warming your body up before a run!

If these 6 moves take more than 5 minutes (and you’re on a time crunch), simply reduce it from 6 moves to 5 or 4.

BIG TIP: The most important thing is keeping proper form. Doing these dynamic stretching moves improperly could cause injury at worst, and at best, won’t help you warm up the way your body requires.

Keep them easy, focused and intentional, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly effective runner’s warmup routine!

You Might Also Like:

Strength Training for Runners: Many of these dynamic stretching moves double as strength exercises when you increase the repetitions and do multiple sets. Learn 8 easy strength moves for beginners and get started on becoming a stronger runner today!

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*Source:
https://yurielkaim.com/dynamic-stretches-for-runners/ (he cites 3 separate studies supporting dynamic stretching)

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