Patients often ask me whether stretching before or after a workout is better for performance. The answer is, it should be done both before and after a workout.
The better question is what type of stretching should be done before and after a run.
Static stretches entails holding a muscle in an elongated, fixed position for a period of time. This is the most common form of stretching done. They are effective in cooling down the muscular system as well as improving mobility and range of motion. This type of stretching should be done after your run, as part of your cool down.
Muscles to focus on:
- ITB (Iliotibial band)
Each stretch should be held for a 20 – 30 seconds to be effective.
Studies show that static stretching could hurt performance if done before a workout (save it for after your run). But dynamic stretching, which uses controlled movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently. These stretches should be done before you run as part of your warm up.
Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both.” Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements.
Dynamic stretching is most effective when it’s sport-specific. This pre-run routine targets the muscles used for running. Start slowly, focus on form; as the exercises get easier, pick up speed. Use small movements for the first few reps, and increase the range of motion as you go.
Dynamic Stretches for the runner
Swing one leg out to the side, then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Ensure your feet are facing forward throughout the stretch. Repeat 10 times on each side. Feel wobbly? Hold onto a steady object.
While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to your glutes. When this is easy, try it while jogging. Do 10 reps on each side.
Get in a “pike” position (hips in the air, palms flat on the ground). Put your right foot behind your left ankle. With your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Lift your left leg up, bending the knee so it points out. Try to tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand without bending forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Reach your opposite hand to the opposite toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do 10 reps on each side.
Step forward using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight. Repeat 10 times on each side.
For a video demonstration of each exercise, click on the link below.
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