Warm-up Stretches for Runners

Article by Lucas Rockwood

Are you a runner? If you’re looking for a pre-run stretching exercise routine that’s efficient but also effective, this guide is for you.

There’s a common misconception that stretching before a run prevents injuries. That’s not why we stretch. Dynamic stretching before a run has three main benefits. Firstly, it increases circulation to your muscles. It also helps to break up sliding surface adhesions you’ve no-doubt experienced where your knees, ankles, and neck feel stiff and stuck first thing in the morning. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, stretching before a run helps to prime your nervous system for exercise, similar to a golfer taking a practice swing before stepping up to the tee.

Pre-run stretches do not prevent injury, nor will they increase your range of motion. Deep stretches to improve mobility should always be practiced after running—not before—because the approach and techniques used are different. Always remember that your pre-run stretching routine should be short and efficient. It’s a supplement to your run, not the main event. Get it done and get going with your workout.

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Runners’ Warm-Up Stretches (5 Mins)

The five-minute routine below will gently mobilize the key muscles and joints needed for running. You’ll warm-up your hamstrings, quads, calves, and encourage rotation, flexion, and extension in your hips, axial rotation of the spine, shoulder hyperextension, and essential ranges of motion in your ankles.

Hip Rotation

  • Step your feet wider than your hips
  • Bend your right knee and rotate your leg to the outside
  • Tap the inside of your ankle
  • Rotate to the outside, tap the outside of your ankle
  • Swap legs and repeat for a total of five sets

Air Squat

  • Step your feet wider than your hips
  • Turn your feet out at a 15-degree angle
  • Steeple your hands at your heart
  • Inhale, brace, and squat as low as you can with your heels down
  • Exhale as you rise to stand
  • Repeat five times

Lunge + Twist

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  • Steeple your hands at your heart
  • Lunge your right foot back behind you
  • Place your left fingertips down, reach your right arm up, twist
  • Return to a standing position
  • Repeat on the opposite side
  • Repeat the cycle for four sets total

Back Slaps

  • From standing, jog on the spot
  • Swing and cross your arms in front of you and slap your back with both hands
  • Release your arms and repeat
  • Aim for 10 slaps to help warm up your shoulders

Dynamic Arrow

  • Step your feet a little wider than your hips
  • Interlace your hands behind your back
  • Squat down, chest toward knees, gaze forward
  • Straighten your legs and fold
  • Repeat five times

Toe Squat

  • Stand up on your toes, then squat down as far as possible pain-free
  • Stand all the way back up, lift back up onto your toes and repeat
  • Repeat five times

Supinated/Pronated Walk

  • Take 10 steps on the outside of your feet (supinated)
  • Take 10 steps on the inside of your feet (pronated)

Quads & Ankles

  • Place your hand on the wall for support
  • Bend your right knee, clasp your right foot, toes pointed
  • Press your foot/heel toward your glutes and hold for a 10 count
  • Switch sides and repeat

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