Static Stretching Before a Run May be Making You a Slower Runner — Try This Warmup Instead
You just got a new pair of running shoes, you've made a Grammy-worthy playlist, and now you're ready to pound the pavement. But before you jump into that 30-minute run, you've got to make sure your muscles and joints are warmed up and ready for the impact in order to prevent injury and to have an efficient run. You may think that statically stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps will do the job, but according to Vinh Pham, DPT, founder of Myodetox and Asystem's director of recovery, it's not the best way to warm up.
"I would say that dynamic stretches are best," Pham told POPSUGAR, because they allow you to move your joints and muscles through a full range of motion. He also prefers dynamically stretching before runs because research has shown that static stretching can decrease your strength and power output, negatively impacting your performance. If you do want to statically stretch before a run, Pham recommends doing it 30 minutes to an hour before your run to prevent a decrease in your muscular strength and power.
You may think you only need to stretch your legs, but Pham explained it's important to also stretch your upper body — specifically the chest, shoulders, and thoracic spine (located in your upper back/abdomen region) – because it will help you swing your arms properly, which can prevent your back, hips, and legs from overworking. Additionally, research has found that when you swing your arms, you can save three to 13 percent of energy.
Moral of the story: properly warming up before you run is important because it will prevent injury and will make you a more efficient runner! There are a variety of dynamic exercises you can do to warm up, and Pham provided us with four of his favorites that will get your muscles and joints ready to work. Check them out ahead.
Dynamic Calf Stretch
- Begin standing in a staggered stance with both feet facing the wall and your hands resting on the wall for support.
- Keeping the back leg straight, gently move the knee of the forward leg toward the wall. Be sure to keep both heels planted firmly on the ground as you perform this stretch.
- Repeat for eight to 10 reps on each leg.
Thoracic Rotation With Hip Hinge
- Starting in a standing position, keep your left leg straight and take a small step with your right leg, bringing it toward the left. Maintain a slight bend in the right knee.
- With control, begin to hinge (bending at the hips) forward as you push your left hip toward a wall (or another object) behind you.
- Maintain a neutral spine as you slowly begin to reach your right hand down, inside your shin. Your left hand should simultaneously reach up toward the ceiling.
- As you rotate through your thoracic spine, be sure to follow your hand and look up toward the ceiling to maintain a neutral spine and prevent injury.
- Repeat for a total of five reps on each side.
3D Staggered Stance Deadlift With a Reach
- Starting in a standing position, keep your left leg straight as you slowly reach your right leg behind you and hinge (bend) at the hips.
- Maintaining a neutral spine, reach your right hand forward until you feel a stretch in the standing leg.
- Return to the starting position and repeat this movement at varying angles. Remember to reach the arm away from the leg that is behind you.
- Complete eight to 10 reps on each side.
3D Hamstring Sweep
- Starting in a standing position, take a step back, bending the knee behind you and keeping the front leg straight, with the foot flexed toward your face.
- Maintaining a neutral spine position, reach forward with both hands, then return to the starting position.
- Next, take another step at about a 45-degree angle and repeat the same steps. Be sure to always reach your arms away from the direction of the back leg.
- Repeat this movement at different angles for eight to 10 reps on each side.
Don't forget to cool down after your run. Pham said after your workout is a great time to do static stretching because "your muscles will be more pliable and it will be easier for you to stretch." He also recommends stretching your feet and toes by putting your big toe against a wall and leaning into it. And if you're feeling extremely sore, he recommends trying the Asystem Radical Relief Gel Roll-on.