What is Dynamic Stretching?
Dynamic stretching for runners uses momentum build up by various movements and active muscular effort to stretch the muscles within the particular movement. Dynamic stretching is different from static stretching in that it doesn't stop at the end of the movement. The dynamic stretch is like any other movement but is over exaggerated or made onto a bigger movement to stretch the muscles slightly further than they normally would.
Dynamic stretching might look like ballistic stretching but it is much safer because dynamic stretching doesn't use bouncing motions which could lead to injuries due to the stretch reflex. Dynamic stretching uses motions which are similar to the target sport for which the stretches are being performed to signal to the body what is going to happen during to main workout (and thereby preparing the nervous system).
Examples of dynamic stretching are circling the arms, making a kicking movement and doing lunges (big steps). Kicking actions can be used to dynamically stretch the calves and the hamstrings and reduce tension in the hip joint by exaggerating the running movement.
Scientific studies have suggested that dynamic stretching reduces muscle tightness without any side-effects and might therefore be more appropriate than static stretching which has been shown to reduce muscle strength in some cases.
It is suggested that you incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm-up routine as long as they are appropriate to your running movements. During all dynamic stretching movements you should continue to breathe calmly and focus on relaxing the muscles.
The latest research suggests that dynamic stretching is preferred for warming up and static stretching is most ideal for the cool-down.
The following dynamic stretching exercises are specific for a runner before a training run or any race from 10K to a full marathon.
Before doing these dynamic stretches, always do a warm-up jog between 5 to 10 minutes to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. Followed by easy stretching of the mayor muscle groups. Then runner specific stretching and other dynamic stretches for peak readiness. Please refer to the runners warm-up page for explanations.
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Dynamic Stretching Exercises
The following is a complete dynamic stretching guide which addresses a few more muscle groups and some twice in a different form than the runners specific warm-up. These additional stretches may be implemented in your warm-up routine before a tempo run like fartlek or a long run. Additional dynamic stretches will be indicated with *
Purpose: Dynamically stretch the shoulders, trapezius, triceps.
- Stand tall, feet somewhat wider than shoulder-width apart, knees unlocked.
- Keep your back straight at all times.
- Overhead/Down and back - Swing both arms forward at the same time to an overhead position and then forward again, down, and backwards. Repeat 6 to 10 times.
- Side/Front Crossover - Swing both arms out to your side at the same time and then cross them in front of your chest. Repeat 6 to 10 times
Purpose: Dynamically stretch the obliques (external and internal)
- Stand tall with a straight-up posture, feet somewhat wider than shoulder-width apart, knees unlocked, and your hands resting on your hips.
- Lift your torso up and away from your hips and bend smoothly over to one side, then the other, avoiding the propensity to lean either forwards or backwards.
- Repeat the whole sequence sixteen times in a slow smooth movement. Bending to the side you breathe out, and in as you veer back to the center
Hip circles and twists
Purpose: Dynamically stretch the obliques (external and internal), waist area
- Circular movement - Place your hands on your hips and spread your feet wider than your shoulders. Start making circles with your hips in a clockwise direction. Continue 10 to 12 times. Then repeat in a counter clockwise direction.
- Twisting movement - Arms extend out to your sides, twist your upper-body and hips to the left, and shifting most of your weight on to the left foot. Then twist your upper-body to the right while shifting most of your weight to the right foot. Continue 10 to 12 times.
Purpose: Dynamically flexing the ankles
- Walking up on toes keeping the knees and feet straight in a jogging motion.
- Continuously moving forward and pushing off through the feet. Walk for 10 meters.
Walking High Knees
Purpose: Dynamically flexing the hips and shoulders, and stretch the glutes, quads, lower back and shoulders.
- Take an overly high step, driving your knee as high as possible, at the same time push up on the toes of your opposite foot.
- Use a correct arm swing of 90° angle at the elbows, hands swing up to throat level and back beyond rear pocket.
Running High Knees
Purpose: Dynamically stretching the glutes, quads, low back and shoulders.
- Apply proper running form with your elbows at an 90° angle and driving your hands up to throat level and back beyond rear pocket.
- Stay on the balls of your feet, driving your knees up and down as high and quick as possible. Repeat 20 kicks within 10 meters.
Running Butt Kicks
Purpose: Dynamically stretching the quadriceps and hip flexors. Warming the knee joint.
- Begin running by flexing your knee and bringing your heel all the way to your buttocks.
- Keep a slight forward lean throughout the drill, staying on the balls of your feet. Repeat 20 kicks within 10 meters.
Purpose: Dynamically flexing the knees and hip region. Dynamically stretching the gluteus maximus (buttocks).
- Stand tall with straight posture, feet wider than shoulders and the knees unlocked. Hold your hands out in front of you for balance.
- Next bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
- Keep your back straight throughout the movement, and looking straight ahead.
- Make sure that your knees and toes always point in the same direction. Your knees should not advance beyond your toes.
- Once at your lowest point, straighten your legs by pushing off on your heels to return to your starting position.
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times with a flowing, controlled rhythm. Try to breathe in as you descend, and breathe out as you come up.
Purpose: Dynamically stretch the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves.
- Stand with straight posture and both feet together.
- Step forward roughly 1 to 1½ meter. Bending the front knee slowly while lowering into lunge position.
- The front thigh should be parallel with the ground and the lower leg vertical. Your torso should stay straight up and looking forward. The front knee should not advance beyond your toes.
- Veer back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg.
Purpose: To stretch the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves.
- Similar to "Lunges", but instead of veering back to the starting position, you should pull the rear leg through going forward in a continuous movement.
- Step forward with a long stride, landing on the heel of your front foot and extending onto the toes of your back foot.
- Complete the cycle by pulling your trail leg through and returning to an upright position.
Purpose: Dynamically stretching the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and flexing the ankles
- Double leg bounce - Slightly leaning forward with your hands on the wall or any stable object, shift your weight to your toes. Raise and lower both heels rapidly (bounce).
- With every bounce, lift your heels one to two inches from the ground. Try to maintain ground contact with the ball of your feet.
- Do about 20 to 30 repetitions continuously.
- Single leg bounce - Slightly leaning forward as in the double leg bounce but with all your weight on your left foot, raise the right knee forward while pushing the left heel towards the ground.
- Then lower the right foot to the floor while raising the left heel one or two inches.
- Repeat in a rapid, bouncy fashion. Do 15 to 20 repetitions on each leg.
Walking Straight Leg Kicks
Purpose: Dynamically stretching the hamstrings, calves and lower back.
- Move forward keeping your front leg straight.
- Kick your leg up while keeping your knee straight and dorsiflexed ankle.
- As this movement comes with great force, build up the intensity (height of your kicks) over 5 kicks to avoid the stretch reflex of your hamstring.
- Try to touch your toes to the fingers of your opposite hand.
- Repeat the same kick with your opposite leg.
- Avoid slouching forward when reaching for your toes. Do 10 to 15 kicks with each leg.
Purpose: Dynamically stretching the abductors, adductors, glutes, ankles and hips.
- Stay on the balls of your feet with your hips in a low semi-squat position.
- The movement starts by twisting your hips and crossing one leg in front of the other, bring your trail leg through, and cross your lead leg behind the trail leg. Continue by alternately crossing your feet in front and behind.
- Your shoulders remain square through the entire drill.