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The 15 Best Dynamic Stretches For Runners

Add these dynamic stretches to your pre-run warm up routine for top performance.

As running is a high-impact sport, it’s crucial we take extra good care of our bodies so we can enjoy running long into our futures. 

A well-integrated training plan will not only include your running workouts and training loads, but a number of other essential components to help us become well-rounded, strong, and healthy athletes. 

One of these critical, but often overlooked components is dynamic stretches for runners. A dynamic warm up is key before even run to ensure your body, and mind, are ready for the workout to come.

Dynamic Stretches for runners

What is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching is an active movement or series of movements that warm up our muscles and joints and prepare our body to perform.

In addition to loosening up muscles, these warm-up exercises increase blood flow and ultimately assist in a more successful workout and recovery.

The dynamic stretches chosen should be functional to the specific exercise you will take part in, imitating similar motions that will be repeated during training or racing.

In our case, we will be looking at dynamic stretches that mimic running movements that will prime your body for your workout.

If you are going to perform a strength training session, take a look at the exercises you have in your plan that day, and choose dynamic stretches that will target the same muscle groups.  

The most important thing to remember about dynamic stretching is that your body is always in constant movement while performing these exercises and never held in one place as in a static stretch in a cool down session.

Dynamic Stretching Versus Static Stretching

As opposed to dynamic stretching, static stretching is fixed and focuses on one particular muscle.

With static stretches, you hold each position for a minimum of 30 seconds, ideally 45-60 seconds to get the maximum benefits. 

It’s important to remember that we should never perform static stretches before training, but instead leave them until after completing our workout.

If you static stretch cold muscles and joints, you increase your risk of injury.  

In addition, according to Warren B. Young, static stretching before a workout can reduce strength and power by 5-30% of the muscles stretched. We definitely don’t want to put our power output in jeopardy before an important training session.

Dynamic Stretches for runners

When Should We Use Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic run stretches should be a part of your warm-up routine before you run, weight train, or take part in any type of exercise. 

Warm-ups often get overlooked due to a lack of time or a feeling that it’s a waste of time. However, warming up should never be an option but a routine part of your training plan and done before every run. 

Before beginning your dynamic stretching routine, be sure and warm up with some light cardio for 5 minutes to get your heart pumping and body temperature up. Set aside another 5 – 10 minutes for the stretches. 

Why should you take these 10-15 minutes out of your day to warm up properly?

Because it’s full of benefits! 

Benefits of Dynamic Stretching

  • Warms up your muscles, joints, and nervous system.
  • Helps with injury prevention.
  • Assures a more successful training session by enhancing your performance and getting the most out of your workout.
  • Increases your mobility and flexibility. 
  • Helps reduce muscle soreness or stiffness.
  • Brings your heart rate up. 
  • Improves balance and agility.

A good pre-run routine also prepares you psychologically for your training session or race to come.

Now, let’s take a look at 15 dynamic stretches that can help prepare your body and mind for your next run:

Dynamic Stretches for runners

Specific Dynamic Stretches for Runners

Perform about 8-10 reps of each of these dynamic stretches before your next workout. If you don’t have time to do them all, make sure you pick and choose one for each muscle group.

#1: Hurdles Front and Back

Benefits: Opens up hips and works stability.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart. 
  2. Lift your right leg, bent at 90 degrees, straight out in front of you.
  3. Abduct to the right by opening your leg outward as far as possible as if you were going over a hurdle. 
  4. Bring your leg back to the center as if you were going back over the hurdle.
  5. Repeat with your left leg.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#2: Front and Back Leg Swings

Benefits: Loosens up hips and stimulates blood flow.

  1. Stand on your right leg, and swing your left leg back and forth. 
  2. If you need help balancing, you can hold on to a wall. 
  3. Switch sides and repeat the same motion.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#3: Lateral Leg Swing

Benefits: Increases range of motion in the hips.

  1. Stand on your right leg.
  2. Position your left leg, so it is slightly in front of you. 
  3. Swing your left leg from side to side.
  4. If you need help balancing, you can hold on to a wall. 
  5. Switch sides and repeat the same motion.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#4: Knee Hugs

Benefits: Improves hip mobility, stretches glutes and lower back, and improves balance and stability. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
  2. Lift your left knee up to your chest.
  3. Press your knee against your chest.
  4. Hold for 1 second.
  5. Repeat with your right leg.
  6. Alternate legs.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#5: Dynamic Quad Stretch

Benefits: Activates quadriceps and improves balance and stability. 

  1. Stand on your right leg
  2. Using your left hand, take your left foot and pull it up toward your butt. 
  3. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Repeat with your right leg. 
  5. Alternate legs.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#6: Table Tops

Benefits: Loosens up glutes and improves balance and stability. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
  2. Lift your left leg, keep your knee bent at 90 degrees, and abduct. Your shin should be parallel to the floor.
  3. Place your left hand on your left knee. 
  4. Gently push your left knee downward, keeping your back straight. 
  5. Repeat with your right leg. 
  6. Alternate legs.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#7: Reverse Lunge with Rotation

Benefits: Loosens up hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. 

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Step backward with your right foot and bend your knee until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle and almost touches the ground behind you.
  3. Rotate toward your left knee.
  4. Rotate back to the center. 
  5. Lift your back leg and bring it forward to your starting position.
  6. Alternate legs.

You can also perform forward walking lunges with rotation.

Dynamic Stretches for runners

#8: Goblet Squat

Benefits: Increases range of motion and loosens up adductors, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Lower down to 90 degrees as if sitting in a chair.
  3. Gently use your elbows to push your knees open. 
  4. Repeat.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#9: Alternating Side lunges

Benefits: Increases mobility and loosens up adductors, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. 

  1. Open your legs wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a wide lateral step with your right foot.
  3. Bend your knee and sit back into a side lunge on your right side.
  4. Return your foot back to its original position and repeat with your left leg.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#10: Single Leg Deadlift

Benefits: Activates hamstrings, glutes, and core, and improves stability and balance. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Lean forward, shifting your weight onto your right leg while your left leg extends straight out behind you until you form a T shape.
  3. Bring your extended leg back into your starting position. 
  4. Repeat on the other leg.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#11: Toe Walks

Benefits: Activates and strengthens calves, and increases ankle mobility.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart. 
  2. Standing up on your tiptoes, take small steps forward.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#12: Heel Walks

Benefits: Increases ankle mobility and stability.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart. 
  2. Standing on your heels, take small steps forward.
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#13: Frankenstein

Benefits: Improves posture, range of motion and is a great hamstring stretch. 

  1. Stand with your feet together. 
  2. Extend your right arm straight in front of you. 
  3. Kick your left leg up and try to reach your right hand. 
  4. Alternate legs and arms.

Note: Do not bend at the waist, let your feet come up to your hands.

Dynamic Stretches for runners

#14: Scoops

Benefits: Improves mobility and loosens up hamstrings. 

  1. Stand with your right leg forward and your left leg back, both heels touching the ground.
  2. Bring both arms to your back heel, and in a scooping motion, move up towards and past your toes. 
  3. Switch legs and perform the same movement. 
Dynamic Stretches for runners

#15: Hand to Back Stretch

Benefits: Improves shoulder mobility and posture. 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Lift your left arm above your head, bend your elbow and reach down your back. 
  3. Simultaneously bring your right arm behind your back, hand facing upward.
  4. Touch your fingers from your right and left hands together. 
  5. Alternate arm positions. 

Note: If you can lock hands together, even better.

Dynamic Stretches for runners

Adding these dynamic stretches to your daily routine will provide significant benefits to your running and recovery. 

It really is worth taking the time to do them!

If you are looking for a stretching routine to do after your cool down, take a look at this next guide:

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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