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Very few runners really enjoy stretching. But stretching can help build both strength and flexibility — and can save you weeks of running with nagging pain, or even months of inactivity while you rehabilitate from injury.
Quad stretches are probably the most common stretch you’ll see runners do – standing on one leg and holding your ankle behind you. But why is it so important to stretch quads and what are the best stretches for runners?
“The reason it’s important to stretch after a run is mainly to decrease the risk of injury,” says physiotherapist and physical therapist Anthony Maritato.
“Once your muscles have been warmed up, they become more flexible, which means they will be easier to stretch. When you stretch after a run, you will find that your flexibility will improve and your joints will be able to move through different ranges of motion much more easily. Stretching after running can help prevent muscle cramps, soreness and tension. Some of the other benefits of stretching after running are that it increases your speed, stride length, and running efficiency.
The difference between static and dynamic stretching
“Static stretching is the classic stretch-and-hold technique used by many athletes and fitness enthusiasts,” says Maritato. “This type of stretch can be held for 30 seconds to 1 minute and is often used to increase range of motion around a joint and increase the length of muscles and tendons.”
In contrast, dynamic stretching “involves stretching a muscle through movement,” he adds. For example, walking lunges or clams.
So should you stretch before or after a run?
Long gone are the days when it was best to stand still and do a few static stretches before heading out for a run or even at the start of an exercise class. Instead, the best way to warm up now is to use dynamic stretches.
“Runners benefit from more dynamic movement patterns which, in turn, lengthen muscles and soft tissue structures,” explains the physiotherapist. Lucie Sacarello. “A dynamic lunge, for example, provides greater long-term benefits than a static lunge because it elongates muscle bundles rather than just stretching muscle fibers.”
Maritato agrees; “Dynamic stretching is recommended before running to prepare the muscles and central nervous system for performance – it increases breathing, sweating and heart rate, which will keep you going. Dynamic stretching also lubricates the joints and improves your range of motion.
So while static stretching remains the most popular form of stretching, experts tend to agree that static stretching should be reserved for recovery or if you are injured (where it may be a good idea to use a static stretch as part of your warm-up). , rather than a more explosive dynamic version). “For this reason, the only time I would prescribe static stretching would be for pain relief and in addition to other exercises that would provide longer-term benefits,” Sacarello says.
The best quad stretches for racers
Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend one leg slightly. Pull the foot of the other leg as far as possible toward your glutes. Make sure your bent knee does not pass in front of your straight leg.
- Once in position, push your hips forward to increase the stretch and hold.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Kneeling Quad Stretch
- In a kneeling lunge position, reach back and pull your foot toward your glutes. You will stretch the quadriceps and the hip flexors at the same time.
- Hold, then repeat on the other leg.
Quad stretch on your knees, against the wall
- Facing the wall, place your left foot against the wall and step your right foot out into a lunge position.
- Lean forward into the lunge and hold this position.
- Repeat on the other leg.
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