You probably learned to ‘stretch’ in your high-school gym class, but it turns out that classic static stretching — when you hold a muscle in tension for 30–60 seconds — is best for after exercise.
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that static stretching can temporarily reduce a muscle’s performance for up to 24 hours, so it’s best to warm a muscle using dynamic (Read: Moving) stretches before a run.
If you’re seeking to bump up your flexibility, take 10 minutes to loosen up post-run, too. “Stretching after a run can help enhance your range-of-motion,” says Chris Wolfe, a RRCA certified running coach and director of STAR Physical Therapy, in Nashville, Tennessee. “A warmed-up muscle will not only better endure the stretching, but it will have the ability to sustain longer lasting results.”
Here are five post-run stretches to help boost your running range of motion:
KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
The Move: Kneel on your right knee, with your left foot flat on the floor, and left knee bent at 90 degrees. Press lightly forward to feel a stretch at the top of your right thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, 3–5 times, and then repeat on the other side.
Why: “This stretch targets your hip flexors and quadriceps muscles to help boost performance and reduce lower-back and knee strain,” Wolfe says.
LYING HAMSTRING STRETCH
The Move: Lay on your back with your left foot on the floor, and your right leg extended toward the ceiling, hands clasped behind your right knee. Gently pull your right leg toward you, and hold for 10, 5-second reps before switching sides.
Why: “This move stretches the hamstrings, but also helps mobilize your sciatic nerve, which needs attention after longer runs.”
LEANING CALF STRETCH
The Move: Face a wall, and place your hands on the wall, leaning slightly forward, with your back leg straight and front knee slightly bent. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your back leg, and hold for 30 seconds, repeating up to five times per leg. Perform at least two sets with your back leg slightly bent, to target a different part of your calf muscle.
Why: “Stretching these muscles helps reduce possible strain to the shin and foot.”
SUPINE GLUTE STRETCH
The Move: Lay on your back, and bend your right leg, pulling it toward you. Grasp your knee with one hand and your ankle with the other, and pull your bent leg toward you, until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3–5 times before switching sides.
Why: “This stretch can help reduce hip stiffness and possible pain.”
SIDE-LYING QUADRICEPS STRETCH
The Move: Lay on your right side and bend your left (top) knee. Grab your left foot with your left hand and lightly pull your foot toward your glutes until you feel a stretch along the front of your thighs. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3–5 times before switching sides.