Essential Stretches for Runners

Proper back Stretches

Stretches / March 5, 2015

Pulses Secret Superfood Promo

2. Shoulders

If your shoulders are in a poor position (typically upward rotated, anteriorly tilted), then they will become tight. “You hunch because your scapula won’t fully go in the other direction, and you end up losing full range of motion, ” Reavy says.

Try: Scapula Retractions

Stand tall and squeeze shoulder blades together as hard as you can. Hold for three seconds then release. Repeat 12 times.

Alternate: Doorway Pec Stretch

Stand in doorway. Bend right elbow 90 degrees (palm facing front, fingers towards the sky) and place forearm on outside of doorway. Step forward with left foot and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your pec. Hold for 10 seconds then switch arms.

3. Triceps

A main reason triceps tend to feel tight is because of muscle imbalance, says Ben Wegman, trainer at The Fhitting Room in New York City. They’re generally weaker than the biceps, the muscle opposite them. Since triceps are worked less often in day-to-day activity, they'll feel tighter when isolated and activated in exercise, he explains.

Try: Overhead Triceps Stretch

Reach right arm over your head, bend at the elbow, and place left hand on the front of the right elbow. Gently pull right elbow back and down until you feel tension. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.

Alternate: Cross Body Triceps Stretch

Reach your right arm across body at about shoulder level. Place your left wrist on outside of the right elbow and pull your right arm gently toward body. Stop when you feel a stretch in the right triceps and hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.

4. Forearms

Your forearms are engaged during daily activities like carrying a purse, gym bag, or groceries; typing on a computer; or using a cell phone. “We often don't think to stretch our forearms, but it's a good idea to do so to keep our wrists healthy and to use our arms efficiently, ” McGee says.

Try: Eagle Arms Stretch

Spread arms out to sides. Bend elbows and cross right arm in front of left in front of your chest. Then wrap right wrist behind left, so arms are wrapped twice, palms touching one another. (If that's too hard, press backs of hands together.) Hold for 10 seconds. Release and switch arms.

Alternate: Tabletop With Hands Flipped Stretch

Get down on all fours, hands stacked under shoulders, hips stacked directly over knees. Turn one hand at a time so wrists are facing forward, fingers facing back towards knees. Hold for 30 seconds.

5. Wrists

If you’re hoping to lift heavier weights at the gym, it’s necessary that you build grip strength. Working on grip strength helps strengthen your forearms, which allows you to build more muscle overall, but it also affects the wrists, potentially causing tightness, Wegman explains.

Try: One-Arm Assisted Wrist Stretch

Reach right hand out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Flex wrists back, fingers pointing towards ceiling, palms facing forward. Spread fingers wide and gently pull back on thumb with left hand. Hold for a few seconds. Move on to pointer finger, then middle finger, and so on, holding each finger for a few seconds. Release and repeat with the opposite hand.

Alternate: Prayer Stretch

Start with palms together in front of chest just below chin. Slowly lower your hands toward your waistline, keeping hands close to your stomach and palms together, until you feel a mild stretch in your wrists and forearms. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

6. Back

Our backs control so much of our movement and are very delicate. “Our lats, glutes, paraspinals, and abs are all connected to our backs, which is why we need to keep our back strong and in use, ” Reavy says. “But because almost every movement affects the back, it's easy for people to hurt it with the slightest movement.”

Try: Standing Extension

Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands on hips, and slowly lean backward until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 12 times.

Alternate: Lower Trunk Rotation

Lie on your back, knees bent with feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keep back flat and let both knees fall to right side. Hold for 10 seconds then repeat on opposite side.

7. Abdominals

“Our abs and obliques are our endurance muscles for every activity we do, ” McGee explains. “We use our core for everything from lifting and squatting to picking things up to classes like yoga and Pilates, where we use our own bodyweight to support ourselves.”

Try: Upward Dog

Lie facedown, bend elbows, and place palms on floor next to chest. Pointing toes, press tops of feet into floor and press chest up as you straighten your arms and lift thighs and knees off floor. Keep chest open and look up.

Alternate: Bridge Stretch

Lie faceup, knees bent with feet flat on floor, hip-distance apart. With glutes engaged, push through heels and lift hips into air, resting on shoulders. Interlace hands underneath hips and puff your chest to your chin to stretch open entire abdominal region and sides of waist. Hold for 30 seconds.

8. Glutes

“Glutes are the heaviest part of your body and a prime mover complex that helps you walk, run, and jump more efficiently, ” explains Andia Winslow, trainer at Mile High Run Club in New York City. And since they're used so frequently, they can get tight easily.

Try: Figure 4 Stretch

Lie faceup and bend both knees so feet are resting flat on floor in front of you, hip-distance apart. Draw right leg off ground and cross it over the left, so right ankle is resting against left knee. Reach hands through and grab back of left thigh, lift, and pull left leg in towards chest. Hold for 10 seconds then switch legs.

Alternate: Seated Twist Stretch

Sit on floor with both legs fully extended in front of you. Lift right leg, bend knee, and cross it over left leg, placing foot on the ground. Hug right leg into your chest. Hold for 10 seconds then switch legs.

9. Hip Flexors

These muscles help your legs move, so you use them more than you could imagine. Whether you’re walking, running, or cycling, your hip flexors are involved. And when you’re at a desk all day, you’re making them even tighter. “When we sit, the hip flexors are dormant and shortened, so they tend to get tight, cramp, and pull on our lower backs, ” explains McGee.

Try: Crescent Lunge Stretch

Start on all fours. Step right foot forward between hands and lengthen the left leg back, placing left shin and top of left foot on the floor. Let hips fall towards the floor as you lunge into front knee and bend back, opening up through the chest with arms extended overhead. Hold for 10 seconds then switch sides.

Alternate: Dancer's Pose

Stand tall and lift right leg behind you, bending at the knee. Catch top of the foot with right hand. Keeping left leg straight, slowly raise right foot behind you and lean slightly forward. Left arm lifts to ceiling in front of you. Balance for 10 seconds then switch legs.