Why is stretching before running important?

There is no doubt that running has gained exponentially in recent decades, being one of the most practiced activities in the population.

The physical preparation for this discipline has also advanced parallel to it, finding new strategies in terms of training and development of the sessions. This article will discuss the usefulness and the most effective methods of stretching before running, reviewing the scientific literature in this regard.

Efficacy of stretching

Stretching is a fundamental part in the physical preparation of any athlete, whether in high performance or in physical activity practiced in an amateur way: it helps prevent injuries, improves muscle behavior …

However, it is essential to apply such stretches according to the practiced specialty, as well as strength training or aerobic sessions are individualized according to the specific demands of the sport

In the last decade there have been numerous investigations that have tried to discern about the most appropriate methodology for stretching before running, the duration and type of exercise as well as the time they should be applied to improve performance and prevent injuries that can derive from the effort.

Thus, it has been concluded that performing short-term static stretching (approximately 20 seconds) in the lower body musculature after warming up and before running, has no influence on subsequent performance nor does it contribute to reducing the risk of injury (1).

Nor do they have any impact on career economics (2). On the contrary, we can underline the effectiveness of methods other than static stretching, such as dynamic or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching before running is very useful in any activity that requires a rapid and repetitive action of the muscle, such as running on foot.

They are composed of controlled and progressive movements where the full range of the joint is activated imitating the movements that predominate in the activity to be performed.

Unlike static stretching, the subject trains in an articular range that does not exceed the maximum threshold, a fact that helps to safeguard the structures involved in the movement.

Given the proven inefficiency of static stretching in a pre-race warm-up routine, and many other sports disciplines, dynamic stretching before running consolidate as a useful strategy to increase (or at least not decrease) the production of strength during a sporting gesture like the race (3).

There are many exercises that can be practiced in the dynamic stretching phase of a warm-up and in any case the specificity of sports discipline should prevail to maximize the benefits on the athlete. In this sense, the following protocol for such stretching has been investigated and validated (4):

1 or 2 series per muscle group.
Between 10 and 15 repetitions per series.
Travel of about 20 meters in the development of stretching with specific movements.

Conclusions about stretching before running

Stretching before running is a fundamental part of warm-up in the moments before a race or training.

It has been shown that stretching before running of a static nature does not contribute to reducing the risk of injury nor does it generate an improvement in running economy when performed during warm-up.

On the other hand, stretching before running dynamic or ballistic, performed with movements of the activity to be developed, are useful to maintain or increase the production of force of the lower train during the race.

Between 1 and 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions in a route of approximately 20 meters is the ideal protocol to maximize its benefits.

The Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (FNP) has also been consolidated as an effective strategy to warm up before going for a run or in specific sessions that try to improve the flexibility of the corridor.

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