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Best warm-up exercises for runners

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

What is the best way to warm-up for a run?

The guidelines for warm ups and cool downs have changed a bit over the years.

The idea of a warmup is to give your muscles and joints a chance to get ready for the task at hand.

It should help your heart rate gradually increase and include movements that are similar to running.

While many people will ask me what stretches they should do before a run, we really want to focus more on a dynamic warm-up vs. static stretching.

Research has substantiated the idea that dynamic warm-ups better prepare us for subsequent performance that holding stretches.

Specifically, we have seen that dynamic stretching:

  1. Increases power both vertical jump height and long jump distance

  2. Improves sprint performance

  3. Improves running performance

Additional studies have shown that static stretching before a workout:

  1. Decreases lower body power

  2. Decreases sprint performance

  3. Decreases jump height and distance

Static stretching still has its place for athletes, especially ones that demonstrate specific deficiencies, but it seems best to maximize these gains post-run.

Static stretching is still shown to improve both range of motion and flexibility.

Dynamic warm-ups often include any to all of the following:

  1. Walking lunge variations (rotation, side bending, forward walk vs backward)

  2. Inchworms

  3. Knee to chest

  4. Toe touch hamstring kicks

  5. Skipping

  6. Lateral shuffle

  7. Lateral leg swings

  8. Straight leg hip swings

  9. Hip/knee/ankle rockers

  10. Carioca/grapevine

  11. Backpedaling

  12. Walking/slow jogging

  13. High-knees

  14. Butt kicks

  15. Foam rolling/tennis ball MFR

In this video you can try out my short 3-minute warm-up.

Adding in some foam rolling or theragun massage to this routine is highly encouraged as it will help improve your blood flow and range of motion, and thus help you bounce out the door feeling lighter and faster.

Give this routine a try before your next run and and see how you feel!


Sprint performance improves with dynamic warm-up

Static stretching impairs performance

Dynamic warm-up improves flexibility and strength

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