Static Vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which Is Better For Runners?

Updated:

Stretching should be part of every runner’s routine. But do you know the difference between static and dynamic stretching? Which is better for runners? And does it make a difference which one you choose to do?

While both types of stretches are similar and technically follow the same mechanics, they’re different enough that they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Here’s the difference between them and the best time to do each.

What is Static Stretching?

Static stretch is holding any given muscle in a stretched position for an extended period. In this case, “extended period” typically means between 15 and 60 seconds. You can repeat the same stretch multiple times within one “session.”

PROS:

  • Increases flexibility
  • Releases muscle tension
  • Reduces muscle stiffness
  • Lowers chance of injury
  • Improves subsequent performance

CONS:

  • Doesn’t improve circulation
  • Can be pointless when done at the wrong time
 

What is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching involves more movement than static stretching through a functional range of motion in a slow, controlled way.

PROS:

  • Improves circulation
  • Warms up the muscles
  • Increases range of motion
  • Helps boost running power
  • Can help prevent injury

CONS:

  • May not be effective if not performed at the right time
 

Key Difference Between Static and Dynamic Stretching

Static stretching is still and passive. Dynamic stretching is moving and active.

A static stretch is getting muscles into a stretched position and holding it there for a certain count. Dynamic stretches involve moving the muscle through the range of motion, stretching and releasing repeatedly.

When to Use Each Type of Stretching

There’s a reason both of these types of stretches exist! Each is best used in certain situations and not useful in others.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is great for releasing tension in a muscle, which makes it ideal after a workout. Performing static stretches as part of your cool-down helps to release any stiffness that could already be setting in and keep that muscle flexible as it cools down.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching should be used as a warm-up. These stretches get the blood flowing, the muscles primed for action, and increase the range of motion so you can run with better form and perform at your max.

Static Stretches to Add to Your Routine

Ready to maximize your cool-down by adding some static stretches? Just 2 or 3 stretches for 2 or 3 minutes each will benefit you at the end of each run. Here are some of our favorites.

Quad Stretch

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can hold onto a chair or a wall if you need help balancing. Bend one knee and bring your foot up behind you, towards your glutes.

Grab your foot with the hand on the same side. You should feel a stretch in your quad muscle. Keep your legs aligned and don’t move your knee forward or backward.

Hold yourself in this position for 30 seconds to one minute, switch legs, and do the same on the opposite side. Repeat three times each.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor or a yoga mat. Stretch one leg out in front of you, and bend the other to place your foot flat against the inside of the outstretched leg. Hinge at the waist and lean over your outstretched leg.

Take care to keep your back straight and not hunch over. You should feel the stretch in your hamstring. Grab your foot or lower leg and hold it for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position and switching feet. Repeat 3 times each.

Runner’s Lunge (Hip Flexors)

Kneel on one knee on a firm but comfortable surface. Your front foot should be flat on the floor with your knee at an angle of 90 degrees. You may need to stabilize yourself against a wall or chair.

Lean your hips forward, shifting your weight onto your front foot. You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the knee that’s on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, then slowly return to the start and switch legs. Repeat three times each.

Iliotibial Band Stretch

Stand near a wall or something you can hold to help you balance. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and cross one ankle behind the other.

Raise the arm on the same side as the crossed ankle and bring it over your head. You should feel a stretch down the side. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute before switching sides. Repeat three times.

Seated Gluteal Twist

Sit on a comfortable surface with your legs extended. Place one foot over the opposite leg and place your foot flat on the ground on the outside of the knee.

Twist your torso gently towards the side with the extended leg. Place your elbow on the raised knee to help leverage yourself. Take care not to strain your neck.

Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute. Then, return slowly to the original position and switch sides. Repeat three times.

Reclined Figure-Four Stretch

Lie on your back on a comfortable surface. Lift your legs off the floor and lock your hands behind one of your knees. Cross the opposite leg over the knee so it’s resting above your forearms, with your foot resting against your knee.

From here, pull your leg towards your chest, and you should feel a stretch in your glute muscle. Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute before releasing it and switching sides. Repeat three times.

Dynamic Stretches to Warm Your Muscles Up

Try some of these dynamic stretches before your run to get the blood pumping and prepare your muscles for the next exercise.

Butt Kicks

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, straighten your back, and tuck your pelvis in and under. Jump off one foot and kick the opposite foot upwards to smack your buttock. As it comes down, kick the other foot up to do the same.

Continue to do this motion with a bit of speed. 10 to 12 kicks on either side or 30 seconds of butt kicks should be enough to pump the muscles.

High Knee Skips

Start in the same position as you would for butt kicks. Instead of kicking your legs backwards, you’ll lift each knee as though trying to knee yourself in the chest. Build up some speed and continue for around 30 seconds in total.

Walking Lunges

Stand tall, with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step forward with one foot into a lunge. From there, bring your back leg forward into a standing position again before almost immediately going into a new lunge with the opposite leg.

Continue to “walk” forward this way for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have the space, you can do single lunges instead.

Leg Swings

Stand next to a wall or chair that you can hold for balance. You want to have open space in front of you and the stabilizer next to you. With the leg furthest away from the wall or chair, swing your leg back and forth in front of and behind you.

Swing it as far as it can go in either direction, but don’t push it past its natural range of motion. Repeat this ten times, and then switch legs.

Side Lunges

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure you’re standing tall, and your pelvis is tucked in. Tighten your core and step out to the side with one leg. As you land, squat/lunge on that leg, keeping the opposite leg straight.

Return to the starting position and repeat the same on the opposite leg. Repeat 10 times. If this is a difficult movement, do normal body weight squats instead.

Walking Single-Leg Deadlifts

Stand firmly on the floor and tighten your core. Hinging at the hips, slowly lean forward, keeping your front leg slightly bent and raising your back leg up and out behind you, forming an almost T-like shape with your body.

Your arms can be stretched out in front of you or at your sides, depending on what feels comfortable. Do this motion slowly, as it can be tricky to balance at first. Slowly return to the starting position by squeezing your glutes and abs.

Step forward with the opposite leg and do the same on this side. Repeat this 10 times or keep walking for 30 seconds.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.