Running Injury Prevention

Stretching and Strengthening

Learn How to Best Strength Train and Stretch for Runners

When and how to incorporate the essential elements into your routine.

While seemingly simple, in terms of biomechanics, running is actually a complicated sport. To sum it up simply, you’re working hard when in the air to maintain direction and speed.

So what’s important to keep your body directed, conditioned, injury-free, and agile when taking on running? Stretching and strength training.

We caught up with biomechanist Greg Pain of BioSPORT to give us some advice on stretching and strength training for runners.

Stretching: Improve your motion


Stretching is a useful way to improve the range of motion in your joints. Although it’s an important part of your body’s fitness and healthy condition, Greg advises us that stretching is subjective to the individual runner.

What you need to know about stretching for running

Maintaining flexibility is good practice in keeping your body conditioned for any sport; and it has good benefits for runners, too.

  • Stretching can help improve your movement: If you identify specific movement patterns that are not being achieved, stretching can help you with them.

  • Wellbeing management: Incorporating conditioning and stretching into your routine can improve your general health and fitness.
Stretching and strength training for runners
Knowing when to stretch for runners

Sensible Stretching

Performing stretches after running – when your muscles are warm and supple – is a valuable cool-down. It's important to squeeze out the lactic fluids that build up after exercise; however, stretching before a run can actually be detrimental to your body’s condition.

“When you stretch your muscular tissues, you’re also stretching your neural tissues. In some instances this can lead to reduced neurological signalling to the muscles – decreasing performance and increasing the risk of injury,” Greg explains.

Use stretching as an effective cool-down technique to your running, so that you’re conditioning your body, improving your motion, and doing this safely to prevent any injuries.

Try these stretches after running:

Hip Flexors Stretch

Hip Flexors

The key to an effective hip flexor stretch is not how much you lunge forward, it's about holding the pelvis upright (with the core ie: not arching the lower back too much).

  1. Holding on to a bar, ensure your trunk is vertical (not leaning forward) and while maintaining this you lunge over the front knee.
  2. Slowly allow yourself to creep more forward.
  3. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring

It is best to stretch the hamstrings post-run, NOT before.

  1. To get the best out of the stretch try not to round your spine. Try and rotate the pelvis forward instead.
  2. If it feels 'nasty' behind the back of the knee, bend the knee so the stretch will be more specific to the belly of the hamstring.
  3. Gently, try and roll the pelvis forward and hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

Quadratus Lumborum

The QL is a troublesome muscle as it’s the cause of a lot of back pain in runners and non-runners alike. As stated above, stretch this out post-run.

  1. In a demi-lunge, with the back knee rested on the ground, you are going to side flex to the side of the front leg.
  2. The key here is to imagine you are flexing OVER a ball, vs side shifting.
  3. If you want to increase the stretch, then you can also rotate your chest in the direction of the front leg.
  4. Hold for 30-60 seconds, SLOWLY allowing yourself to creep sideways/rotate.

Strength training: An essential fuel to propel your running


Although it might often go overlooked, strength training is actually one of the most essential supplements for a runner’s training program.

What do you need strength for as a runner?

The strength and ability behind your muscles is what holds you upright, propels you forward, and keeps you well aligned while running. Regardless of what you’re running for, having good strength will allow you to increase your range of activity and overall performance. Know what place good strength has in your routine:

  • Long distance runners: building strength is incredibly beneficial. This is because everything you do in your run is targeted at delaying the onset of fatigue – and fatigue is greatly reduced when you have good strength behind you. Regular strength training for runners is a must.
  • If you’re running for fitness and health: strength will increase the ease of your routine run. Your health and fitness will improve with the ability to reach your goals – running faster, and reaching a longer distance.

How is injury involved?

Having strength as a runner isn’t solely important for the sake of improving your running; Greg also advises us on the role that strength training plays with preventing injury.


“The strength of your musculature is what keeps you upright and moving forward. As soon as you start to lose that alignment and control, the wheels will start to fall off. This leads to a significantly increased risk of injury,” he explains.

Strength for injury prevention

What improvement will you see in your running?

Along with the increased ease of your normal running routine, stretching and strength training can improve your running stamina and have valuable impacts on your body.

Improving running

Greg tells us he sees large improvements in runners who begin to stretch and strengthen regularly, in 2 key areas. 

They are able to:

  • Maintain even splits over longer runs: A ‘split’ is the time taken to complete a certain distance. Increasing your strength and flexibility allows you to maintain your ‘splits’ at a faster, and more consistent pace.

  • Reduce movement-specific injuries: The later you’re able to delay the point of fatigue, the lower the likelihood for inappropriate loading on your muscles. The chances of developing an injury from repetitive strain can be reduced by the strength to hold your body, and delay the onset of fatigue.

Try these strength training exercises:

  • Pelvic Tilting

The effort in maintaining correct pelvic tilt should be very low. Think of it as being more of an 'awareness' and an 'application. This exercise is more about 'active control' of pelvic tilt, vs a strong engagement/strain.

    1. Hands under shoulders, and legs resting on the Swiss ball, ensure your knees are soft, ie: not locked, this is SUPER important.
    2. The sensation of a light 'pull' comes from the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Not your 6-pack.
    3. A great cue is to think of your pubic bone (bone at the front/center of the pelvis) lightly being pulled up towards your chin. Remember, we're looking for a small, 5 degree change.
    4. Now apply this to standing, walking and running. 

         Goal: HOLD the 'pull' for 30 seconds, repeat 3-5x.

Pelvic Tilting Strength Exercise
Side Obliques Strength Exercise
  • Side Obliques

    Level 1: On your elbow, and resting on the knees (stacked).
    Level 2: On your elbow, both legs straight and you're resting on your feet.

    Level 3: On your hand.
    Level 4: As shown with the kettlebell.


    Goal: HOLD for 30 seconds, repeat 3-5x (you can throw in some small side dips for added complexity).

    • Glute Specific (Lunge)

    The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body and has the big responsibility of helping stabilise the spine and directionally controlling the 'pull back' of the leg. Getting this muscle strong is important.

    Level 1: Feet fixed/static. Try and keep your trunk fairly upright, and super importantly, keep your body weight ALWAYS through the heel on your front foot. On the 'up phase' the front glute should do the lifting.
    Level 2: Walking lunge, same principles from above apply.
    Level 3: Add hand weights/kettlebells.

    Goal: 1-3x sets of 10 each side

    Glute Strength Exercise

    Concerned about running into an injury? Take a look at more of our useful tips on running injury prevention.