By Juli Hunt PT DPT CSCS
1. Hamstring Stretch:
The hamstring stretch maintains flexibility in the muscles of the back of the thigh. The hamstring muscles are important in being able to propel you forward while running. Excessive tightness in the hamstrings can lead to strains, lower back injuries, and patella femoral pain.
2,3. Calf Stretches:
The next 2 stretches are calf stretches which differ slightly in the angle of the knee to effectively stretch both calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus. Similar to the hamstring muscles, the calf muscles help to propel you forward with each step you take. Excessive tightness in these muscles can lead to strains, patella femoral pain, and Achilles tendonitis.
4. Hip Flexor Stretch:
The hip flexors (rectus femoris) are a group of muscles that many people forget to stretch. They help to control the knee when the foot hits the ground. Excessive tightness in these muscles can lead to strains, low back pain, and patella femoral pain.
5. ITB Rolling:
The most important thing to remember about the ITB is that it is not a muscle that can easily be stretched. It is a band of thick fascia tissue that originates from hip muscles that help to control your pelvis and knee positioning. The most effective way to lengthen and loosen the ITB is through tissue release techniques with the most common one being rolling (foam roll, “The Stick”, or tennis ball). Excessive tightness here can lead to hip/pelvis pain, bursitis, and patella femoral pain.
One final thought on stretching: These types of stretches are best done after a workout, when the muscles are warm and receptive to lengthening. They are not effective when done prior to running. Anything performed prior to running should be a dynamic warm up with similar movement patterns to running. Such ideas are leg swings, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.