Strength vs Stretching for Runners


Strength training and stretching are both essential if you want to run injury-free.

The problem is that runners often have misconceptions about the best way to approach either.

Most runners think that to properly strengthen a muscle, they need to isolate it.

In fact, it’s the opposite. 

Muscles fire in connection with each other, so you want to tie in a lot of muscle groups.

In contrast, stretching is very much about isolation.

When you stretch tighter muscles, the body will naturally compensate by moving more flexible muscles instead. Isolation allows you to stretch tight muscles without compensations.

Watch the video to learn more:


How to Build Strength Properly

Many runners make the mistake of doing isolated exercises, like clamshells, to build strength. However, when you run, your muscles never fire in isolation. They fire together as a chain – which is why you want to teach them to fire in a chain – not in isolation.

One of my favorite exercises for building glute strength is the speedskater.  It targets your entire leg & lower back while working on single-leg balance.

Here’s how to do it:
Start by balancing on your left leg. Pitch your chest forward, hinging from the hip. Reach forward with your right arm and back with your right leg, touching the ground with your toe. Then, pull yourself back up to a marching position.

With the speedskater, you target your quads, ankles, hips, and glutes as well as your balance.

Engaging so many muscle groups will stabilize your pelvis and help you avoid compensations that cause injuries.

How to Stretch Properly

Your body follows the path of least resistance – and it’s often seen when runners try to stretch.  Unlike strengthening, stretching requires isolation to remove compensations.

This is one of my favorite quad/thigh stretches.

Here’s how to do it:
Balancing on your right leg, bend your left knee and put your back foot on a piece of furniture. Hop away from your back foot a little to avoid compressing the knee. Bend your right knee until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.

Avoid arching your back as a compensation to tightness. Keeping your back flat will provide a better stretch through your quad.

Main Message

If you want to run faster and injury-free, you need to be stretching and strengthening your muscles correctly.

The speedskater and quadriceps stretch above are great exercises to get started, but you will need more if you want to improve your running.

That’s where RunSmart comes in!

Our Physical Therapist-designed workouts include many exercises like these to help you avoid injury.

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