Stretches are a very important part and essential to any athletes programming. Although static stretches should be avoided before workouts, I believe that these 3 stretches I am about to give to you will make an impact on your sprinting speed. I would recommend doing these after workouts and during the evenings when you are relaxing at home. The reasoning on avoiding a static stretch movement before workouts is because when a muscle is stretched out and then relaxed afterwards, the muscle is in a relaxed, stretched state. When you are competing in a sporting event or weight training, you are wanting your muscles ready to fire instead. The static movements will usually hold you back from full potential on this. This is why I always have my clients perform a dynamic warm up so that they can get the muscles ready to go.
These stretches will focus on 3 main components during sprinting.
- Hip flexors
- Dorsiflexion in the ankle
- Shoulder mobility
Let us start with the good ole hip flexors, shall we?
The hip flexors are made up of different muscles that help put your knee into flexion or in other words, help bring the knee to your chest. The main one we will focus on today is called the iliopsoas made up of the psoas major and the iliacus. The iliopsoas runs from the front, inside of the groin area to the lumbar region of the spine. There are more muscles but for now, lets just focus on this one.
As I mentioned in the paragraph above, the hip flexors are important when running because they bring the knees into the running position. If we can get those stretched out and feel more flexible in the hips then this is when speed and mobility can be added. I have found when I have trained mine and other athletes hip flexors isometrically, I have found the greatest benefit. However, since we are talking about stretches, I’ll come back to isometric training at another time.
In order to stretch the hip flexor, we will have to perform a stretch that will put our hips in a slight posterior tilt while keeping the leg and upper back in an extended state. I good stretch will look like the following:
In this stretch, you can see that I am starting in a lunge.
- Put the front leg just a little further out than a normal lunge.
- Shift weight toward the knee. Do so almost as if you were trying to get your belly button toward your knee.
- Keep the hips in a slight posterior tilt meaning keep them back, also squeeze the glutes at you proceed in this stretch.
- Raise the arms and let your chest open up with the arms.
- Sit and hold stretch for about 20-30 seconds each side.
This is a stretch that will open the hip flexors up and can make a difference in performance.
Dorsiflexion in the Ankle
Now let’s move to the ankle mobility, dorsiflexion in particular. Dorsiflexion in the ankle is when the ankle is pointed up like this image below:
As you could guess, this is a critical part to running, especially when sprinting due to the angle differences in different phases of the gait cycle. A lot of us suffer from poor ankle mobility and flexibility and don’t even know it. Now most athletes have a slightly better range of motion in the ankle joint due to the warm ups and stretches the coaches and trainers have them do. They also depend on this joint for most of their movement. A typical gym goer that lives a sedentary life style may have a harder time with this movement because we don’t train like we did in sports and you are moving around a lot less than an athlete would. This is not a bad thing, it just means it’s time to work a little mobility into your programming.
So with that being said, it I want to show you a stretch you can do to increase the dorsiflexion in the ankles so that you can be an efficient sprinter, runner, weight lifter and live a pain free life. Let me introduce you to a stretch that only involves a bench or chair.
Start with placing the foot onto the bench as close to you your side as you can without your foot falling off. From there we are going to take our knee that is up there and drive it forward like I do in the image above. Keep the heel glued to the bench. Don’t apply so much force that you are in discomfort. I want you to place just enough to feel a stretch around the ankle area and calf. This can be a great stretch for athletes that get a chance to start in any kind of forward lean before a race and even help with ankle flexibility during your squat. These would be positions like sprinters, wide receivers and also very important for football players starting a 40 yard dash.
Shoulder mobility tends to be neglected when focusing on sprinting and running. The arms are another thing that is always moving when you’re sprinting. The more mobile they are, the more rep frequency there is possible. With faster arm movement means faster leg movement. This is because when we run, our legs and arms are so in sync that when one moves faster, the other has no other option but to catch up!
One major shoulder mobility exercise that I do and make any of my athletes, especially any that are sprinting do is dynamic arm swings. This will get a range of motion pattern going and open up the chest and shoulders. The dynamics shoulder warm up will look like this:
I will usually do about 1-2 sets of 20 all together (10 each way).
These are only 3 of the hundreds & thousands stretches you can do to help increase linear running speed. I also want to say again to use these more around the evenings and after a workout. Try to warm the muscles up with a dynamic movement before these stretches so the muscles are ready to be stretched and lengthened. The shoulder mobility is more of a dynamic warm up so use that before running.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my article! I hope you gained something from this piece of content. I would like you to send me any ideas on what you would like to hear and I can present you with articles and videos over it! Hope you all have a great Monday and get after it this week. By the end of the day we are all trying to get better so lets help others and get better together!
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