Dynamic Warm Up for Runners

Drills work different planes of motion and really stimulate the central nervous system.”

These aren’t meant to make you tired. Take your time so you can work on your form and technique.

Strides prepare your body to run at a quicker pace.

Stretching is popular among runners and regularly advocated. Runners need enough flexibility and mobility to move well without any limitations. Static stretching is best done separately to hard running sessions. A small amount of dynamic stretching where a stretch is repeatedly held for only a few seconds at a time, is more desirable during a warm-up so as to maintain a muscle’s optimal tension and elasticity. Having greater flexibility and mobility than required has no additional benefit. Hyper-mobile athletes can be more injury-prone.

A good warm-up should prepare the body for the movements and the intensity required. A warm-up does not need to be time consuming or complicated, but it is an opportunity to address any movement deficits an athlete may have.

RAMP sequence

Activate and Potentiate

We must take into account that running requires good interaction between the body and the ground. The body applies force to the ground, absorbs it and generates force to propel itself off the ground again. When the foot is in contact with the ground the limb needs to stiffen to load up and store elastic energy and then release it at the right time and in the right direction.

A compliant limb where the joints continue to bend and muscles stretch, as load is being absorbed can waste energy and can lead to lower limb injury. Try riding a bike with flat tyres – a lot of effort goes into the pedals with so little in return and a risk of further structural damage!

A desirable warm-up should follow the RAMP principles – Raise, Activate & Mobilise and Potentiate, but not necessarily in that order being an endurance athlete.

The muscles around the hips have big jobs to do and need to be prepared for that. These include the gluteal muscles and hip flexors, and for some athletes with internal hip rotation tendencies – the external hip rotators. Some ankle activation work is also useful particularly the ankle plantar flexors.

When running it is desirable to have hip extensors and ankle plantar flexors pre-activated before initial contact with the ground to achieve optimal ankle and knee ‘stiffness’ during mid stance phase. This can be achieved by actively striking the ground with a vertical shin as opposed to just passively striking the ground.

Some athletes may chose to begin with some Raise activity such as a jog, but it can be more beneficial to begin with Mobility and Activation exercises first before you run. It may be more effective to train good muscle recruitment and movement patterns first and then look to ‘activate’ the aerobic or anaerobic energy systems a little closer to the activity depending on race distance and individual needs. A Marathon runner may not need an intense warm-up, but a middle distance runner would benefit from priming their anaerobic energy system before a race with some sustained run efforts at race pace.

Potentiation movement drills activate the neural patterns required for running. These are usually fast movement patterns that include low-level plyometric exercises, sprinting and short foot contacts with the ground. Some hopping, skipping and ground reaction exercises and drills are ideal, followed by some short sprints at close to maximum speed. Just one or two sets of low volume duration are required to help prime the system for the task in hand.

To stretch or not to stretch?

Static stretching should be avoided immediately prior to activity.

Dynamic mobility exercises are much more beneficial in the warm-up as an athlete only needs enough mobility to fulfil the movement requirements of their sporting activity. Such exercises allow for more elastic movements involving a stretch-reflex response that are required for running.

A warm-up should follow some logic and be relevant to the movements required for your sport.


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