Dynamic Flexibility Drills and Stretches For Runners
By Rick Morris
Dynamic warm up drills and exercises are active functional exercises in which you move your limbs through their full, natural and functional range of motion. You are not forcing your range of motions outside of what is required to perform your chosen sport of running. These are beginning level dynamic drills. Always warm up with 3 to 5 minutes of brisk walking or easy running before you do these exercises. A warm up is necessary to increase the flow of blood to your muscles, lubricate your joints and raise your body temperature. This type of stretching uses the momentum generated during the dynamic motion to propel your muscle into a slightly extended range of motion but not past your functional range. That makes this type of stretch very safe and effective at preparing your muscles for the activity that follows. Dynamic warm up drills help develop your speed, power and neuro-muscular coordination as well as providing flexibility. Dynamic exercises should always be done before your actual running workout or race. You should follow your run or workout with a series of gentle static stretches.
Take a long, exaggerated step forward with one leg. Drive your knee high and reach out as far as possible. Slowly flex your forward knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time lower the knee of your trailing leg toward the ground. Do not allow the knee of your forward leg to extend in front of your foot. The knee of your trailing leg should stop approximately 2 inches above the ground, not touch the ground. Your upper body should remain in a vertical position. Forcefully push off with our forward leg, keeping most of your weight over your forward heel. At the same time cycle your trailing leg through and perform the same motion as described above. Keep performing these cycling motions so that you are moving forward with a walking lunge. Keep going for about 20 meters.
High Knees Drill
Using a short stride and bouncing on your toes, take a step with an exaggerated high stride. Keep your stride very short - about 18 inches. Drive your knee as high as possible on each stride. As you drive your knee high bounce up on the toes of your opposite foot. Keep cycling your legs through this motion so that you are moving slowly forward over the ground with the exaggerated high knee motion and bouncing on your opposite foot. Keep your foot in a dorsi-flexed position (toes up) throughout this drill. Your foot should land in a flat footed position - not heel first. Keep moving for about 20 meters.
Heel Kick Drill
Begin by performing a slow jog. Using a short stride of about 18 inches a dorsi-flexed foot position, kick your heels up heels as high as possible behind your body. Attempt to bounce your heels off your buttocks. Most of the movement should be with your lower leg. Concentrate on raising your heels as high as possible and maintaining a very quick light stride. You foot touchdown should be flat footed with your foot maintained in a dorsi-flexed position. Keep moving forward for about 20 meters.
Walking Side Lunge Drill
This drill is similar to the walking lunge exercise except you will be moving to the side instead of forward. Take a long, exaggerated step sideways with one leg. Slowly flex your lunging knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time your trailing leg should remain straight and close to the ground. Your upper body should remain in a vertical position. Forcefully push off with your lunging leg, keeping most of your weight over your forward heel. Stand upright and bring your feet back together. Keep performing these motions so that you are moving sideways. Keep going for about 20 meters, then repeat going the opposite direction.
This is the latin dance of dynamic running drills. It may take some practice to perfect this dynamic exercise but once you do you'll have fun with it. This drill involves moving laterally while alternating foot movements in front of and behind your body. Begin a lateral movement to your right by crossing your left foot to your right in front of your body. Then step to your right with your right foot. Now cross your left foot to your right behind your body before again stepping to your right with your right foot. Keep following that pattern for about 25 meters. Then reverse the exercise by moving laterally to your left. Concentrate on moving quickly and lightly on your feet and try to get into a "dance rhythm." Allow your hips to rotate freely.
The Military March
Have you ever seen old clips of solders marching in formation with stiff, straight legs. It may look funny but they were actually doing a good dynamic drill. To do this dynamic running exercise walk straight ahead while kicking your straight leg up in front of your body. As you kick your leg forward bring your arm and hand out and try to touch the toes of your raised leg. Keep your legs as straight as possible and kick as high as you can. Keep marching for about 25 meters or so.
When we played as kids we actually were learning at the same time. The skipping that we did as young developing athletes was developing some very useful and developmental running skills. Now you can go back to your old play routine and skip for running performance. Power skips are basically the same as play skipping except they are more powerful running drills. To perform this drill begin skipping forward with short skipping strides of about 18 inches. Keep your foot dorsi-flexed with the bottom of your foot parallel to the ground. Move forward with a powerful skipping motion. Try to drive your body as high as possible with each skip. Try for height rather than distance in this drill. Keep your foot action very quick and light but skip with as much power as possible. Keep going for about 25 to 30 meters.
A - Skips
Here is another skipping drill that is very similar to power skips except it concentrates on very quick, light and coordinated steps rather than power and height. Just as with the other skipping drills you should keep your skipping strides very short or about 18 inches in lenght. Again, keep your foot dorsi-flexed at all times. Move forward with a very quick, light skipping stride for about 25 to 30 meters. Keep your body still and upright. Drive your arms backwards in harmony with your skipping strides. Your knee action should match what you did in the high knee drill. Drive your knee up high but keep your foot almost directly under your body with each skipping stride. Remember to keep your foot dorsi-flexed with the sole of your foot parallel to the ground.
This dynamic running drill is a combination of a runner's march and A Skips. It will probably take some practice for you to gain the coordination you need to do this one correctly. This drill is actually exactly the same as A-Skips with big exception. At the top of your knee lift in each skipping stride, instead of dropping your foot back to the ground as in the A-Skips, you will extend your lower leg straight out at the knee. Then paw back to the ground with a nearly straight leg. When done properly this looks like an extremely exaggerated running stride. Keep doing this for about 25 to 30 meters.
Arm Swing Drill
Standing in a relaxed upright position. Holding your arms out to the side swing them forward so that they cross in front of your body. Now swing them back through your natural and functional range of motion. Keep doing this for about 30 seconds. Now hold your arms at your side in a running position with your elbows flexed to about 90%. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Swing your arms forward and back in an exaggerated running motion. Keep going for about 30 seconds. You can perform this drill either with or without light hand weights.