Target specifically where you need some pre-run stretching and strengthening with this four-step program.
Whether you have hit 40 or not, you’re probably aware how your body becomes more troublesome as the years go by. Running is great for you at any age (thanks, weight-bearing exercise!), and a little extra attention toward whatever may be hampering your stride—no matter how old you are—will help you now and moving forward.
If your warm-up is on the skimpy side (or nonexistent) or your aging body doth protest about your running goals, try this assessment from the sports medicine company Acumobility to see how you measure up. You may be surprised about the kind of mobility you should have and don’t. Whether it’s your hamstrings or hips, whatever is affecting your running form can lead to stride imbalances and injuries.
This four-part assessment looks at quads/hip flexors, hamstrings, outer hips and the thoracic spine. Begin by following the assessment stretch for each. If you notice a “failure,” complete each mobility and stability correction exercise before running—it’s like a personalized warmup routine. Reassess at least once a week as your mobility patterns change.
Tightness in these areas limits proper hip extension and can contribute to an inefficient overstride pattern. You want to land with your foot just slightly in front of your body to support dynamic spring-loading and engage your glutes to help extend your leg behind you.
Get into a lunge position with one knee on the ground. Stay upright and keep your shoulders and knee in line. Squeeze your glute and try to tuck your pelvis under until your hips are level. Repeat on both sides.
You either cannot tuck your pelvis into a neutral position, or you feel a deep stretch in your hip flexors. This is a good sign that you need to mobilize your quads and hip flexors.
Using a foam roller, find 4 tender or restricted areas on the outer part of your quad muscle. Isolate each spot, and roll back and forth applying targeted pressure. Then do the same thing while raising and lowering your leg for a deeper release. Perform 8 reps on each area.
On your hands and knees, lift your knees o the ground, firing your core and lats for stability. Then squeeze your glute while kicking your leg up behind you. Repeat 10 times on each side. (For an added challenge, use flat-sided balls or stability tools under your hands.)
Tightness here leads to limited hip extension and flexion while running. Your hamstrings are important for stability and recoil, and any uneven differences from leg to leg can impact rotational forces while running.
While lying down with your low back pushed against the ground, raise one leg straight up into the air as high as you can without your low back lifting off the ground. Repeat on both sides.
Your leg cannot raise at least 70 degrees and/or your low back rises off the ground while lifting the leg. This is a sign your hamstring needs mobility work.
While sitting on a firm chair, place a ball under your hamstring and find 4 tender or tight areas. Maintain an upright seated posture, and apply downward pressure with your hands on your leg. Isolate each tender spot and raise your lower leg up and down as you work through the trigger points. Perform 8 reps on each area.
While standing with one leg planted, in one smooth motion, swing the back leg through while flexing the toes back toward your head. This is a stability drill for the posted leg and a dynamic fascial stretch for the swinging leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Restrictions in this area affect proper pelvic rotation and hip extension in the running stride. When running, you should engage your core, keep your pelvis in a neutral position and maintain an upright body posture.
While lying on your back with one leg on the ground, bring the other leg up and rotate into a figure-4 position. One hand pulls the ankle, while the other hand pushes the knee into a 90-degree position. Repeat on both sides.
If you either can’t get into this position at all or feel a deep stretch in your hip or outer glute, then this is a good indicator that you need to do mobility work on your outer hip muscles.
While lying on your side with your top leg bent to support you, find a tender spot in the outer glute muscle near the hip (not on the bone) of the lower leg and place a ball under it. Then drive the leg up and down, applying downward pressure on the ball. Find 4 spots and repeat 8 times on each.
While in a side-plank position, lift the upper leg to a 45-degree angle. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. (To advance the challenge, use a flat-sided ball or stability tool under your hand.)
Restrictions in this area limit power transfer between the torso and hips while running. You want the rotational force of the upper body to create power by having the arms follow the torso, not pump by themselves.
While lying on your side, bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle. With a straight arm, roll to your opposite side and try to touch your shoulder to the floor without your legs moving. Repeat on both sides.
If you can’t get your shoulder on the ground or your top knee moves while rotating, these are both indicators that you need to work on your thoracic and shoulder mobility.
Place 2 balls on the ground next to each other. Lie down on top of them, placing your spine between them at the level of your shoulder blades. Lift your hips into a bridge position, driving pressure into the balls. With your arms by your side and thumbs up, raise your arms overhead until you touch the ground. Find 4 tender spots in the thoracic region and repeat 8 times on each area.
Bring one leg up against a wall and sink into a standing-lunge position. In one seamless motion, push your heel into the wall while squeezing that glute as you drive forward rotating your upper body in the opposite direction. This mimics the running stride and encourages glute activation while teaching the upper and lower body to work together. Repeat 10 times each side.
More Form Fixes
This “Big 4” program from Acumobility is part of a larger Acu-Running System with videos and instruction—including the six most common running-form failures—that are available for free in partnership with the running shoe brand Topo Athletic at topoathletic.com/acu-running.