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The 5 most important post-run stretches

Think you can get away with skipping your stretches after a run? Think again. Stretching post-workout can prevent both muscle soreness and injury, plus good flexibility can help you run better and faster. Try these moves demonstrated by Paige Jones, ACSM CES, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center.

“These exercises should only take five to 10 minutes, will help you with your running performance and will help protect your joints,” says Jones.

1. Quadriceps stretch

Muscle location: Includes the four prevailing muscles on the front of the thigh.

Importance: When these muscles become tight, you run a greater risk of injury to your knees.

  • Place your hand on a wall or the back of a sturdy chair for balance.
  • Bending your knee, bring your foot into your hand and point your knee straight down toward the floor.
  • Stand tall and pull your heel toward your buttocks.
  • To get more from the stretch, press your hips forward slightly.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, then release your foot and repeat on the other leg.

2. Calf stretch

Muscle location: On the back of the lower leg (made up of two muscles).

Importance: Tight calves can alter running gait, which can lead to injuries.

  • Place your hand on a wall or the back of a sturdy chair for support.
  • Step one foot back so your feet are staggered.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor, bend your knees and drive your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your rear calf muscle.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.

3. Hamstrings stretch

Muscle location: A group of 3 muscles in the back of your upper leg.

Importance: Runners are notorious for having tight hamstrings, which can cause lower back problems and lead to pulled muscles.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Carefully raise one leg into the air, keeping it as straight as you can.
  • Engage the front of your leg as you reach up toward the raised leg. Walk your hands up your leg as high as you can.
  • Keeping your leg straight, gently pull it back toward you.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, then return to start and switch legs.

4. Iliotibial (IT) band stretch

Muscle location: Part of a muscle that runs along the outside of the thigh and knee.

Importance: Stretches that target the IT band can reduce soreness and prevent knee problems.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Carefully place a strap around the bottom of your left foot.
  • Reach your left arm directly out to the side for support.
  • Raise your left leg straight in the air, then slowly drop it across your other leg, slightly twisting your torso.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds, then relax and repeat on the other side.

5. Piriformis stretch

Muscle location: A small muscle located deep within the hip and buttocks region.

Importance: This muscle helps us walk, shift our weight from one foot to the other, and maintain balance. If it becomes too tight or spasms, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which can cause pain in the glutes, lower back and thighs.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, then reach behind your left thigh and pull your leg toward your chest.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds, then repeat on the other side. 


Most runners deal with a slight degree of pain throughout their running career. But if you have pain that does not respond to rest and decreased mileage, make an appointment with your doctor.  

To learn more about our orthopedic services, click here.  

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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