Stride length is important to running performance, and if a runner is looking to become faster, increasing stride length with stretching can help. Running is a sagittal plane movement, which means motion occurs front to back. Therefore, increasing the flexibility of the muscles on the front and back of the legs can help increase stride length and running speed, and certain stretches can help accomplish this.
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The hamstring muscles are on the back of the thigh. These three muscles are responsible for extending the hip and flexing the knee. To stretch the hamstrings, lie on your back on the ground. Keeping your left leg straight, raise your leg off the ground as high as you can. Still keeping the leg straight, grab the back of your leg with both hands or a rope, and continue pulling into the air and toward your chest. When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right leg.
The gluteus maximus, or glutes for short, are your butt muscles. These muscles are responsible for extending the hip. To stretch the glutes, lie on your back on the ground. Grab your left knee with both hands, and pull the knee toward your chest, allowing the knee to bend. Pull the knee as close as you can to your chest, and when you feel a stretch in your glutes, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right leg.
The hip flexor muscles are in the upper front portion of the thigh and hip, and are responsible for flexing the hip forward. To stretch the hip flexors, kneel on one knee with the other leg bent in front of you. Keeping tall posture, move your body forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the leg that is down. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs and repeat.
The quad muscles are on the front of the thigh. These four muscles flex the hip and extend the knee, and can really help improve stride length if stretched. To stretch the quads, stand next to a wall and place your right hand on the wall for balance. Bend your left knee and bring your left foot toward your glutes behind you. Grab onto your left ankle with your left hand, and pull the left foot as close as you can toward your left glute muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
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Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.