Prosperous running: Dynamic movement

Prepare for a training session or a race with dynamic moves, which help increase the blood flow, prepare joints and warm up the muscles properly.
In the last article, we looked at how flexibility can influence efficient running, now we'll look at how dynamic movements can help improve running performance.

Let's define 'dynamic' as accelerated movement. For a runner, this means we'll be using movements that target the muscles used in running and will take those muscles through an active range of motion to prepare them for work. These movements will closely resemble what will take place during your actual training.

Movements like "high stepping", "butt kickers" and light "bounding" all serve to increase blood flow, prepare joints and warm up the muscles properly.

Adding these movements to your correctly performed repertoire of static stretches prior to training will increase running efficiency and help avoid injury.

Skip the static moves

Let's say you're at a well-attended 5k or 10k event. The weather is a comfortable 55 degrees and you arrive a little behind schedule, so warm-up time is of the essence. After a light jog to get the blood flowing and the muscles ready to respond, many runners use the remaining time to down the last sip of coffee and find friends. Leave the hamstring, quad and calf pulls to those guys, because the following is what you should be doing.

Skip the comical series of static stretches I often see. You know, the one where you throw your leg up on a waist-high stable object and lean forward a few times, or the one that you grab your foot and pull it toward your butt and hold for five seconds, or the move where you spread your legs far apart and lean side to side move in hopes of stretching the adductors (groin).

Instead of those silly static stretches, it's time for action. Start with a light five- to 10-minute jog, and then do the following dynamic warm-up exercises to improve your performance and ensure injury-free racing.

Soldier's march

This is a great way to actively warm up the hip flexors while passively stretching the hamstrings, glutes and low back (extensor chain).

Begin by standing with your arms at your sides. Swing your right leg forward and touch your left hand, which is extended straight ahead at shoulder height, and return the leg and hand back to starting position and repeat on opposite side.

While performing this move, try to avoid bending forward as you lift your leg and keep your leg straight while lifting to your hand. Move forward 10 to 12 yards while performing this movement at a moderate pace, then repeat back to the starting point.

Soldier's march

Walking high step

While standing, start with the hands in front of you, a little lower than shoulder height and slightly bent. Raise your right knee to your left elbow and repeat on alternate side. Use the elbows as a feedback mechanism as to how high you should bring the knees.

As above, maintain good posture and stay on your toes as you perform the movement. This fires up the lower leg (gastroc and soleus) and the hip flexors (psoas, rectus femoris and TFL). Move forward over the same 10 to 12 yards at a moderate pace.

Walking high step


Turn sideways and assume an athletic stance (knees slightly bent with feet shoulder-width apart). As shown below, begin by moving your right leg away from the left and then bring the left to meet the right all while moving sideways in a shuffling motion.

This exercise activates the musculature of the hip, increasing range of motion and movement efficiency. Try to keep the toes pointing forward (the direction you're facing) instead of the way you're moving. The pace should be slightly faster than the previous exercises.


Back pedal

Simply run backwards over the 10 to 12 yards while over-exaggerating your stride. This helps warm up the extensor chain. Pace is slightly faster than moderate for this movement.

Fifty-percent sprint

Sprint at 50 percent of your max speed for 10 to 12 yards, moving forward with a slight over-stride.

With this circuit, allow 10 to 15 seconds between each movement, and repeat two or three times. This should be ample warm up for your event. A full explanation of these and additional exercises are contained in The Next Level, Strength Training for Endurance Athletes DVD.

Reece Haettich is an elite sprint-distance triathlete, master personal trainer, conditioning coach and co-creator of The Next Level, Strength Training for Endurance Athletes DVD. He specializes injury prevention and performance enhancement for athletes and individuals through the application of sound, scientific training methods and progressive mental strategies. To find out more about Reece, visit or contact him directly at

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