3D Stretching for Running Performance

3D Stretching for Running Performance

Dynamic warm-up series: 3d Stretching for Superior Running Performance

Do you stretch before physical activity?

For most of us, the answer to this question is yes. After all, stretching makes us more flexible, and less likely to get injured, right? Static stretching seems to have become a standard ‘warm-up tool’ in most peoples ‘toolbox’. Despite this, the research has always been conflicted when it comes to static stretching. In fact, much of the research base concludes that it does not increase flexibility or decrease the risk of injury when done before physical activity. So why stretch?

Stretching is important to ensure the correct muscles can lengthen appropriately throughout a range of movement. The problem with conventional stretching, however, is that most of the time the stretch doesn’t replicate a functional situation. How much of your run or rugby match is spent standing up straight holding your quads in a lengthened position for 30 seconds?

Stretching for Running Performance

True flexibility involves 3 aspects:
• The ability of the soft-tissue (muscle, fascia, joint capsules) to lengthen
• The ability of the neurological system to control the movement (stretch reflex, concious ability to relax the muscle)
• Strength: of the muscles performing the movement (prime movers), the muscles stabilising your core, and the muscles stabilising the joint throughout the range of movement

ProSport Physiotherapy Approach

At ProSport Physiotherapy we see 3d stretching as a superior tool to conventional stretching as it hits all three of these aspects at the same time. Let’s use a functional example in the form of a quad stretch.

The conventional way of stretching the quad is standing with the knee flexed and holding the foot of the stretched leg to your backside. You may even push your hips forwards to bring in your hip flexor. The problem with this is it only flexes the quads in one position, and not in a position that the body is often placed during physical activity. In addition what is your other leg doing? It is in the exact same position as the ‘stretching’ leg yet when we run one leg is in flexion (forward) while the other leg is in extension (behind) when the quadriceps are asked to lengthen.

The correct way to stretch

3d quads stretching involves kneeling one leg on the ground with the knee flexed so that your foot is touching your backside (against a bench/wall) and bending the opposite leg out in front (see video below). You then stretch the quads through three ranges of movement: forwards and backwards (sagital plane), side to side (frontal plane), and throughout rotation (transverse plane). With this type of stretch the muscles needs to lengthen through three different ranges of movement, the body needs to control the movement, and the necessary prime movers and stabilising muscles need to contract in the correct order as the quads relax as in our Athletics Weekly from last year. ProSport Physiotherapy Patients/Runners are all educated in this approach and receive access to our online videos that take you through step by step every important muscle that needs to be mobilised prior to running!


To conclude, it makes sense that the best way to stretch a muscle is the way that most closely replicates the movement it has to perform. This way the brain recognises the pattern and has a far greater carry over! 3D stretching before your sport can help ensure that the right muscles are ‘turned-on’, and gives you flexibility that translates directly into mobility!

This post is part of a ‘dynamic warm-up’ series of blog posts. Ensure you don’t miss a post by signing up to our newsletter below.

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