Quick & Easy Post-Run Rope Stretch Routine
Updated: May 8, 2022
Rope Stretching For Runners
Whether you've just started running or you've been doing it for a long time, you probably experience muscle soreness.
Actually, I know you have. 😜
So I'm sure that you've tried a ton of different recovery techniques to help with those sore muscles...I know I have over the years as a runner.
I hate to be that girl, but I'm going to introduce to you yet another way to recover: rope stretching for runners.
Post-run rope stretching is definitely worth trying, and that's an opinion I held even when rope stretching was relatively new to me.
Trying new ideas is just part of the process of reaching peak athletic performance, so I decided to explore the idea when my coach introduced the idea of post-run rope stretching. Why not, right?
Obtaining a rope and learning the movements is easy!
So now I'm here to talk about why you can benefit from rope stretching as a runner, breaking it down into a simple concept so you can make the decision for yourself.
And then to wrap it all up, we'll finish the post with 7 different rope stretching exercises that you can add as a quick addition to your cool-down or warm-up routine.
If you want to jump right to the stretching rope exercise examples, you can click here.
Using a rope for stretching can take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes...so easy!
What is Rope Stretching?
The first question that comes to mind is probably, "why do I need a rope to stretch?"
Maybe you've been stretching just fine since dance class at 4 years old.
Which is fair, I totally get that.
Rope stretching, though, is a great technique for dynamic stretching, which sometimes gets overlooked. But it's super-valuable to know about!
Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching you'd typically do in a warm-up because it
warms up the muscles making them less stiff
doesn't hinder their ability to move quickly
Basically, instead of holding a long slow stretch, dynamic stretching is characterized by movements.
You can do dynamic moves without a rope, but a leg stretching rope gives you a helping hand. Rope stretching is technically called Active Isolation (AI) stretching because you isolate and focus on one muscle at a time.
Activated isolate stretching was keyed by Phil Wharton, so if you want more background research and sciencey reasons to learn rope stretching for runners, look him up.
Here's how to do active isolation stretching:
Do your best to reach your full range of motion in a stretch, unassisted at first, relying on your muscles only.
Then, you gently pull on the stretching rope to feel the stretch. The key is using your own muscle first, activating it, which then really isolates the opposite area (the one you're trying to stretch).
The theory with using a rope for stretching is that stretching your muscles too extensively can trigger the muscular protective reflex. This reflex happens when muscles freak out and want to prevent themselves from tearing.
AKA, if you're pulling your muscle more than it's used to, it will be like "whoa whoa stop, I need to protect myself" and then trigger this reflex.
The rope stretching technique keeps everything controlled so that this doesn't happen.
The stretching rope exercise also involves activating the muscle opposite of the one you are stretching which actually helps the targeted muscle relax even more.
(Ex: hamstring stretch, quads contract.)
When Should You Do Rope Stretches?
Another big question to figure out is when should you stretch when running.
When it comes to this type of stretching, you can do rope stretching before workouts, after workouts, and/or off days!
Most important is figuring out what works best for your routine and your body. I've known people who do rope stretching at each of these times because it works for them specifically.
Stretching is a healthy body movement for everyone, even if you don't do frequent extreme exercise.
I know people who like to rope stretch before the workout to loosen everything up without slowing down their muscles. I prefer to do it after workouts as a part of my cool-down.
Remember, routines are great and I absolutely love how we share routines with each other so much, but at the end of the day everyone is unique.
Do what makes you feel the best.
Big fan of off days? Trust me, I am too.
But an off day doesn't always mean doing absolutely nothing. Take advantage of the extra time for maintenance and recovery on days you don't have a workout.
This is where rope stretching is a great option!
Getting Into A Stretching Rope Routine
Did you know that there are stretching rope specialists?
Stretch specialists can tell you everything you need to know about maximizing the effects of rope stretching. I learned movements from someone who helps people stretch for a living and it was interesting and helpful to learn some of the nuances of these movements.
You can also find fitness places like Stretch*ed, which have professionals who walk you through a full stretching routine.
I'm not a stretch specialist obviously, but here are some of the main rope stretching movements I use now because they are great rope stretches for runners.
They target hamstrings, quads, hips, and glutes. Give them a try after your next workout! Soon you'll want to do them every single day.
If you're looking for the best stretching rope, I put links at the end of this post showing you where you can get ropes.
4 Ways to Stretch Your Hamstring With a Rope
Rope on bottom of foot, coming up evenly on both sides
Raise leg up squeezing quads. At the top, gently pull on the rope to get a more full stretch and then slowly release down.
Range of motion should get higher with each rep
Starting with your leg up, bend at the knee
Squeeze quads like in the first movement to get to the top of the stretch and use rope to gently finish the stretch
Rope on bottom of foot, but then both pieces of rope wrap to the outside of your leg
This should rotate your foot out, stretching a slightly different part of the hamstring
Follow the same protocol as the first hamstring stretches
You guessed it! Strings of the rope now wrap around the leg from the inside
This should rotate your foot inwards and get the other side of your muscle
Follow the same protocol for earlier hamstring stretches
Rope Stretches That Work Your Hips or Glutes
This stretch loosens up your hips and your groin area/inner hamstring
Rope on bottom of foot and again the strings wrap onto the inside of the leg
Swing leg away from the resting leg and pull until you feel a slight stretch
Activate the outer hip and glute to bring your leg to the side and relax the muscle that you're stretching
Keep the down leg as straight and flat as possible, you might even feel it in the hip on the down leg's side
Opposite to the stretch above, the strings of the rope wrap around the outside of the leg
This is so you can pull the leg across the body, similar to the iron cross dynamic movement
The activated muscle will be on the inside of your leg
You should feel the stretch in your glute and possibly lower back
Again, try to keep the down leg straight and steady
Quad Stretch Using a Stretching Rope
In this movement, the rope acts more as an anchor for the still leg
Laying on your side, bend the down leg up (like a march) and put the rope on the bottom of your foot to hold it in place
Using your arm, pull on the stretching legs ankle until you feel the stretch in your quad
Stretching Your Calves With a Rope
Another muscle to target as a runner is the calf. You can put your leg in the same position as you would in the first hamstring stretch. Keeping the leg up, pull on the rope until you feel a stretch in your calf, and repeat.
You can also sit up with your leg in front of you (straight or bent) and try the same movement.
Where Can I Get A Stretching Rope?
There are many ropes out there that will work for rope stretching.
My main advice is to avoid getting a stretchy rope—you know the kind that is like a giant rubber band.
Why should you not get a rubber band like rope for rope stretching? Two big reasons:
One, they're not as stable as a stretching rope because they stretch a lot.
Two, there is a higher risk that it will snap off back onto you and hurt you. Not ideal!
You can easily use a rope from any hardware store that is sturdy enough.
Pretty sure this is the stretching rope I'm using. So if you want to keep it simple, this is a good option.
You can get a fancier stretching rope on Amazon, including a stretch rope with hooks or ones that come with advice and ideas for doing your stretches.
Pro tip: you can create more than one stretching rope by cutting a long rope into many. Just make sure you get one too thin, probably no less than 1/4 inch thick.
Here are some other popular ropes for stretching. Enjoy your recovery!
What To Know About Rope Stretching
Ready to get your stretch on? This was a detailed post, so here were the main takeaways to think about:
Dynamic stretching is important to know about because it warms muscles up and doesn't prevent them from moving fast in your workout.
Rope stretching is for activated isolation (AI) stretching, which protects your muscles from triggering the muscular protective reflex.
Activate the muscle opposite the one you're stretching, stretch the muscle better because it's isolated.
You can do rope stretching before or after workouts and even on off-days; it's most important to figure out what works for you.
My favorite thing about rope stretching is that it doesn't have to be a huge addition to your workout routine. Just a few minutes with the rope can have a big enough effect to make it worth it.
If you've been looking for a way to take your dynamic stretching to the next level but weren't sure what to try, I hope my post-run rope stretch for runners helps you out!