The fitness world has invented many types of squats (and here at Well+Good, we’ve tried them all—literally). If you’re a runner, the classic version of the move strengthens your glutes, quads, and hamstrings so that every step feels stronger than the last. To take your squat game from level 1.0 to level 2.0, Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland—this month’s leader for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club—says that two creative takes on squats will warm you up for your fastest run yet.
Copeland has been helping runners use strength training and yoga to unlock their inner-speed demons since she became a Nike Master Trainer (and even before that). This month, as part of Well+Good’s United States of Running Program, you can run a 5K or 10K alongside with Copeland as your coach. Before you take your first steps, though, you need a solid warm-up that will prime the many muscle groups that help you fly through the kilometers and miles, right?
That’s where Copeland’s warm-ups—and her two, go-to squat variations—come in. Of all the variations out there, Copeland chooses the bottom-up and the side-to-side squat. Together, the two work to both strengthen and stretch the muscles of your legs (which will act as the tires, engine, and gasoline of your next run). Here’s why you’ll want to invite each squat to your pregame before the run.
The 2 squats for running a Nike Master Trainer always recommends as a warm-up
1. Bottom-Up Squat
Bring your feet more than hips-width distance apart. Bend over to touch your toes like you’re in yoga class, then sit your seat back to squat down. Raise your arms overhead and push into your heels to come back to standing. “The important thing here is that you’re working on your lower body—getting that nice and loose—but you’re also making sure you get a little bit of shoulder mobility. You’re not just running with your legs; you want to make sure you’re actually using your arms while you’re running as well,” says Copeland.
Research indicates that your arms account for about 10 percent of your total bodyweight and enlisting them to help you run more efficiently actually improves your metabolic efficiency. (This is the fancy way of saying, swinging your arms can help your body use its energy efficiently.) We all want to run efficiently, right?
2. Side Squat
Heel-toe your feet wider apart and bend into your right knee so that your left leg is straight and strong (but not locked out). Push your booty backward and bring your hands to your hips. Move from side to side, bending and straightening opposite legs. Make sure you stay back on your heels and, if you feel like it, brush your hand across the floor as you pivot from your left to your right.
Side squats pack a double whammy of stretching one hamstring while your opposite glute lights on fire. You’ll also be working on ankle mobility as you skate through the move, so consider that the cherry on top.
Congratulations, runner—you’re ready for the miles ahead.