What Muscles Does Running Work – [The Most Perfect Answer]


What muscles does running work?

When you’re working out, various muscles are active, depending on the exercise.

Dozens of muscles come together so that your body keeps moving when you’re running.

Some muscles, though, are more essential to the action than others.

In this blog, we will discuss all the muscles that work while running.


Muscles Used In Running — What muscles does running work?

What Muscles Does Running Work
A running man

Though running is commonly considered a cardiovascular exercise, it also operates on major body elements. Do you want to know about what muscles does running work?

From the shoulders to the toes, running is a full-body exercise.

Here are the main muscle groups that work together to get you on the run.


1.   Calf Muscles

Does Running Build Leg Muscles
Calf muscles

The calf muscles are used to move your toes. 

When you stretch your toes, you’ll find these muscles flex.

You’re going to note that professional athletes have really toned and formed calf muscles.

Usually, the calf muscles make you feel exhausted while you’re out on long runs; the calf muscles do the leg’s significant lifting function when you’re running.

While generally ignored, the calf muscles have a significant role in ensuring that the ankles and legs stay free from sprains.

Your calf muscles are situated at the backside of the lower leg.

Every time you push off and lift your leg, you use these muscles to move you forward.

The calf muscles are often active in stretching and flexing your foot every time your foot strikes and pushes it off again.

They are responsible for reducing impact shocks when you land, assisting with balance and ankle mobility.

Usually, the calf muscles make you feel exhausted while you’re out on long runs; the calf muscles do the leg’s big lifting function when you’re running.

While generally overlooked, the calf muscles have a significant role in ensuring that the ankles and legs stay free from sprains.


Functions of Calf Muscles

  • It extends and flexes your foot as you land.
  • Provides movement around the ankle joint and the phalanges.
  • Helps to maintain your balance and ankle flexion.
  • Also, it reduces the shock impact.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Calf Muscles

  • Single-Leg Heel Raise
  • Weight-Bearing Lunge Test
  • Double-Leg Heel Raise
  • Jump Rope
  • Calf Stretch and Ankle Mobility


2.  Quads

The quad muscles are basically your upper thighs.

Runners use the quad muscles to push the body forward.

When the body goes forward, a change in muscular contraction happens.

Actions originate in the quads and extend into the hamstrings situated at the back of the upper leg.

You need to keep the quads strong to run efficiently.

What muscles does running work? – Is quad muscles is one of them?

As a runner, you should concentrate on the proper development of all those muscles that are so essential to running.

The quads consist of four muscles in front of the thighs: the vastus intermedius, the vastus medialis, the vastus lateralis, and the rectus femoris.

Three of them work together to stretch the knee during each move.

Of the four muscles, the rectus femoris is frequently the cause of running injury.

This muscle crosses the hip joint, which means that it is also the main muscle to bend the hip.

But as the rectus femoris is tightened, it prevents the mobility of the hip.

To compensate, people will swing their leg far in front of them and use hip flexors to step forward.

This can cause overuse and discomfort in the front of the hip.


Functions of Quads

  • It helps in bending your hips.
  • Flexes your hips so that you can lift your feet off the ground.
  • Straighten and stabilizing your knees at the time you run.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Quads

  • Hamstring Curls
  • Prone Straight Leg Raises
  • Wall Squats
  • Calf Raises
  • Step-Ups
  • Side Leg Raises


3.   Hamstrings

Your hamstrings are important to help you to stretch when you’re running.

Often, the hamstrings help keep the leg bent.

Any time your quadriceps contract, when the runner lands, your hamstrings need to be engaged.

Acting like a relief, the hamstrings prevent the knee from getting over-extended.

Unfortunately, many of the runners have powerful quads but weak hamstrings.

Runners are famous for having tight hamstrings, which can contribute to hamstring injuries.

For this and other factors, runners must work to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings.

These muscles are connected to the pelvis and extend down to the back of the knee.

Hamstrings mainly tend to bend the knee when you run, but they also help with hip expansion.

If the runner fails adequate hip extension, he can overuse the hamstrings and develop a tendinopathy disorder, where the tendons in the muscle begin to break down.

Tendinopathy in the lower body is very normal in daily runners.

Symptoms include swelling and discomfort in the affected muscles and bones.


Functions of Hamstrings

  • It helps in initiating your knee bending.
  • It helps in flexing your knees.
  • Provides power to propel you forward.
  • Provide extension of thighs by moving the legs backward.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Hamstrings


4.   Glutes

Gluteal muscles are particularly huge in the list of muscles that are essential to running.

Your glutes give strength and power to your hips and work to push you forward.

Strong glutes are going to make you run quicker and become more efficient as a runner.

Since glutes are the main muscle responsible for the expansion of the hips, the reason is that they are essential for better forward motion.

Most runners commit crucial errors in terms of muscles of the glute.

Failure to grow this muscle group will lead to complications.

The glutes consist of three major muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.

They work in combination with smaller muscles, such as the lateral rotators, that are finger-sized and start from the hip.

Both these muscles work together to spread the impact force uniformly around the hips.


Functions of Glutes

  • Maintains a proper balance between your hips and legs.
  • Helps in extending or stretching your hips.
  • Helps in the lateral rotation of your hip at the time you swing your legs.
  • Also contributes to maintaining your body posture correctly.
  • Helps in maintaining a proper knee alignment at the time you run.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Glutes

  • Glute bridges
  • Lunge Stretch
  • Single-Leg Deadlift
  • Squats
  • Clamshells


5.   Hip Flexors

The hip flexors are at the front of the hip, slightly above the thighs.

Often known as the iliopsoas, every time you raise your leg for any step, whether it’s walking, running, or doing any form of the leg lift motion, the hip flexors are called to action.

The hip flexors are made up of two muscles: the iliacus and the psoas major.

The psoas major is the strongest of the muscles, extending from the T-12 spinal vertebrae to the L5 spinal vertebrae and connecting to the femur—the bone of your thigh.


Functions of Hip Flexors

  • Moves your legs forward and back while working.
  • Stabilizes your hip joint while running.
  • Maintains a standing position.
  • Stabilizes your pelvic region by maintaining the level of your hips.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Hip Flexors

  • Seated butterfly stretch
  • Pigeon pose
  • Bridges
  • Floor-sliding mountain climbers
  • Skater squats


6.   Core Muscles

What muscles does running work? 

Are core muscles also involved?

A powerful, stable core is the backbone of a healthy body and its activities and actions.

It is located in your torso and pelvis; the core muscles bind the upper body to the lower body.

A solid core helps maintain good posture, stability, and balance when you run.

It will also help you align your back, pelvis, and lower body properly.

Powerful abdominals help your body remain upright and reduce the effect of shock on your spine.

A poor core can force you to compensate for other muscles, which can contribute to injury.


Functions of Core Muscles

  • Protects your internal organs.
  • Provides you greater mobility for your spine and trunk.
  • Stabilizes the upper portion of your body over.
  • Manages your pelvic-lumbar relationship.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Core Muscles

  • Bridge
  • Crunch
  • Plank
  • Bird dog
  • Mountain climber


7.   Abdominals

Muscles Used In Running
Abdominal muscles

You need a strong core to run well.

Sometimes ignored, the deep abdominal muscles help you maintain a strong balance and posture during long and tough running efforts.

A strong core keeps the body upright and helps all muscles fit well together as you walk.

Running with the core engaged is a good hint for runners to concentrate on core and run concurrently.

Your core muscles work a lot while you run.

Also, both runners should try adding some key work to their training schedule.

This isn’t a place where the runners can skimp!

Stronger abs may be equivalent to quicker running speeds.


Functions of Abdominals

  • Supports your trunk.
  • Allows movement and holds organs by regulating internal abdominal pressure.
  • Helps to keep your body stable and balanced.
  • Protects your spine.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Abdominals

  • Tummy Vacuums
  • Clam Shells
  • Dead Bugs
  • Bird Dog


8.   Peroneals

The Peroneal muscles are a group of muscles on which running works that derive from the fibula (lower leg bone), and for this function, they are also known as the fibula muscles.

Both these muscles are incorporated into the middle foot bones, called tarsals and metatarsals, which are present between the bones of the ankle and the toes.

Both the Peroneal longus and the brevis muscles are present on the leg’s side, while the Peroneal Tertius is located on the anterior side.


Functions of Peroneals

  • Manages ankle movement.
  • Helps you in stabilizing your big toe and ankle joint.
  • Provides you support while standing.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Peroneals

  • Quarter Heel Raise
  • Band Heel Raise
  • Ankle/Foot Eversion
  • Towel stretch
  • Standing calf stretch


9.  Tensor Fascia Latae

The tensor fasciae latae is a tiny muscle lower than the iliotibial band.

Sometimes called the IT band, this band is an elongated strip of fascia—a type of connective tissue—located in the thigh and knee.

This muscle is innervated by the upper nerve of the gluteal nerve and performs hip flexion and abduction functions.

Tensor fasciae latae also helps to support the pelvis at the top of the femur (thigh) bone while standing up straight.


Functions of Tensor Fascia Latae

  • Helps you to do a medial rotation of your hip
  • Also helps with hip flexion along with hip abduction.
  • Stabilizes your hips and pelvis at the time you raise up your leg.
  • Helps you to provide lateral stability to your knees.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Tensor Fascia Latae

  • Side-lying Straight Leg Raise
  • Hip Hitches
  • Crab Walks


10.  Flexor Hallucis Brevis

The flexor hallucis brevis resides inside the sole.

The muscle attaches to the bottom of the cuboid bone (located in the center of the foot) and stretches around the sole to the hallux bone base, better known as the big toe.

The muscle plays a dual role in both the rotation of the big toe and the foot’s arching especially when you are looking for an answer to what muscles does running work!

Hallucis Brevis is one of the muscles found in the sole and is responsible for the toes’ flexion or curling.

It functions opposite the extensor hallucis longus muscle located at the top of the foot, with the two muscles pulling on the hallux bone to produce the big toe’s movements.


Functions of Flexor Hallucis Brevis

  • Flexes your great toe at the metatarsophalangeal joint.
  • Helps you at the toe-off phase of running gait.
  • Keeps the medial longitudinal arch of your foot


Exercises To Strengthen Your Flexor Hallucis Brevis

  • 4 Little Toes Lift
  • Big Toe Lift
  • Big Toe Abduction
  • Short Foot Exercise


11.   Thoracic Diaphragm

The Thoracic diaphragm is a thin skeletal muscle that sits at the chest base and separates the abdomen from the chest.

Contracts and flattens as you inhale. This produces a vacuum effect that sucks the oxygen out of the lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, and the oxygen is forced out of your lungs.

It also has certain non-respiratory features.

The Thoracic diaphragm raises abdominal pressure to help the body get rid of vomiting, urine, and waste.

It also adds pressure on the esophagus to avoid acid reflux.


Functions of Thoracic Diaphragm

  • Contracts and depresses by pulling air into your lungs.
  • It Relaxes and pushes the carbon dioxide out.
  • Help your body get rid of urine and vomit.
  • Puts pressure on the esophagus.


Exercises To Strengthen Your Thoracic Diaphragm

  • Sit relaxed, your knees bent and your shoulders relaxed, your head and neck relaxed.
  • Place one hand on the top of your chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will cause you to know like your diaphragm is going while you breathe.
  • Breathe gently from your nose, so that your stomach pushes against your hand. The hand on your chest should stay as near as possible.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles, causing them to fall inward as you exhale from your stuffed lips. The hand on the upper chest must stay as still as possible.


What About The Upper Body Muscles?

Upper body muscles

Running doesn’t work well in the upper body muscles, particularly if you’re running on flat terrain.

At least for the slopes, you can use your arms to drive higher, which allows you a little bit of exercise.

As the name suggests, your upper body muscles, such as your shoulders, arms, back, and chest, are all found at the top of your body.

If you have a good upper body, it will allow you to run quicker and more steady.

If you want to have more upper body exercise than conventional running will offer you, you should run with small weights or even bands.

Some of the stretches you would like to do are the cross-body backstretch, the chest stretch, and the shoulder stretch.

At the end of the day, running is a fantastic exercise that tones and strengthens various major muscle groups.

Now you’ve got more of an idea why you’re staring at all the muscles that fly.

It will be easier for you to target stretches and improve movements so that you’re still good at going for a run.

Your core and upper body will help withstand the shock of impact as you run—and your arms, shoulders, and back will work together to help push you forward as well as sustain momentum.


Tips To Involve Your Upper Body More While Running

Although the upper body’s role in running varies by person, strong arms help move you along.


1.   Include Strength Training In Your Workout Routine

Upper body workouts can help you boost your physical strength and help you define and retain a healthy running shape.

As the upper body’s strength increases, the body has strengthened its stabilization, providing a more complex movement rhythm when moving.

Improved form comes with increased power, and good form contributes to improved time and distance.

If you don’t have the time to fit into a whole new fitness routine, you should apply strength-training to your current running schedule.


2.   Target On Your Arms

To better engage your forearms, biceps, elbows, and upper back, try holding light weights while you’re training.

Adding this bit of challenge to your running routine will help build up your upper body strength without dragging you into a gym or losing your momentum.

Adding this or some form of strength training to your workout increases how well your body absorbs oxygen, and it will make you a stronger runner.


Final Verdict

Running is always considered an aerobic activity, but other muscles work just as well as our glutes and hamstrings.

However, running puts heavy pressure on these muscles and, without adequate protection, injuries are possible.

In reality, between 40% and 50% of runners are injured every year. 

That’s why it’s important to develop balance, endurance, and versatility in the muscles that we work when we’re running.

Now you knew what muscles does running work, it’s up to you to take care of yourself.

Thank you very much. I hope you got the answer to your question ‘what muscles does running work?’


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