What Muscles Are Used While Running?
Educating ourselves on the muscles we use while exercising is important. The more we know about our body, the better we can protect it by treating it with care and avoiding injury.
Running on a regular basis has many benefits, including weight loss, stress relief and maintaining a strong and healthy body. As it is one of the more physically exerting activities, it can also cause damage to your body such as a pulled hamstring or dislocation of your kneecaps. With a little knowledge, we can help prevent these injuries with the right equipment and by properly stretching your muscles before the run.
Primary Muscles Used While Running
Primary muscles will get the most impact from your movement and therefore should receive more care.
Your primary muscles while running will include your quads (quadriceps femoris), hamstrings, gluteus maximus, iliopsoas, and your calf muscles.
Quads (Quadriceps Femoris)
Your quads are muscle groups of four basic muscles located on your front thighs. You will be able to see and identify these muscles on the picture to your right. They are:
- The rectus femoris,
- The vastus medialis,
- The vastus lateralis, and
- The vastus intermedius.
Your quads are responsible for moving two of the joints used in running, your knee joint and your hip joint. The work together to straighten your knees and bend your hips.
If you are interested in strengthening your quad muscles consider doing squats and lunges. Increasing strength in your muscles apart from running can decrease your risk of injury and increase your speed.
Hamstrings and Gluteus Maximus
Your hamstrings are made up of four muscle-parts on the back of your thighs. As pictured, these are known as:
- The semitendinosus,
- The semimembranosus, and
- The biceps femoris (two parts: long head and short head).
These four parts of your hamstrings allows you to flex your knees. The semitendinosus, semimembranosus and the long head biceps femoris work together to extend the hips. As you may have noticed, your hamstrings work opposite your quads in how your knees and hips move, creating a systematic medley that works well for you body.
The gluteus macimus, also pictured though not labeled, is the largest of the gluteal muscles. You will recognize it easily as it is the muscle that contributes most to creating the shape of the buttocks, better known as butt or rear-end.
This muscle will help you keep proper erect posture by extending your hips.
Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas)
Your hip flexors (or iliopsoas), like your quads, is comprised of a muscle group of two muscles:
- The iliacus and
- The psoas major.
As you can see on the picture to your right, the shortest muscle, the iliacus, begins on your pelvic crest (the iliac fossa) and stretches over to your thigh bone (femur). The larger of the muscles, the psoas major, stretches from your T-12 spinal vertebrae to your L-5 spinal vertebrae and there attaches to the femur.
These two muscles work together to help your hips flex.
The iliopsoas are often the culprit behind sever hip pain. If you experience hip pain while running, you should stop your routine immediately, and go see your doctor or a chiropractic specialist. Do not begin running again until they have determined it to be safe.
Your calf muscles are located on the back of you leg, below your knee. Though many anatomists see the calf muscle to be a single muscle (triceps surae), most say that it is a muscle group, like your quads and hip flexors. This group consists of two main muscles, the:
- The gastrocnemius and
- The soleus.
Your calf muscles will allow you to flex your knee and planter flex your ankle. Like your quads, your calf muscles can be strengthened by doing squats. Other good strength-building exercises would include calf muscle raises and skipping!
Supporting Muscles Used While Running
Though your supporting muscles may not come under as much strain as your primary muscles, it is a good idea to educate yourself about them and protect them as well. Your supporting muscles are:
- The abdominals (both upper and lower) and
- The biceps brachii.
Your abdominals are located at your abdomen. These muscles will allow you to maintain good posture during your workout, helping you to prevent injury and maximizing your time.
Your biceps brachii (better known as your biceps), are located above your elbow and allows you to rotate your forearms and flex your elbows. You will only use this muscle if your elbow is bent, making your running more efficient.
Do a Full Stretch Routine
It can be argued that you will use your entire body when you run. Doing a full body stretch routine will ensure that your whole body will be warmed up, and it will increase your flexibility.
More by this Author
If you are experiencing lower back pain and/or leg pain after a workout, try performing the piriformis stretch. This stretch can be done anywhere, before and after a workout, and can prevent pain.