What Muscles Does Running Work?

When you work out, different muscles are engaged, depending on the activity. What specific muscles does running work? Should the athlete do other things to maximize the benefits caused by running? How should the runner react when muscles become sore?

When running, hundreds of muscles come together to propel your body into forwarding motion. However, some muscles are more important to the act than others.


The gluteal muscles are super high on the list of muscles crucial to running. Your glutes provide stability and strength for your hips and work to propel you forward. Strong glutes will help you run faster and become more powerful as a runner. Since glutes are the main muscle responsible for extension of the hips, it stands to reason they are important to strong forward motion.


Many runners make key mistakes in regards to the glute muscles. For example, neglecting to develop this muscle group can lead to problems. There are studies that link glute weakness to a myriad of issues, such as IT band and runner’s knee. It’s amazing to realize how interconnected our body parts are.


The quads quadricep muscles are your upper thigh. Runners use the quad muscles to propel the body forward. As your body moves forward there is a shift in muscle activity that takes place. Actions start in the quads and extend through the hamstrings, which are located at the back of your upper leg.


You need to keep your quads healthy to efficiently and effectively run. Many runners are “quad heavy and glute light.” As a runner, you should focus on adequately developing all of these muscles that are so crucial to running.

Hip Flexors

Strong hip flexors can translate into strong running. Hip flexor muscles are at the top of your legs or thighs. They allow you to bend, twist, flex and move. If your hip flexors are too tight or weak, you aren’t going to get maximum mobility.

It is common knowledge that improving hip mobility can lengthen your stride, which is a key component to running strong and long. All of us should want to lengthen our stride for maximum running efficiency.


Although dynamic warm-up is important for readying all of the body to run, the hip flexors, in particular, can benefit from this practice. Many of the movements in dynamic warm-up engage this muscle group and help prepare your body to move.


Your hamstrings are necessary to enable you to extend for the push-off while running. Also, hamstrings help keep the knee bent. Every time your quadriceps contract, as the runner lands, your hamstrings need to engage. Acting as a break, the hamstrings keep your knee from overextending.

Sadly, many runners have strong quads but weak hammies. Runners are notorious for having tight hamstrings, which often leads to a hamstring injury. For this and other reasons, it is important for runners to work on strengthening and stretching the hamstrings.


To run well you need a strong core. Often overlooked, your deep abdominal muscles help you to keep strong posture and form throughout long and difficult running efforts. A strong core not only keeps your body upright, but it also allows all of the muscles to better work together as you move.


Running with your core engaged is a helpful hint for runners to focus on core and running simultaneously. Furthermore, all runners should consider adding some core work to their workout routine. This is not an area runners should skimp! Stronger abs can absolutely equate to faster running times.

Calf Muscles

It’s easy to ignore the calves until they hurt, but ignoring them would be a rookie mistake. The next run, you go on actually focus on your calf muscles for a few minutes. Are you focusing? Your calves are essential to the push-off phase of running. Each stride you take your calves are helping to move you along.

The calves help to lift up the leg and propel you forward as you lift up your heel and push off of the forefoot. According to Runner’s World magazine, the calves lift the heels approximately 1,500 times while running one mile. That is a lot of lifting! Give your calves some love they deserve with Rockay leg compression sleeves!

Big Toe

If you ask 100 runners which muscles are used in running, few would mention the big toe. But think about it: you push off of your toe with every footfall. Your big toe stabilizes the foot with every step!

Isn’t the human body amazing? Parts we don’t often think about are an integral part of the moving machine that is our body.

Your Heart

Running takes heart. We say it all the time: run with heart. Run with guts. Run with passion.

Your heart is also a working muscle in your body: the most important muscle. Without your heart pumping blood through the body, life ceases to exist. Over time of running, the muscles of your heart strengthen. The result is your heart begins to pump more efficiently. This is why cardiovascular activity is crucial to maintaining good heart health.


Just like any other muscle, your heart needs a break from time to time. This is why we utilize different types of training and take rest days. Also, it explains why it is important to rest when sick.

So Many Muscles

As you may have suspected, running relies on far more muscles than one might have originally thought. This is one reason why runners often hear the importance of weight training as a form of cross-training. Also, this illustrates why a dynamic warm-up is so crucial before engaging in quick running.

You rely on your muscles to work together in perfect harmony to get your body through the most perfect workout of all. Whether you are on a long run, slowly cruising around the neighborhood, doing fartleks with your friends or hitting the track for speed work, your muscles are hard at work every time you run.


How To Train The Three Most Important Muscles Used While Running
Five Key Muscle Groups in Running
Why The Hips, Hamstrings and Glutes are the Key to Running Faster

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