What Muscles Does Running Work?

While running, your muscles work extra hard to move your legs and body. When you start to run, the large quadriceps muscles on your thighs engage to propel you forward. Then as you go along, the calf muscles take over and push you further.

Other muscles used when running include the hamstring, the abs, calf muscles, tibialis anterior, peroneals, and the hip flexors. This article will look at how these individual muscles work together during a run. If you are a running enthusiast, knowing exactly how these muscles work can help you improve your overall performance and become a better runner. As a professional runner, you should also invest in running gear to help your muscles and know how to care for it properly, which means understanding exactly how to wash your runners and other equipment.

The Muscles At Work During A Run


The abdominal muscles, or core muscles, play a fundamental role when running. Their function is to connect the upper body to the lower body, and they help in maintaining an upright posture. Having the correct posture during a run is important since it helps you breathe correctly, and avoid injuries. The abdominal muscles also help keep the other muscles in check and ensure that they work seamlessly during a run.

Hip Flexors

The hip flexor muscles help you raise your thigh while running. That is one of the main muscles at work during a run, and you’ll feel this muscle engage when you raise your leg up.


The gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) are located in the buttocks area. They contract whenever you are running. Their primary function is to stabilize your legs and support your body. Having strong glutes helps you become a powerful runner as they work to propel you forward.

Thigh Muscles

The thigh muscles consist of the hamstring on the back of your legs, the quadriceps in the front, and the adductor on the inside of your legs. Running works these muscles in a significant way, which helps to make them stronger.

Calf Muscles

The calf muscles are located in your lower leg between the knee and ankle and are extensively worked when running long distances, which means you may find they get quite sore when you first start a running routine, though that will change with time as they become stronger. 

Tibialis Anterior

These muscles are felt when you move your toes up. As you begin to run, you may find that these muscles feel quite sore. But once you work them often enough, they’ll become more robust, allowing you to run for longer periods of time without feeling any pain.

Upper Body Muscles

While running works lower body muscles, some upper body muscles also play a crucial role in the running process. These include the pectorals, biceps, and shoulder muscles, which work when you swing your arms while running. The engagement of these muscles helps in maintaining balance during a run.


Runners who would like to improve their stamina and run farther, increase their speed, or have a better form, should learn the functions of these muscles and know how to strengthen them. This may mean going to the gym and doing some targeted resistance training, but the long term results of improved performance and injury prevention can be worth it.

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