What Muscles Does Running Work? Read On!

July 26, 2021
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July 26, 2021

What Muscles Do You Use When Running?

Running is the most popular form of exercise, but do you know what muscles it works?

Running involves the use of leg muscles and back, which coupled with a high resistance workout, can help you develop the strength and stamina needed for a long-distance run. 

The main muscles running works are the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These strong core muscles are used in walking and running.

The quad muscle is the muscle group that is mainly worked by running and walking.

Running involves the use of powerful muscles in your legs and back, which coupled with a high resistance workout, can help you develop the strength and stamina needed for a long-distance run.

  • Gluteal muscles or Glute Muscle

The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful of the hip abductor muscles.

The gluteus maximus in the glutaeal muscle is a large muscle that is used for hip extension.

When running, the glute muscles are used to flex your hip, providing a slight bounce with every footstep.

Research has shown that the glute muscles are the muscle groups responsible for running and that runners who have a stronger glutaeal musculature can run faster and for longer distances.

  • Quadriceps

The quadriceps, also known as the quads, are four large muscles at the front of your thighs.

This is the muscle plays a key role for the extension of your knees during your stride, and hence for strong running.

The quadriceps are the muscle responsible used for knee extension and knee flexion.

It is important to strengthen your quads, as they form the posteriors of your legs and help with your running form and speed.

  • Hamstring

A hamstring muscle is a group of muscles in the back of the thigh.

The hamstring muscles have two major functions: First, muscle contracts in the back of your thigh help you bend the knee.

Second, muscles in the back of your thigh allow your thigh to move in the direction it is pointing.

The hamstring muscles are involved in many movements, and over time these hip muscles can become tight and limit your running performance. 

Revamp hamstring strength will help your motion of running and prevent potential injuries.

The hamstrings are muscles that are used for hip flexors.

  • Calves

The calves are a group of muscles that run along the back of the leg. They are also referred to as the soleus muscle group.

The calf muscles are the key muscles for running and can be strengthened to improve your running technique.

The calves are muscles that are used for ankle extension and ankle flexion.

How to strengthen your muscles

Strength training is a vital part of any healthy lifestyle, and the benefits are many.

It’s an important part of a balanced workout routine and is great for increasing stamina and endurance - along with enhancing performance in a range of sports and activities.

There are countless ways to strengthen your body muscles and core strength besides doing heavy exercise.

The traditional “pumping” exercises like the bench press, squat, and deadlift have stood the test of time as the go-to exercises for building muscle.

In a nutshell, the glutes, hamstrings, and quads support the lower body and enhancing athletic performance.

If they are tight, the muscles supporting the lower body can’t work properly.

If this happens, the body’s muscle balance can be disrupted, leading to an increase in muscle imbalances and muscular injury.

Conditioning exercises is an important part of any fitness program and can be used to both build strength and sculpt our bodies.

However, there is a considerable difference between the pliability of someone just starting out, and a more experienced athlete and the conditioning exercises used in both instances are quite different.

Common Muscle Injury When Running

If you’re a regular runner, then you’ll have experienced muscle aches and pains.

You’ve probably experienced soreness and discomfort while training for your next big race.

Common injuries can frustrate you, but that’s part of the experience when you’re trying to reach your fitness goals.

As a runner, the most common muscle injuries are:

  • Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury to the bottom of the foot, usually caused by running and other impact activities.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the bottom of your foot and heel, which can also be seen and felt in your toes.

In fact, most of the time, plantar fasciitis can be treated to relieve symptoms, with rest, heel lifts and anti-inflammatory medication the most common treatments.

Active stretching and strengthening of the calf muscles will help prevent injury due to overuse.

  • Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles Tendonitis injury has been a common problem for runners, and it can be an extremely painful injury if you have weak calves.

The primary cause of this injury to calf strain is overuse or overstraining of the tendon, which leads to strain or tearing of the tendon. This tendon supports the lower leg muscle, and if it gets injured, it will cause pain and inflammation in the back of the thigh.

Strengthening and stretching the calf muscles should be part of every runner’s workout routine.

  • Patellar Tendinitis

When the quadriceps muscle group contract, the patella is stretched.

The tendon transmits the force of this contraction to the quadriceps muscle group, which results in the hip flexion movement.

If the tendon is damaged, the quadriceps muscle group cannot contract effectively, and this can lead to patellar tendinitis.

Strengthening the quads with light bodyweight exercises is effective foot biomechanics.

  • Knee Injuries

Running muscle injuries occur when a joint is not fully supported by the muscles and connective muscle tissue around it during exercise. They can be classified as either acute or chronic.

If the injury is acute, the joint will feel painful with use and the problem will subside. Chronic injuries, however, are often repetitive.

Symptoms of a chronic injury include pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • Hamstring Injury

The hamstrings, unlike other muscles in our bodies, are prone to injury when running.

This is because they work a lot to support our legs while running, and if strained or injured, it will cause pain, and sometimes make running difficult.

However, hamstring injuries (also known as “hamstring tears”) are a common problem among runners.

Hamstring injuries are extremely painful and with the right treatment and support from your coach, you are likely to make a full recovery thus gives you a tight hamstring.

  • Meniscus Injuries

Menisci are a series of cartilage cushions that sit between each of your bones and help to absorb your impact, cushioning the impact to your knee and can cause knee pain.

Like any other cartilage in your body, menisci can be injured during exercise. In particular, running can cause menisci to become damaged, and this is very common amongst runners.

This is where the cartilage which lies between the bones of the knee joint becomes physically damaged, causing knee pain and causing weakness in the joint.

  • Diaphragmic Injury

There is a condition called diaphragmatic injury, where running can cause injury to the diaphragm muscles.

The problem can be caused by negative running, where you over-stride or land in an awkward position, or too much force in a fast sprint.

The primary cause of diaphragmatic injury while running is over-striding.

In simple terms, this is when your body goes into overdrive, and your stride lengthens. 

Diaphragmic exercise such as proper breathing is an important exercise for runners to have very good core strength.

Does running tone your stomach?

Running has been one of the best exercises for losing belly fat.

In fact, running is one of the most effective ways to tone your stomach, and one of the easiest.

With running, you are basically doing several hundred small lunges every single time you run, which can help to shape your abdominal muscles.

Runners have found out that running can actually cause your stomach to feel heavier.

This is because running increases your heart rate and therefore the amount of blood flowing to your stomach.

You might think that you may not want to have that heavy feeling in your stomach, but when your heart is working hard, your body has more energy, so it will work harder to keep it working.

It is not uncommon for runners to wonder if running will make their stomachs bigger or if it will tone the stomach and make it flatter.

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