What Muscles Does Running Work? Discover What You Need To Know Here!

Have you ever wondered why running is one of the most popular exercises there is? Well, that’s because it is a total body workout that helps you burn calories and lose excess weight. But what muscles does running work? That is one question that we will be answering in this post.

You may have already heard the benefits of running—what it can do for you. But if you have ever wondered what are the muscles targeted by this exercise, you have come to the right place! To know the answer, we suggest that you continue reading!


What Muscles Does Running Work? Discover What You Need To Know Here!

What Muscles Does Running Work?

What Muscles Does Running Work

So, now we get to the important part—what muscles does running work? While running is known for its cardiovascular benefits and calorie burning effects, Jillian Michaels claims that it can also help you build muscular endurance in the following types of muscles:

  • The Quads

This is a collective term used to denote the group of muscles found in front of your thighs. It is made up of the following muscles: vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris. These muscles are targeted during the bending and extending of your lower knee during the running motion.

  • The Gluteals

These are the muscles found in your buttocks and consists of the following muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. The movement that targets these muscles is called hip extension, and it takes place as your, thighs move from a position that is parallel to the ground to a position behind the body.

This move is most evident when you run up the hills.

  • The Abs

Well, you may no longer need a description for this but just the same, I would give it to you. Abs refer to the group of muscles found in your abdominal area—from the abs in the center to the oblique muscles at the side. It also includes the muscle called the intercostals which are found in between your ribs.

You use your abdominal muscles in supporting your body and keeping it balanced during the entire run. These are also the most used group of muscles since you engage them during heavy breathing.

  • The Hamstrings

This is found opposite your quads—at the back of your thighs. The muscles included in this group are semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. These are the muscles that are responsible for the flexing of your knees.

In running, these are also the muscles that you utilize when your foot leaves the ground, and your legs begin to inch forward to take another stride.

  • The Calves

Of course, your calf muscles should be in this list too! This group of muscles include the soleus and gastrocnemius. These muscles are engaged during the motion called plantar flexion and it occurs the moment right before the foot takes off from the ground, and the heel is suspended in the air behind your legs.

  • The Shoulder Muscles

Believe it or not, your upper body is being worked out during your running sessions too, but most of the movement will come from your shoulders.

When you swing your shoulder forward, you are using your anterior deltoid or your front shoulder muscle. On the other hand, the backward extension of your arms is the responsibility of latissimus dorsi (back muscles) and posterior deltoid.

To help you further understand the muscles used in running, please watch this video:

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Run

What Muscles Does Running Work

If you are keen on working out the muscles that we have mentioned above, then you need to maximize your running sessions. Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways on how you can do that. Here are some of them:

  • Practice Proper Breathing While Running Technique

You may not know this but how you breathe while running is important because of all the benefits that it can give you. For one, it can help improve your posture since the muscles that help us with posture are the same muscles that we use for breathing. And when we practice good posture, we are able to maximize the effects of running.

  • Use The Right Footwear

We cannot emphasize the importance of using the right shoes for running. The right running shoes can help you avoid blisters and injuries and makes your feet more comfortable, allowing you to run longer and more efficiently. Because of this, it important that you find what shoes are best for the type of feet that you have. 

Lucky for you, there are plenty of tips and resources on how to find sneakers for flat feet or the best running shoes to use online.

  • Make Sure That You Land On Your Mid-Foot

Many newbie runners commit the mistake of landing on their toes, which may cause their calves to tighten. On the other hand, there are some who land on their heels which causes them to over-stride, increasing their risk of injury.

  • Maintain Good Posture

Posture plays an important role in keeping you safe from injuries. When running, make sure to keep your head up, back straight, and avoid leaning forward.

  • Look Straight Ahead

When running, it is important that you maintain your focus and you can do that by looking straight ahead instead of staring down at your feet.


Aside from helping you lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health, running can also promote muscle endurance. But what muscles do running work? Well, there are lots of them. The simple running motion can engage the hamstrings, quads, glutes, abs, calves and even, your shoulder muscles!

But if you wish to make the most out of your runs and work these muscles in the most efficient way possible, you need to use the right footwear, land on your mid-foot, practice proper posture, look straight ahead and practice proper breathing while running technique during your running sessions.

If you know somebody that loves running or hiking, you can check out this wonderful article from Look What's Cool.

We hope that you have enjoyed this article! If you have any questions, the comment section is wide open for you! Feel free to share your thoughts there!

Emily Brathen

Hi there! I'm Emily Brathen. I am a fitness and yoga instructor and a mom of one. Despite my hectic schedule, I still find time for doing the thing I love most - fitness and yoga. I love doing and teaching fitness and yoga because in my own little way, I am able to encourage people to take health and fitness back into their own hands.

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