What Muscles Does Running Work?

Summary: What muscles does running work? Does it flatten your stomach? Does it improve your core? Find out!


So you want to take advantage of the calorie-burning benefits of running, or combine it with resistance training for strength, endurance or weight loss.

And now you’re asking, “What muscles does running work?

Great question it is, and that’s what I’m trying to answer for individuals trying to incorporate running into their routine.

What Muscles Does Running Work?



The front thigh muscles, or the quadriceps, are made of the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis—and they are built up during knee extensions, which happen a lot during running when the lower legs move from a straight position.


Fat Loss

The abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis and the oblique muscles are stimulated when you run and they provide you with balance and support through contraction. And then when you breathe hard when running, the intercostals between the ribs are toned.



Located at the thighs’ back, the hamstrings are made of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. They flex your knees, helping the legs to move back towards the butt.And while running, the hamstrings are worked when your foot is off the ground and your leg is front of you for the next strike.


Gluteus Muscles

They are made of the medius, maximus and minimus found in the butt, and all of them are used in hip extensions, which happen due to the movement of your thighs from a parallel position to the ground towards your back.The gluteals work the hardest when you run up hill due to constant contraction.



Composed of the soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles, the calves are also worked when you run due to plantar flexion, which happens as you point your toes forward. This motion takes place just before your foot is off the ground, while your heel is in midair just behind you.The calves work the hardest when you run up hill just as the gluteals do.

Tibialis Anterior

Tibialis Anterior

Source: healthstarclinic.com

This muscle group is found in front of your shins, and it is built up when your toes are pointing upward, a motion referred to as the dorsiflexion that happens when your leg is in front of you just before your foot lands on the ground.If you’ve just started running, the tibialis anterior may become sore—a condition called shin splints. But worry not, as it goes away as you build up muscle strength.


Peroneal muscles

It is composed of the brevis and the peroneus longus that are also worked as your heels are elevated when running.

Hip Flexors

Hip Flexors

Source: painfreenyc.com

The iliacus, psoas major and psoas minor, collectively called the hip flexors, work hard when your thighs move to your belly and your foot is off the ground behind you. To complete the movement, the thigh goes upward right before you plant your other foot on the ground.

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Anyway, as you’d notice running works different muscle groups that can prove beneficia, especially for fat burning, andl if you’re looking for a full body workout.

The Highs And Lows Of Running

Knee Injure

Running is one of the best ways to burn calories, improve heart health and tone the muscles, according to a recent research conducted at the Duke University Medical Center. It also reveals that jogging beats resistance training in burning abdominal fat.

[So, running’s probably the secret why runners have enviably slim and cellulite-free bodies. What do you think?].

Jogging or running isn’t all-good just like other types of training. It has its downsides—such as joint and knee pain [and the dreaded injury].

But not only it might take a toll on your knees and joints because you might also suffer from the dead butt syndrome or the runner’s face in a repetitive exercise like running. [Not cool, eh?]

And while it can get your heart pumping like crazy to help you burn calories, did you know that running for long hours on a treadmill or on an outdoor trail could cause a temporary damage to your right ventricle?

Raise Heart Rate

According to an article published at NCBI, chronic training for extreme running events, ultra marathons, marathons and long-distance bicycle races can lead to transient acute volume overload of the right ventricle and atria, but the heart should be able to heal itself within a week.But don’t let these send you running in another direction, though.

Science still finds no evidence that running could be unhealthy. In fact, research states that the athletes’ hearts are still able to heal themselves naturally after the temporary damage.

How Do I Get The Most Out Of Running?

Run Types

No matter what running distance you’d want to excel at, combine a little of every style and distance into your routine to meet your goal. If you are building endurance, the priority should be a long run and ways to recover from it.

And to get the most out of your distance running and other type of endurance activities, you should consider taking a preworkout drink specifically for runners.

Additionally, you should add resistance training to work specific muscles for a type of run. You should also see to it that you’re working each leg at least one day every week to strengthen and spot any imbalance.

What type of run is for which muscles?

For every type of run, here’s an idea on the muscles it works:

  • 5K runs: hip flexors and quads
  • Half marathons: quads and hamstrings
  • Hill runs: calves, hamstrings and glutes
  • Sprints: calves, quads and hamstrings

Does Running Burn Belly Fat?

Weight Loss

The abdominal muscles are supporting muscles in running, meaning they aren’t worked the most in the activity, but they’re involved—both the lower and upper abdominals (also referred to as the core muscles).

When body conditioning for running, you need to work your abdominal muscles with crunches, let’s say, to improve your posture and core power—two essentials you need for a better run and more efficient energy use.

That being said, you can flatten your abdominals through the activities that strengthen your core muscles—which improve your posture and develop core power.

If you do, you can reduce your risk to injury and improve your running technique.

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