What Muscles Does Running Build Up?

Two women jogging on the seafront.

Running is a form of cardiovascular exercise done as recreation by some and as a profession by others. If you just started running to take advantage of its calorie-burning effects, you should also know what muscles you are working. Since running is a repetitive exercise with no added resistance, it builds muscular endurance as opposed to strength.

The Quadriceps

The muscles on the front of the thighs are called the quadriceps. They consist of the vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris and vastus lateralis. Each of these muscles get built up whenever you extend your knee. During running, this takes place when your lower legs move from a bent to straight position.

The Hamstrings

The backs of the thighs contain the hamstrings, which include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. These muscles flex the knees, causing your lower legs to move back toward your butt. While running, this takes place when your foot leaves the ground and your leg starts moving forward for the next foot strike.

The Gluteals

The gluteals consist of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and are located in the buttocks. Hip extension is a motion that involves these muscles. While you run, you build the glutes when your thighs move from a position parallel to the ground to a position behind your body. You will especially notice a contraction of your glutes when you run up hills.

The Hip Flexors

The hip flexors get worked when your thighs move toward your stomach. You experience this motion after your foot leaves the ground behind you and your thigh comes upward before the next foot plant. The three parts of the hip flexors are the psoas major, psoas minor and iliacus.

The Abs

The entire rectus abdominis that run along the center of your abs and the oblique muscles along your sides get activated when you run. They contract to give support and balance to the body. The intercostals are muscles found in between the ribs. They also become toned when you breath heavily during running.

The Calves

The calf muscles consist of the gastrocnemius and soleus and they get worked when your toes point downward. This motion, known as plantar flexion, takes place right before your foot leaves the ground when your heel is in the air behind your body. In similar fashion to the glutes, the calves get more emphasis while running up hills.

The Tibialis Anterior

The tibialis anterior muscles run down the front of the shins. They get built up when your toes point up instead of down. This motion is called dorsiflexion and it takes place when your leg is in front of your body right before your foot lands on the ground. When you first start running, this area can become sore. This soreness is known as shin splints and will go away as the muscles get stronger.

The Poroneals

The peroneus longus and brevis run down the sides of the shins and they are known together as the peroneals. These muscles get worked when your heels are elevated which is similar to the calves. If your toes were to turn out, the peroneals would get worked harder.