Muscles Used When Running

There are three types of muscles used when running:

  • Primary
  • Supporting
  • Auxiliary

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43 thoughts on Muscles Used When Running

  1. Thanks for the info here. I’m sure that all muscles are used during running. I’m very sore today after running for two miles last night. I probably haven’t run in a month. But I finally got to do it again. Yay! And I’m hopefully going to be able to keep at it. Time is the issue for me, so as long as time lets me. Because it’s so hot, I ran one mile, walked a certain amount of yards, and then ran back the second mile. I’m trying to see about stretching exercises that I can do for soreness. Again, thanks for the info!

    1. You’re welcome, Jennifer. Yeah, I suspect that all muscles are used during any activity, so I could have used “Muslces MOST Used During Running” as the title of this article! Congratulations on starting again after not having run in a month. I like your attitude — that you “got to do it again.”

      That’s interesting what you say about time. I am considering putting together an ecourse about finding time to work out, so let me know whether you would be interested

      With the heat, be especially careful to hydrate properly. (I wrote an article about that recently.) Regarding the soreness, you may want to look at my article about good stretches to do before running.

      “Baby steps” from the movie “What About Bob?” always makes me laugh when I say it, but it is a humorous reminder that sometimes we need to take baby steps — such as when we are running or walking up a hill or — in your case — when we are returning to running. Best wishes for lots of baby steps ahead.

  2. An add on. A well stretched chest muscle is of utmost importance. More than just to be under the head of ‘others in the body”. This is so because the sitting shortens our chest muscles and rotates our back, which causes to pull our shoulder blades in front bringing improper posture and imadequate generation and distribution of energy while running.. Result- injury. Hence Chest muslce is very very crucial.

  3. I have been using this to help me train. I’m in track and field at my high school, and this has really helped me. Thanks!

  4. I was wondering if you knew the dorsal and ventral muscles used in propelling the arm to swing while running. Thanks.

    1. Jake, that’s a good question! I would list the trapezius, pectoralis major, lattisimus dorsi, and deltoid muscles among those involved in propelling the arms to swing while running.

  5. I am on the track team for my school. Last year I sprinted, but I was not good at it. I also pole vault, which I am going to continue. But I am going to train this winter so that when the season starts in the spring I will be able to compete in the one and two mile. I am kinda lost on what I should be doing to train. I am getting a treadmill from my grandparents, so I am going to use that, but what exercises should I do to help me build up the major muscles I would need to compete successfully? I have a major goal to make it to districts and place in at least the top three. I know it is a very large goal considering that I have never run distance before I would not consider myself a good distance runner. My brother placed in districts last year (as a junior) and he joined a gym and is training so that he can make it to states this year. We have a sibling rivalry and I definitely want to outdo him. 🙂 It is only my sophmore year, but if I can place this year I think he will respect me more. They give medals to the top 6 places in each event. Last year the girls who placed in the mile were all under six minutes I think. I am not sure about the two mile, but I am setting out to beat my school record. I think it is about 13:06, but I am not sure. I come from a very small school. I want to get my time to about 12:30. Any tips or advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks. 🙂

    1. Hannah,

      First, congratulations on your athletic endeavors! I hope that you continue to set fitness goals for the rest of your life.

      Second, let me suggest that a treadmill is great for training at slower speeds but can be dangerous at a 10MPH (6:00-mile) pace. You need the option to change your pace quickly when training at such a fast pace, and most, if not all, treadmills, cannot instantly change speeds.

      Third, consider doing some more research about each of the muscles listed in the article. Learn how each muscle helps you. Learn which of these muscles matter most to someone concentrating on running a one-miler or two-miler. Then, target your training accordingly. I highly recommend that you work with a coach, to be sure that you fit your training to your age and to your time goal.


      P.S. If you outdo your brother, then please come back here and post a follow-up comment! 🙂

  6. Great information. Very clear. My problem is a pain in my lower front – at the top of the pelvis. It’s been there all summer. My first few strides are sometimes excruciating, but the longer I run the less I feel it. (I’m not much for drugs, but I’ve been taking advil for long runs the past few weeks.) So, based on your descriptions, I’m guessing the iliopsoas. Does that sound right? And the answer is — stop running until the pain goes away? Unfortunately I’m training right now for the NY marathon.

    1. Alan,

      Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed the information.

      I’m sure that the pain must be frustrating, but I am not in a position to give you any specific advice.

      Instead, I recommend that you check with your primary physician or a sports-medicine specialist to get a solid diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription (perhaps for physical therapy).

      I know that NYC is looming, but you could be right about having to take a break from running. Please check with a physician or chiropractor to see how much of a break you will have to take and what you may be able to do to speed your recovery.

      I wish you well for your recovery, and I hope that, if it’s possible and advised, you make it to the NYC marathon and have a successful run!

      Please come back and post how it all turned out!


  7. Hello! i love your article! it is very informative, actually the most informative one i have seen so far. Currently i am not running.. i have been a runner all my life so not running now is really killing me… The reason i am not running is because when i was going to college i injured my knees. Right after highschool (where i was an all around athlete, :300/100m hurdles,tripple jump, long jump, 2/1 mile, 4×1/4×4 relays) i was recruited to trade tech in la and towards the end of the summer, we were at 100 miles a week for cross country.. So every time i would run i was in the point of tears… It was hard for me to go up and down stairs, sit for a long time, stand for a long time… ect… so now its been approximately 7 or 8 months that i haent ran.My knees still hurt with the same amount of pain.. i have tried to run very short distances, but it just kills me. And cold weather? forget about it … I dont know what to do. I cant live without running, but it has become my kryptonite. What do you recommend? please help thanks! 🙂

    1. Becky, I am glad that you enjoyed my article. I recommend that you look into water running as well as swimming and other cross-training activities. Check with your physician, and see whether you can get a referral to a sports-medicine clinic to get the personalized, professional advice that you need. Best wishes for your recovery!


      P.S. Please post a follow-up comment once you have some news to report.

  8. Went for a run 3 days ago after not running for a few weeks. At the moment I’m half crippled with very sore and stiff lumber muscles.. I’m 65. especially when I get up after sitting for some length of time.

  9. What a great article! I’m a triathlete who has her biking & running down pat (the running event is my strongest). However, my weakness is the swimming, particularly endurance. I think just spending more time practicing in the water will improve my endurance. However, I would like to comment on how quickly you respond to each & everyone’s comments with more useful information that targets each & everyone of their problems….a rarity seen in the internet. I look forward to reading more of your helpful comments and even other articles you may write!

    1. Hi, Debby. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. I have yet to attempt a triathlon, and I admire the athleticism of anyone who can complete one. Although I enjoy swimming, I cannot say that I know anything about preparing for the swimming part of a triathlon such as Mission Bay. Your plan to swim more to build your swimming endurance makes sense to me, though! But, if building one’s swimming endurance is like building one’s running endurance, then you won’t need long-distance swims every single day of the week. By the way, if you become a subscriber, then you will get an email notification with each new article published here. Go to to subscribe.

  10. Hey Kirk! I really loved this article because it taught me many things. I needed all this information for my P.E. Assessment! Thanks so much!
    If you recieved this thankyou letter, say ‘pineapples’!


  11. This is by far the best resource I have discovered on the muscles involved in running and it has helped me largely for my assignment. How can I view the training guide after I’ve subscribed?

    1. Andrea, click the bulleted “Get More Clarity, Get More Happiness!” link in the first message that you receive after you confirm your subscription to the Readers Club.

      Also, if you want to participate in the birthday-month drawings (and I hope that you do!), then be sure to follow the directions at the bottom of that message, so that I have your birthday’s month and day and your postal address.

  12. This seems to be a really good article but i cannot open it at all, it asks me to enter my email address at the top of the page, but i can’t see somewhere to put my email. suggestions?

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