There are three types of muscles used when running:
The “Primary” Muscles
The “primary” ones used in running include:
The quadriceps femoris — also called the quadriceps or the quadriceps extensor or the quads — is actually a muscle group that comprises several ones on the front of a thigh, including:
- The rectus femoris
- The vastus medialis
- The vastus lateralis
- The vastus intermedius
A quadriceps muscle group on a thigh moves two joints — the hip joint and the knee joint — specifically to flex (bend) the hip and to extend (straighten) the knee.
The hamstring comprises four on the back of the left or right thigh, including:
- The semitendinosus
- The semimembranosus
- The biceps femoris long head
- The biceps femoris short head
All four in a hamstring move a knee joint — specifically to flex the knee.
Three of the four in a hamstring move a hip joint — specifically to extend the hip. Because the biceps femoris short head crosses only one joint — the knee — it does not participate in hip extension.
The gluteus maximus is one of the three gluteal muscles, is the most superficial and largest among them, and is the primary contributor to the shape of the buttocks.
The primary purpose of the gluteus maximus is to maintain the trunk of the body in the erect posture — that is, to extend the hip. This explains why other primates, which ambulate on all fours, tend to have much flatter buttocks than the buttocks of humans.
The iliopsoas — also called the hip flexors — is actually a muscle group that comprises two muscles:
- The iliacus
- The psoas major
The iliacus, which is the shorter of these two, originates on the iliac fossa of the ilium (on the pelvic crest) and attaches on the femur (the thigh bone). The psoas major originates on the T-12 to L-5 vertebrae (of the spine) and attaches to the femur.
The iliopsoas — with the psoas major doing the majority of the work — supports hip flexion.
The calf muscle — considered by some anatomists to be a single muscle called the triceps surae — is usually seen as a muscle group that comprises:
- The gastrocnemius
- The soleus
The purpose of the calf muscle is to plantar flex the ankle and to flex the knee.
The “Supporting” Muscles
The “supporting” ones used in running include:
- The biceps brachii
- The upper abdominals
- The lower abdominals
The biceps brachii — also known more simply as the biceps — is a muscle on the upper arm whose purpose is to rotate the forearm and to flex the elbow. Because running is more efficient when the elbow is bent, the biceps brachii supports running.
The upper abdominals comprises the muscles in the upper half of the abdomen.
The lower abdominals comprises those in the lower half of the abdomen.
Together, the upper and lower abdominals support the core strength that runners need for maintaining good posture, which is crucial for maximizing performance and avoiding injury. Because running can cause a lot of rotation of the spine, it is important to have strong upper and lower abdominals to stabilize the spine and to minimize the dissipation of energy during the transfer of power to the extremities.
The “Auxiliary” Muscles
Some would say that technically there are no “auxiliary” ones used in running. But others would point out that your entire body is involved when running and therefore that you could list ones such as these:
- The external intercostals
- The internal intercostals
The external intercostals aid in forced inhalation.
The internal intercostals aid in forced exhalation.
And the list could be supplemented with others in the body, such as those that help you to keep your head erect while running.
What This All Means
The more that you know about the muscles used when running, the better you will become at strengthening and caring for them!
One More Thing
Knowing about the muscles used when running is only part of the key to your happiness as an endurance runner.
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