Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
Running Leg Muscles In Action
It's not just simply about running!
When training for running it's ideal to know which leg muscles you use while running. Particularly if you hit the gym, you ideally need a knowledge of which leg muscles you need to target and strengthen to improve your running action. By strengthening each of these agonist muscles you can potentially improve your running ability.
What Are The Primary Leg Muscles Used In Running?
The primary leg muscles used in running consist of the quadriceps femoris (The main thigh muscles at the front of the upper leg, hamstring muscles (to the rear of the upper leg), gluteus maximus (your 'butt' muscle), iliopsoas (at the hips), and calf muscles.
The primary muscles used in running are also assisted by supporting muscles which consist of the biceps brachii, upper abdominals, and lower abdominal muscles which help to provide stability for the body during the running gait cycle.
The Running Muscles In Action
The main agonist (primary) muscles used when running
Hip Flexors (often referred to as the iliopsoas)
- The semitendinosus
- The semimembranosus
- The biceps femoris (long head and short head)
Quadriceps (Also known as the quads, quadriceps femoris
- The rectus femoris
- The vastus medialis
- The vastus lateralis
- The vastus intermedius
- The gastrocnemius
- The soleus
Use Of The Hips Flexors In Running
The initial knee lift phase of the running gait cycle is propelled by the muscles at the hips. The Hip Flexors consist of the iliacus and psoas muscles.
Their contraction commences the movement of the thigh up towards the abdomen to initiate the running action.
Key Muscles Of The Leg Used For Running
Use Of The Quadriceps Leg Muscles In Running
Use Of The Quads For Running- Initiating Forward Movement Of The Leg
Your quadriceps muscles are located on the front of your thighs and consist of four different muscles. The rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius.
The primary function of th quadriceps group of leg muscles for running is to extend the knee. Together the muscles combine at the patella (kneecap) which pull through the patella tendon to straighten the leg at the kneecap.
Contraction of the quadriceps group of muscles also lifts the knee towards the chest which has relevance in sprinting to enhance stride length. However this has little relevance for a long distance runner.
The quadriceps have an additional purpose of helping to stabilise the knee upon the foots impact with the ground and the dispersion of the subsequent shock which passes through the body.
Use Of The Hamstrings Leg Muscles In Running
As your leg continues movement forwards the work switches to your hamstrings muscles at the rear of your thigh. The Hamstrings muscles span two joints (the hips and knee) to act in an opposing manner to that of the quadraceps muscle group to allow extension of the hip and flexion at the knee joint.
The key muscles of the hamstrings used in running are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris (both the long head and short head). Each muscle has a separate point of insertion at the pelvis with insertions around the rear of the tibia and fibia.
The hamstrings contract to drive the upper and lower legs in a backward direction. This action is greatly exaggerated in sprinting and the greatest proportion of a runners motion is created at the hip, not around the knee as many beginners tend to assume as excessive knee flexion would be detrimental to the running action.
Use Of The Calf Muscles During Running
Your calf muscles consist of your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. The muscles of the calf are responsible for primarily movement around the ankle joint and the phalanges. While both muscles are considered separate in the usage by many anatomy specialists both muscles join with the highly strung Achilles tendon.
Contraction of the calf muscles pulls on the calcaneum to pull the foot backwards through the action of plantar flexion.
Learn More About Running Anatomy
Want To Know More About Leg Muscle Used In Other Sports?
- Leg Muscles Used During The Bicycling Pedal Stroke.
The leg muscles are used in a different way whilst cycling as opposed to running. This guide shows you how.
ud1093 from ? on June 18, 2013:
do you how much do you have to run daily to make strong thigh muscles.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on December 27, 2012:
Thanks aykianink- this hub is targetted more towards athletes and students looking very very specific information. I've seen a lot of things on the subject on the internet and believe I could improve on it
aykianink on December 27, 2012:
Pretty cool hub. I think it's over most people's heads though. Good info.