Here is a quick look at what muscles are used and what muscles are neglected in the running motion.
I want you to better understand which muscles to focus on during your cross-training sessions.
Muscles Used for Running
- Quadriceps- The quadriceps or quads is a four pronged muscle and is located on the front of the thigh. Its primary job is to move the hip joint and the knee joint — specifically to flex (bend) the hip and to extend (straighten) the knee.
- Hamstrings- The hamstrings is another four pronged muscle located at the back of your thigh. All four parts in the hamstring move the knee joint and three of the four move the hip joint.
- Gluteus maximus or glutes- The gluteus maximus is one of the three gluteal muscles and is the most superficial and largest among them. It is also 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 and to extend the hip.
- The iliopsoas- also called the hip flexors — is actually a muscle group that comprises two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas major. The iliopsoas — with the psoas major doing the majority of the work — supports hip flexion.
- Calves- are usually seen as a muscle group that comprises the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The purpose of the calf muscle is to plantar flex the ankle and to flex the knee.
Muscles Neglected in Running
Here are some areas that aren’t used as heavily for running that you shouldn’t neglect:
- Hip abductors and adductors- these muscles move your leg away from the midline of your body and toward the midline.
- Gluteus medius is often overshadowed by the larger and more powerful gluteus maxiumus however it also plays an important role in stabilizing the pelvis. It works closely with the iliotibial band which is a thick band of fascial tissue (tendon) that extends from the hip across the outside of the knee to insert into the large shin bone. This tendon often causes tightness and knee pain when neglected.
- Vastus medialis is one of the quadriceps muscles near the inner thigh and it works to stabilize the knee. Those who struggle with runner’s knee need to focus on strengthening this muscle.
- Back- The muscles of the lower back help propel you forward and the muscles in your upper back help you maintain an upright running stance. Slumping forward decreases your ability to run efficiently, requiring you to exert more energy.
- Core- Your core is the foundation from which all movement is initiated. It includes approximately 29 pairs of muscles including all the muscles of your midsection and hips that support your spine and allow you to flex, extend, and rotate your trunk and hips. The phrase “core training” is often thrown around and many runners know this area is important, but some still haven’t included core training in their weekly routine.
Since these muscles are not used as much in the running motion it is important that you incorporate cross-training on your non running days. A marathon training plan should call for this.
In my next post I’ll share some specific exercises you can do to strengthen this muscles.