Does Running Build Muscle? (Bonus: 4 Strength Building Tips!)
Running absolutely builds muscles in your lower body, especially in the glutes, hamstring, and quads, as long as you are engaging those muscles in new and challenging ways. The recipe for strength training requires equal parts nutrition, intensity, and recovery.
Hitting the pavement for a nice and easy tempo run may clear out the cobwebs in your brain, but it’s not ideal for strength training. In fact, if you run the same speed on the same track for the same distance every day, you may actually lose muscle mass.
If you long for those strong powerful runner legs that you can use to also crack a walnut between your thighs, check out these incredibly helpful tips and exercises that will make your nutcracker redundant!
The 3 Best Running Exercises to Build Muscle
- HIIT. One of the most popular ways to build strength in your lower body (as well as shed calories at the same time) is High-Intensity Interval Training. This style of training requires runners to run at 85-90 percent of their max capacity. Ideally, you will run as fast as you can for 60 seconds, rest for 30, and then book it for another 60 seconds. Repeat this cycle for about 10 rounds.
- Resistance running. To build muscle, it’s important that you are always challenging your muscles. For killer runner legs, there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned hill. By increasing the incline, you will work those muscles in your lower body in new and compound ways.
- Weighed runs. Adding a little bit of extra weight to your run can also really help to build muscle. I suggest investing in a weighted vest, or weighted ankle or wrist straps (which can get pretty expensive). If purchasing extra equipment isn’t in the card for you, grabbing a pair of dumbbells or any weighted object will work just as well.
- Long-distance runs. Slow-twitch muscles are those smaller muscle groups in your legs that increase endurance. If you find that you can run for long distances without fatiguing as quickly, you can thank those slow-twitch muscle groups. They won’t build walnut-cracking thighs, but they will drastically increase your overall endurance. Going for a modest-tempo run for a few hours helps to build these tiny muscle groups and is essential if running long distances is the ultimate goal.
4 Key Tips For Building Strength
While workout programs play a big part in building strength, what you do after you take your running shoes off is equally important.
As you incorporate high-intensity training into your weekly schedule, be sure to keep these tips in mind to yield maximum results
1. Keep your workouts fresh. No one likes sore muscles, but sore muscles are proof that your muscles are getting stronger. If you find that you just aren’t as sore after a workout session, it means that your muscles aren’t being challenged. If you aren’t as sore the following day, it may be time to switch up your routine, add weight, or amp up the challenge.
2. Be sure to recover between sessions. Sore muscles are the key to building muscle, but you have to give your body time to repair those muscles to make them stronger. Recovery, in this instance, doesn’t mean kicking back on the sofa with a frozen burrito.
On recovery days, I suggest going for a hike, a walk around the neighborhood, or hitting up the treadmill for a nice and easy 20-minute jog.
3. Proper nutrition is important. Fueling your body with the right foods is equally important. If you fill the gas tank on your car with iced tea, you won’t get very far. The same can be said for your body.
For runners, carbohydrates and protein are key. Running burns up a lot of calories, so fueling your body with healthy carbs such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice will replenish those lost energy reserves.
For strength training, protein is equally important. If you want your muscles to have enough fuel to repair after a brutal workout, it’s important that you boost your protein intake. Protein shakes are a great way to infuse a high amount of protein post-run, but whole foods are even better.
Foods like lean chicken, eggs, and fish are great options.
Chocolate milk is also hailed as a great post-workout drink because it provides a good ratio of carbs to protein per serving.
4. Hit The Gym. While it’s not necessary to hit the weight machines at the gym to build muscle, it certainly won’t hurt. You can build killer muscles by sticking to a challenging and engaging running routine, but if you want to see results incredibly fast, adding weight training is a great option.
Weight training such as squats, deadlifts, leg presses, and leg raises are great supplemental workouts to speed up your progress.
How Long Does It Take To See Results
The amount of time it will take before you start to see the results of your hard work depends on a few factors.
If you ensure that you are fueling your body with proper nutrition, you keep your workouts new and engaging, and you reserve time to recover, many runners can start to see their hard work pay off around 6-10 weeks, according to a 2019 study from the Institute of Sport Sciences.
Sticking to varied running schedules, fueling your body with proper nutrition, and giving those muscles time to heal and repair is the best way to sculpt those killer runners’ legs that look like they were chiseled from granite!
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