Are you like me and enjoy running as a way to stay in shape? But are you asking yourself does running build leg muscle? That’s a commonly asked question. And the most straightforward answer is a big ‘YES and NO’!
Whether you choose to run in a park or hit a treadmill, the benefits of running are many. But it can only help to carve your muscles to a certain extent. If you are a beginner, you will naturally feel increased strength and muscle. However, if you are an athlete or have been running for a while, you will require performing more activities in addition to running furthers muscle enhancement.
Effects of Running on Different Muscles
The effects of running on leg muscle are fairly well documented. Running is a great way to build up leg muscles and can help improve your overall health and fitness. You can experience some of the following lower body areas improving.
1. Core muscles:
Calf muscles strengthen with each mile you run because they have to work hard to propel your body forward with each step.
Running increases your lean body mass by burning fat and building muscle tissue throughout all the major muscle groups in your lower body — including your quads (thighs). Strength is transferred from quads to hamstrings helping you move forward while running and strengthening low-twitch muscle fibers.
Running is good for your glutes because it causes them to contract and pump blood through them. When your glutes are healthy, they can help support your back, hips and knees. Running also helps build muscle fibers in your glutes by increasing their size. This helps create a strong, durable muscle that will last for years instead of months like other muscle groups may do when exercised heavily.
4. Hip Flexors:
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that are used when running, so they will be worked out during the activity. These muscles connect from your spine to your femur and help you lift your knee toward your chest when you run. A healthy running schedule will maintain the flexibility of hip flexors responsible for an individual’s mobility.
5. Calf Muscles:
Calf muscles are responsible for flexing and extending your ankle joint. The effects of running on calf muscles include increasing strength and flexibility in these areas. This will help prevent injury when you run or play sports.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles in the back of your thigh. They bend your knee and extend your hip. Running is a great way to strengthen and tone your hamstrings, but it also puts a lot of stress on them. If you don’t do the right exercises, you could end up with overuse injuries such as tendonitis or muscle strains.
Understand the different parts of your leg.
Does running tone legs?
Many wonder if simple running can help with toning legs. Yes, regular running will help you get toned legs and butt, depending upon how you run. You must indulge in sprint intervals and High-intensity interval training over simple long-distance running.
Tips and Tricks to build Muscle while Running
Optimizing your time and intensity will always remain the key regardless of where you are in your journey. Here are a few things to keep in mind to reap the benefits of running to its fullest.
Frequency and Duration of Running
You do not need to run for hours to build your leg muscles. What you need is a system in place. However, it may differ from person to person. When considering endurance running, once you exceed a specific mileage, it starts to counteract muscle building. It only damages your tissues and gets in the way of muscle growth. In such a case, recovery may take more than three days.
An ideal and effective way is to incorporate 30-40 minutes of 70-80% of heart rate reserve intensity for 4 or 5 days a week. And if you ask, ‘how much running is too much for muscle building?’ Any form of high-resistance run for more than 20 minutes is not recommended.
Additional Workouts to complement Running
It is always wiser to pair your workouts to target your muscles further. Some of the most effective forms of cardio or recovery workouts that can be paired well with running are HIIT workouts, Swimming, Pilates, Weightlifting, or Yoga.
Practicing cooldown to control your heart rate and avoid waste building is also crucial. This can be done by slow walking for 5-10 mins post running. Check these 5 ways to build leg muscles.
Pros and Cons of running in the morning:
|– Longer-lasting effects of calorie burning. |
– Higher metabolism during the entire day, lower blood pressure.
– Feels relaxing and peaceful.
– Increased fat burn as you are running on an empty stomach.
|– Too much running can result in injuries.|
– Chances of less sleep in the morning.
– Soreness for the rest of the day.
FAQ’s about Running
1. Does running make your legs bigger or smaller?
Any form of exercises that involves muscle strength leads to them growing and getting bigger in size. As running involves your hamstrings, calves, glutes and quadriceps, it leads to developing them to its fullfest when practiced regularly.
2. Does running make you gain muscle, or does it break down muscle?
A high-intensity short duration runs helps you gain muscles, while long distance run for long hours will only damage and injure the muscle making it break down.
3. Does running build muscle in your arms?
The backward and forward strokes while running may help burn arm fat and make the muscle more prominent. But it does not necessarily help to build arm muscle.
4. Does running build abs?
Running may help lose fat from your belly and hip area but it does not help in building abs. You would need to take up other forms of exercise to focus on the formation of arms that help putting pressure and resistance in that particular are.
5. Why do sprinters have bigger legs than runners?
Sprinters engage in high-intensity workouts that recruits full involvement of muscle fibres due to which they often have bigger legs than long-distance low-intensity runners.
6. Other ways to build muscle on my legs
Some of the best forms of exercises to build leg muscles are: Back squats, front squats, hack squats, leg press, leg extensions, hamstring curls and stiff leg deadlifts.
Common Myths about Running
Some of the most common myths related to running are listed below. Do not believe them to be true.
- Running damages your knees. (A big, NO!)
- Run, don’t Walk! (Even the olympian Jeff Galloway takes walking breaks.)
- You need to be able to run a particular distance in a particular time to be a runner. (If you run even for 5 mins, call yourself a runner.)
- Runners can skip strength training. (Beep. No!)
- Running do not require strong upper body. (That’s, false. You need a strong upper body to maintain posture while running.)
- A treadmil run is entirely different from a run outside. (We agree to deny. Even research says it has very little difference.)
- Recoup days will slow down your improvements. (Everything needs recovery and breaks. What are weekends for?)
It is always advisable to understand the difference between soreness and injury. Increasing your intensity and being consistent can help with your soreness but that’s not the case in injury. You need to consult a physician and take proper rest. Remember, too much of anything is never good. Have a plan with variations and stick to it. Do not forget to have fun and enjoy becoming the best version of yourself.
Also read, 4 tips to help you create a balanced workout.