Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

While most people associate building muscle with strength training, if you stick to the proper training and dietary guidelines, you can build muscle while running.

It’s probably time to hit the weight room if you want to add muscle to your legs. Your lower body can be strengthened by performing weighted lunges, hip thrusters, and squats. But can running help you build leg muscle if you prefer to do cardio as your preferred form of exercise?

Depending on the kind of exercises you do, running has been shown to increase muscular endurance and power. Enlarging your muscle mass or experiencing hypertrophy? A 2014 study published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews found that, unless specifically programmed, not as much.

No matter what kind of muscle gain you want to achieve through running, the training and workouts you do are essential to achieving your objective.

How Is Muscle Built?

Building muscle boils down to a simple equation: “stress plus recovery equals adaptation,” says Michael Jordan, DPT, a sports physical therapist at MovementX in Alexandria, Virginia

When you put more strain on your body than it is accustomed to, such as when lifting weights, running on concrete, or performing bodyweight exercises against gravity, stress results.

Your body rebuilds your muscles stronger than before as a result of the physical stress you experience during exercise.

In order for your muscles to have time to recover and grow stronger, you must also rest. You may experience muscle aches and find it difficult to exercise to your full potential if you don’t give your muscles time to rest.

According to Jordan, recovery can involve resting or low-impact exercises like walking or light jogging. Muscles will become stronger and more able to withstand physical strain if they are given time to rest a couple of days a week.

Does Running Help You Gain Muscle?

Running is a good way to build muscle because it puts stress on your body as you repeatedly hit the pavement. Running primarily engages the muscles in your lower body, from your hips to your feet.

“Your glutes and your calves are really your powerhouse[s] to push force into the ground,” Running also works your hamstrings and hip flexors, especially when you are accelerating and increasing your strides per minute, according to Jordan.

The muscle fibers that are worked out during various runs are different. The body has both slow-twitch and fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibers.

Longer, continuous exercises like long distance running require slow-twitch fibers. They do not get worn out as quickly as fast-twitch muscles.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers, meanwhile, support motions that call for shorter, more intense bursts of force. You develop these muscles when you sprint or run up hills. They also get tired more easily.

In order to increase your running speed, endurance, and distance, it is advisable to exercise both of these muscles.


How To Build Muscles Through Running

Running is a repetitive exercise, so if your training regimen isn’t varied, its ability to build muscle may be restricted. So, you must continually challenge yourself if you want to keep building your muscles.

According to Jordan, you might actually lose muscle if you consistently run the same distance at the same heart rate.

Including a variety of runs—each of which targets a different muscle fiber—will help you get stronger while you’re running. For instance, to mix up their routine and add muscle mass, strictly long-distance runners might want to add high resistance runs, intervals, and sprints.

Here are some examples of runs to build muscle according to Jordan:

  • High resistance interval running: After five to twelve seconds of resistance running (either on an incline or with a weighted object), switch to 60 seconds of active rest (either walking or jogging). 10–20 times, repeat this pattern.
  • High-intensity continuous training: For five to twenty minutes, continuously run at a low speed while applying a lot of resistance.
  • Sprint intervals: Sprint for 15 to 30 seconds, then take a minute or two to rest. Ten times, repeat this pattern.
  • Long-distance runs: For one to two hours, run continuously. You can develop slow-twitch muscle fibers by doing this.
  • Recovery runs: For 30 minutes, jog or walk. Recovery runs should be incorporated into your workouts so that your muscles have a chance to rest and recover.

Although every runner has a different running schedule, the secret to bulking up is to challenge yourself and vary the types of runs you take. As a way to further build muscle, Jordan advises runners to incorporate weight training.

The Best Types Of Running Workouts To Build Muscle

You probably didn’t realize that strengthening your legs could improve how well you run. After you establish a robust endurance base and introduce a strength-training plan, you can then start adding in speed sessions to your training plan to further improve your fitness and leg strength.

Particularly when it comes to developing muscular power, sprint intervals can be useful. According to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, runners who engaged in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) saw improvements in both their cardiorespiratory fitness and the size of their quadriceps.

Researchers discovered that the participants’ quadriceps grew 10% after taking part in a 10-week interval training program. Comparatively, the running protocol-free control group reported no appreciable changes.

The authors of the study came to the conclusion that, when properly structured, cardio (think of exercises like running or cycling) can be effective for increasing muscle mass, particularly when HIIT workouts are added.

Additional Tips To Build Muscle When Running

Consistency in both your training and diet is essential if you want to gain muscle anywhere on your body. It’s especially crucial to consume enough protein. For the purpose of constructing and maintaining muscle mass, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) advises athletes to consume 1.4–2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.

Also, don’t overlook recovery. Give your body a break the days after your interval training. Depending on how you’re feeling, your version of recovery might even differ from everyone else’s.

One week, for instance, you might engage in some active recovery activities like yoga, cycling, or swimming. These activities all help you maintain joint range of motion while giving your body time to repair and heal. It’s acceptable if you need to take a few days off entirely during other weeks as well. It’s critical to pay attention to your body’s needs.

As it encourages muscle tissue growth and repair, sleep is also crucial for a thorough post-exercise recovery. In fact, a lack of good sleep has been linked to a decline in muscle strength.

Proper Nutrition For Building Muscle Via Running

As crucial to muscle growth as running itself is good nutrition. Your body cannot support the process of building muscles if it is not provided with enough nutrients, particularly protein.


While exercise stimulates MPS, protein enhances it further, promoting greater muscle gains (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

This is why many individuals consume a protein shake at the beginning and end of their workouts.

Consuming 0.64–0.91 grams of protein per pound (1.4–2 grams per kg) of body weight each day is advised by experts if you want to gain muscle. This equals 96–137 grams of protein for a 150-pound (68.2-kg) person (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

The following foods are excellent sources of protein: meat, poultry, dairy, fish, eggs, soy, beans, and legumes.

Carbs And Fats

Especially for anaerobic exercises like sprinting, your body prefers carbohydrates as an energy source.

Diets low in carbs and high in fats, such as the ketogenic diet, have been shown to impair anaerobic exercise performance (14Trusted Source).

Fat tends to serve as an energy source during lower intensity exercise like long distance running (15Trusted Source).

To fuel your workouts and ensure sufficient vitamin and mineral intake, aim to get 45–65% of your calories from carbs and 20–35% from fat (16Trusted Source).

Fruit, whole grains, starchy vegetables, dairy products, and beans are all good sources of carbohydrates, and fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, whole eggs, seeds, avocado, nuts, and nut butters are all good sources of fat.


Body temperature and other physiological processes are regulated by water.

Your individual water requirements are influenced by a number of variables, including age, body size, diet, and level of activity. Nevertheless, the National Academy of Medicine generally advises that men and women consume 125 ounces (3.7 liters) and 91 ounces (2.7 liters), respectively, per day (17).

The water from both foods and beverages is included in these recommendations for adults aged 19 and older.

Most people can stay hydrated by eating a healthy diet and drinking water when thirsty, as well as during and after exercise (18Trusted Source).


Running is a repetitive exercise, so in order to keep getting stronger, you should always challenge yourself and vary your runs. Get the best results by incorporating some interval runs—including sprints and high-intensity runs—into your regular jogs and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any running workouts I should stay away from if I want to develop my legs?

Your overall fitness will differ depending on the type of running workout you do. Running hills increases resistance and makes your muscles stronger, and speed interval workouts can aid in increasing muscle size.

Long endurance runs, however, might not be as effective at increasing the size of the muscles in the legs. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2016 compared different distances (10K, half marathon, and marathon) and discovered that longer distances were linked to more muscle damage.

Long runs are therefore great for increasing cardiovascular endurance, but if bulking up your muscles is your primary objective, you’ll also want to make time for weightlifting. P.S. Strength training on a regular basis can help you stay healthy and prepare your body for the demands of running! How Often Should I Train if I Want to Gain Muscle When Running?

According to research, you need to meet specific requirements in order to build muscle through aerobic exercise. You should aim to exercise for 30-45 minutes, four to five days a week, to achieve enough high-volume, low-load muscle contractions to be comparable to a traditional strength-training workout, according to the 2014 study mentioned above that was published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. The most important thing is to pay attention to your body, take the time necessary to safely accomplish your objectives, and take pleasure in the process. If I want to gain muscle through running, can I forgo the gym?

A 2019 study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that resistance training is the best method for enhancing strength and promoting muscle growth. Additionally, strength training can help you run farther and faster.

Any muscular imbalances are corrected by resistance training as well. Additionally, giving your body a break from running by doing strength training one or two days a week.