Does Running Build Muscle?

Q: Does running build muscle? A: Sometimes.

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about running and muscle building, and doing research online to find the answers you’re looking for can be very frustrating.

Does Running Build Muscle?

Well, the answer can be difficult because too many self-declared experts have conflicting information. What may be true for one person may not be true for the next.

So let’s tackle the more common questions and give definitive answers for each one, so we can settle the matter once and for all.

Does running build muscle? The answer is: it depends on what you mean by “build muscle”. When you run, you use muscles, and those muscles in turn, grow or develop.

Now this development doesn’t mean that your leg muscles will bulk up. What it does mean is that your leg muscles will become stronger, they will look toned, and they will have more endurance.

What muscles are developed by running? When you run, you “push off” from the ground. This extends your ankle and works the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of your calf. These are the muscles connected to your heel bone through the Achilles tendon.

When your foot returns to the ground, you pull up your toes. This works the tibialis anterior, the muscles on the front of your shin.

Does running reduce muscle mass? Running can help you slim down, but it does not reduce muscle mass. It doesn’t burn muscle or use it as fuel.

The only way this is possible is if you’re foolish enough to enter a diet that virtually doesn’t give you any protein at all, while at the same time you perform high intensity workouts for prolonged periods. Now that will really reduce your muscle mass.

But running does tend to prevent any extra muscle gains. This is why a lot of bodybuilding experts counsel against frequent jogging.

How do we explain all those photos of super-skinny runners? The stereotype for long distance runners is rather unfortunate, because we often see stick-thin elite runners in movies, magazines and websites. This has led some “experts” to conclude that running can really make you skinny and reduce all your muscles.

But running did not turn these elite runners into skinny beings. They’re just naturally that way, and genetics is the main reason for it. Crediting running for their slim physique is like thinking that basketball training can make you taller.

And if you see sprinters, you will notice that most of the best ones are truly fit, with muscles that are quite impressive. Check out the female sprinters, and their muscles are truly works of art.

So what does it all mean? Does running build muscle? Well, let’s put it this way: you’re better off lifting weights if you want to build muscle.

Basically, what you need to do is to define your fitness goals. If your first priority is to build muscles, then you have to cut back on your running. The more you run, the more difficult it will be for you to build muscle mass. And you also have to admit that genetics and diet can play a very significant role here. For some people who run, bulking up is possible. For others, it’s not.

If building muscle is your goal, see “Building Muscle for Men and Women” for some great tips to get you going in the right direction.

Strength Training for Runners

Strength training for runners is an important event.

What Does Strength Training Have to do with Running?

On the face of it, strength training for runners doesn’t make sense. Running fast means lessening the weight you carry around, which is why you won’t find any “chubby” world-class runners. In fact, runners tend to be lean and mean machines, especially for those who specialize in long distance running where champions look like they’ve been starving for some time while languishing in a prison camp.

Recently, however, a growing number of the running population has come to the realization that strength training for runners has its benefits. Perhaps one of the most important benefits is that being physically strong helps prevent injuries while running. And not only does it make you stronger, but it also makes you run more efficiently. In fact, it makes you run faster!

It’s important to note however that runners have their own priorities, and these are not the same as those of bodybuilders. Runners need a different strength training program than a football player. So instead of exercises that involve pushing away weight from the body, the exercises runners should perform need to concentrate on working the target muscles that will improve balance.

According to the foremost experts of our time, here are the strengthening exercises runners need to do:

  1. Planks. Do about 3 to 5 reps of these. This exercise will work the muscles in your shoulders, lower back, and core.
  2. Lower Body Russian Twist. Lie with your back on the floor. Your knees, however, should be bent 90 degrees from your body, and your lower legs should be perpendicular to the floor. It’s like you’re sitting down, except that you’re lying on your back. Now keep your legs in this position while you lower them to one side. Return your legs to their original position, and then work on your other side. That’s a single rep, and you need to do 10 to 12 of these. If you find this too easy, keep your whole leg straight, 90 degrees from your body. This exercise will work your core muscles.
  3. Scorpion. Go into the pushup position, but your feet should be resting on a low bench. Now try to raise your right knee to your left shoulder while you rotate your hips to the left to help you do so. Then reverse your hips to the right and try to reach behind your left shoulder with your right foot (which, by the way, is impossible so don’t be disappointed when your fail). Do as many as you can for 30 seconds, and then do it with your left leg. This exercise will work your core and shoulder muscles. If you find it too hard, just do step one. If it’s too easy, place your shins on a stability ball instead of your feet on a bench.
  4. Rotational Shoulder Press. Stand straight while you carry a dumbbell in each hand just at your shoulders, with your palms facing each other. Now stretch your arms as you rotate to the left, and then go back to the original position. Then do the same as you go to the right. The entire sequence is one rep, and you should do 6 to 8 of these. This workout will work your core, triceps, and shoulders. If this is too hard, do just half the reps, or do it without the rotation.

Strength Training for Runners Offers Many Advantages

One of the many advantages of strength training for runners is that these exercises don’t take an inordinate amount of time, and you only need to do them twice or thrice a week.

Strength training offers so many advantages that everyone, no matter what age, and no matter the gender, should do them regularly. If you haven’t done any strength training before, now is the perfect time to do so.

A good place to put together your strength training workout routine is to subscribe to the Newsletter and then follow along with your choice of the yoga, Kettlebell or dumbbell workout series on video. With the individual videos that you’ll find there, you can put together a strength training workout for running alone or focus on general muscle building and endurance. Besides hiring a fitness coach, video is the next best way to learn from.

Walking or Running

What is better walking or running for fitness?

Should You Choose Walking versus Running for Your Overall Health Benefits?

Both aerobic activities are simple to perform and promote weight loss. And both walking and running help regulate a healthy sleep rhythm, elevate your energy levels while awake, and even allow you to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Running and walking can also be social exercises that you enjoy with friends or family members, and you can take a jog or a hike just about any time of the year, depending on where you live.

Walking is Easier on Your Body Than Running

Just remember that if you choose walking over running to improve your overall health, you will need to walk twice as far as you run to gain the same weight-loss benefits. Running is much more rigorous on your body, and burns more calories. But walking is also much easier on your joints since the impact of your foot striking the ground is lessened.

For Beginners Walking is the Best Place to Start

If you are just beginning some type of dedicated physical regimen, walking is definitely recommended, and you can always build up your endurance and physical fitness to include running in the future.

And in some cases, walking can give you many of the same benefits as running, with less downside. For instance, extensive research taken from the Runners and Walkers Health Study shows that both running and walking equally cut down on your risk of contracting age-related cataracts.

That significant body of information, compiled from tens of thousands of runners and walkers, also showed that runners could expect a reduction in the risk of contracting heart disease by about 4.5% by running one hour a day.

Running Beats Walking for Weight Loss

But those who spent that same one hour daily simply walking cut their risk of heart disease by over 9%. Certainly, walking and running both improve your overall health and fitness much more than if you were sedentary instead. So choose whichever exercise best fits your current fitness levels and situation. And for weight loss, running is definitely the better vehicle than walking. That is because of the increased energy expenditure, elevated heart rate and calorie burn.

Before Walking or Running for Exercise – Check With Doctor First

You should always consult a doctor before adding any type of exercise to your daily routine. But both walking and running are excellent ways to get you up and active, and are low-cost activities which you can enjoy even if you only have a limited amount of time on your hands.

There is no argument that running or walking is much healthier than not doing either, so put one foot in front of the other today and begin to enjoy the heart and total body benefits are that these simple but healthy exercises can provide.

Avoiding Bulky Legs While On a Walking Fitness Program

Because muscles have two different types of fiber, some walking fitness programs target one type of fiber better than the other. To avoid bulking up your legs, you want to follow a walking fitness program that targets slow twitch fibers as they do not grow significantly from their current size.

If you choose a program that targets the fast twitch fibers, you stand more of a chance at building up leg muscle than you may not want as those fibers do have the capability to grow in size.

Follow These Five Steps to Keep From Building Up Bulky Legs:

  • When planning your walking course, avoid hills, inclines or stairs. Moving your body vertically emphasizes building up the glutes, hamstrings and calves, which can give you a bulky appearance. Staying on flat land works all of your lower body muscle groups equally.
  • Maintain a proper posture by engaging your abdominal muscles and keeping your head and neck centered over your spine. This keeps your weight evenly balanced vertically across your muscles supporting it, thus not working one group more than others.
  • Don’t walk with added weight. While ankle and wrist weight do increase the number of calories you burn while walking, the additional weight on your ankles can make your large lower body muscle groups work harder thus developing them more.
  • The same advice applies to other things you may carry with you. What you carry in your backpack can add additional weight, so think about what you really need and leave the rest at home.
  • How you walk can make a difference. In a proper walk, your foot should land on the outside of your heel. As your step progresses forward, your weight should shift forward and inward to your arch. At the end of your step, your weight should shift to the ball of your foot and then to your toes where you push off for the next step. If you land on the middle part of your foot, you can strengthen and ultimately enlarge your calf muscles.

For Walking or Running Choose Good Shoes

Of course, having a good pair of walking shoes that fit well and support your arch will make walking properly much easier.

By selecting a walking fitness course that works slow twitch leg muscle fibers and following the rest of the above steps, you can safely burn calories and lose weight without having to worry about bulking up your leg muscles. As you lose weight, your toned and well defined leg muscles will begin to show themselves.

If you’d like to get more out of your walking for fitness plan, check out the “Guide to Setting Your Walking Fitness Goals” for more in depth knowledge on the subject of walking for fitness. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for the free Newsletter to be kept up to date on the latest health and fitness topics.

Why Runners Should Lift Weights

Seasnoned runners know to lift weights to increase their strength.

Many runners, especially those first starting out in the sport, don’t relate weight training to helping them improve or master their new sport. In reality, weight training is critical to runners who want to achieve success.

To get good at running, you have to have these four critical components:

  • good posture
  • body stabilization
  • strength
  • ability to produce strength quickly

Let’s look at each one of these components and see how they relate to weight training.

Good Posture for Runners

Good posture is critical to good running. When you run, your head should be looking straight ahead and your back straight. This keeps your upper body aligned over your lower body. If one gets misaligned with the other, your risk of injury substantially increases. Good posture requires a strong abdominal core. There are several weight lifting exercises that can develop your core.

Body Stabilization for Runners

When you run, the movements of your upper body counteract or cancel out the movements of your lower body; the body is supposed to work this way. But for this counteraction to work at peak efficiency, your abdominal core – the muscular structure that connects your upper and lower body – has to be strong. Weight training develops these muscles in the core.

If your core is not developed, you might be running with either your back arched backwards or pitched forward. When this happens, your hip muscles can’t do their job properly.

Importance of Strength in Runners

As odd as it may seem, when you run faster, your foot is actually in contact less time with the ground than it is when you run slower. So the faster you run, the harder it is on your body to put out that additional force over a longer period of time, which is why strength – especially the core and lower body – is so important. You need more strength to “pick ‘em up and put ‘um down” faster; in the end to run faster, you need more strength, which is where strength training comes in – developing that additional strength in the core and lower body.

Also strength training improves your body’s ability to use energy more efficiently.

Delivering Strength Quickly

We just talked about how additional strength helps sustain you over the long haul, but you also have to be able to produce that strength to run quickly. The muscle group that propels your foot off of the ground is the buttocks or “glutes”. To run faster, you need to have well developed glutes and what better way to increase your glutes than with weight training.

So while you may have thought that as a runner you just need to do cardio training to be able to run faster, as shown in this article, you also need to hit the gym and do specific strength training routines that will improve your abdominal core, muscles in your buttocks and train your body to use energy more efficiently.

Yoga for Runners

This is the yoga pose to do when you practice yoga for runners.

There’s a natural high that comes from dedicated running, and this is due to the production and release of endorphins that can alter your mood and make you feel extremely happy. That’s why many runners push themselves to the limit, and even beyond, to fully enjoy the highly pleasurable effects that come during and after exertion.

But the thing is, too much pushing can lead to physical problems – pulled muscles, cramped nerves, exhaustion, to name but a few. That’s where yoga for runners can step in to prevent such problems from occurring.

Yoga for Runners: The Need for Speed

While not all runs are competitive, runners for the most part, often feel a need for speed. That’s why there are runners who ask how something that’s relatively slow and gentle like Hatha Yoga can benefit people like them who thrive on the adrenaline rush that comes from a strenuous and fast-paced activity like running.

The fact is, there isn’t really much of a contradiction to begin with. That’s because even the most well-conditioned and professional runners still have to contend with the limitations of their physical bodies.

Everything involved in running, every part of your body that receives an impact when you run can get damaged over time by such a demanding activity. Your neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, spine, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, and even the soles of your feet have to put up with the pounding rhythms of a run.

Yoga for Runners: A Therapeutic Exercise

In that regard, think of yoga for runners as a therapeutic break from all the jarring that your body takes each time you go on a run. Yoga deep breathing exercises are good for the lungs and the cardiovascular system. Yoga stretches can promote flexibility and endurance. Yoga meditation can improve focus which leads to steady thought processes. All of these contribute hugely to fine-tuning your runner’s body.

The videos that are an integral part of this guide will guide you on which poses are best to practice on. Familiarize yourself with poses such as the Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana in Sanskrit) and keep on practicing to gain the full benefits of using yoga for runners.

Below is a demonstration video with the yoga pose “Low Runners Lunge”. When doing this runners pose, be sure to work on both your right and left side. You wouldn’t want to be running in circles would you?

Video Demonstration of the Low Runners Lunge – Right:

If you’ve been reading our other Hatha Yoga articles then you already know that you can get access to our full set of yoga poses on video when you subscribe to the Newsletter. Next we’ll work on helping you learn the “Warrior Pose” which like the Runners Pose, cultivates strength and endurance.