Does Running Build Muscle?

October 4, 2012 | Mitch Calvert

Must See Running Videos

I often get asked, "Does running build muscle?" Usually my answer is no, but with a caveat: regardless of the type of training—whether bodybuilder or power lifter, purely for size or strength, or for a particular sport—running has its place. What's key are the type and duration. Long distance running rarely fits in to any of those plans. (Here's how to tailor it for your sport.)

As a power lifter, for example, you're trying to max out your leg strength with low rep squats. Running for miles on end will compromise your recovery and maybe even decrease your leg strength. Some wrongly mistake leaner legs for stronger ones. Although running may trim some of the fat off your legs, it's not likely to make them stronger.

If you're a triathlete or a marathon runner, by all means run for long distances to build your endurance. However, for most athletes who want to run to build muscle and maintain conditioning, there are better alternatives. Long distance runs don't make sense for strength athletes or for football, baseball and hockey players. Those sports require sprinting in 60- to 90-second intervals, so you should train in ways that prepare you for that type of running. How? With high intensity interval training.

This can mean anything from straight up 60- to 100-meter sprints to sled pulls or hill sprints. Sled pulls, for example, mimic a hockey player's all-out 60-second shift on the ice, a punt returner's sprint down the field, or a baseball player's run around the bases. You have the resistance of a defender (in the form of the sled) with the cardiovascular element of a full-out sprint. (See powerhouse RB Trent Richardson's explosive running training.)

You want to build explosive power, and yet still be able to train in the gym and build muscle during your down time. Try running five miles a day combined with daily strength training in the gym, and see how quickly you burn out. Also, the calories you'd have to consume to grow muscle would be significant, considering the calorie deficit created by the run.

So does running build muscle? With a combination of HITT (running in sprints) and weight lifting, you can build the endurance required for your sport without cutting into the strength gains you need to make to last you through a long season.

Mitch Calvert
- Mitch Calvert, born and raised in Canada, chose a life of health and fitness eight years ago, transforming himself from a severely overweight teenager to...
Mitch Calvert
- Mitch Calvert, born and raised in Canada, chose a life of health and fitness eight years ago, transforming himself from a severely overweight teenager to...
Must See
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 9,430,417
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 85,034
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 546,452

Featured Videos

Abby Wambach's Med Ball Core Workout Views: 187,099
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 12,178
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 5: Fundamentals Training Views: 220,234
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,842
Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose
Views: 3,539,378
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,865,919
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,784
Johny Hendricks Workout Overview
Views: 822,554

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Are You Ready for the Arctic Enema?

9 Things Every Trail Runner Should Have

Get Geared Up for the Wall Jump Obstacle

7 Tips to Help First-Time Marathoners Avoid Common Mistakes

10 Fresh Running Destinations in the U.S.

Running Tips for True Beginners

Are You Ready for a Tough Mudder?

Weight Training for Runners: 3 Full-Body Moves

Be Ready to Run a 5K in 6-8 Weeks

The Exercise Every Runner Must Do

6 Best On-the-Go Snacks for Runners

Learn the Secrets of Tapering

Maximize Your Trail Running

An Introduction to Strength Training for Runners

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Ran My First Marathon

3 Things You Must Do Before Trying Minimalist Running Shoes

Don't Choke on Race Day: Tips to Run a Better Race

How to Control Your Breathing During an Obstacle Race

5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Run

Why Jogging Is Counterproductive

7-Year Old Triathlete Sets 5K Record

You're Doing It Wrong: Running

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

10 Fresh Tunes for Your Running Playlist

Off-Season Triathlon Training Tips and Workout Program

4 Steps to Win Your Next Race

Ultramarathon Runner Stephanie Howe's 7 Training Secrets

Tired of Tiring During Runs? Try These Jogging Pace Drills

6 5K Tips for a Great Running Experience

5 Un-Smooth Habits That Ruin Runners

Hunter McIntyre Rises Above the Competition

5 Keys and A Workout Plan for An Awesome 5K

The Obstacle Course Racer's Guide to Fixing Muscle Cramps

How to Design a Running Schedule That Fits Your Life

3 Crucial Strength Principles Endurance Runners Should Follow

The Most Effective Form of Endurance Training

Guide to Common Running Terminology

5 Questions Runners Should Ask Themselves During Every Run

How to Prepare for the Spartan Race and Other Mud Runs

STACK Challenge: Army Two-Mile Run

7 Endurance Tips From Ultramarathon Runner Ian Sharman

How to Start Your Barefoot Leg Workout

8-Week Spartan Beast Training Program