Does running build muscle?
Going for a run can either complement or detract from a strength training program. It all depends on the type of running. If you compare the bodies of sprinters and distance runners, you’ll notice that a sprinter’s body is pretty muscular and distance runners look like they need directions to find the weight room.
Running’s impact on musculature is correlated to the energy system powering the body. And the energy system the body uses depends on the intensity and duration of an activity in progress. (See YOU Docs: Boost and Maintain Energy.)
Energy System Breakdown
No energy system works exclusively at any given time. There is always an overlap between them for virtually any activity.
- Oxidative System: Powers aerobic activity, generally for longer durations (i.e., over three minutes) and lower intensity (e.g., for long runs)
- Glycolytic (a.k.a. Anaerobic) System: Bridges the gap between low and high intensity activity of moderate duration (about 30 seconds to three minutes in length)
- Phosphagen System: Supplies energy for short high-intensity activity for short durations (less than 30 seconds)
How to Make Running Enhance Strength Training
Although research shows that aerobic training can reduce muscle size and strength, cardio is just as important as strength training. To make your running complement your strength training, try high-intensty interval training (HIIT). It’s more efficient than long, slow runs and will better support your strength and power training and performance.