The majority of people will think of running as an exercise that causes you to lose weight. This is due to the fact that running burns a lot of calories, and this has caused running to be thought of as something that reduces muscle size and definition.
While weight training is the best way to build leg muscle, running is great for building muscle too as long as you follow the principles of muscle growth, which is increasing resistance and difficulty with good nutrition and proper rest.
It’s also important to note that building leg muscle can be done in a variety of ways, and while weight training such as squatting and leg pressing will definitely help grow your leg muscle, enduring that your gain functional and enduring leg muscle requires a good amount of running to build up the connective tissues and tendons that support the larger muscles.
So, yes, running does build leg muscle and depending on the regime you follow, your rest, and nutrition you could see excellent results by incorporating running into your fitness routine.
In this guide, we’re going to look at how running can build muscle as well as some great techniques to use to help refine your running regime and mix in some extra challenges that will really help you sculpt your legs.
But first, let’s take a look at how muscle is built.
How are Muscles Built?
Building muscle is a process with several different phases, and each of these phases needs to be given the proper respect and care.
The first and most obvious element of this process is working out, or putting strain and stress on your muscles. Doing this will cause trauma to your muscles as they work incredibly hard to meet the demands you are putting on them.
The next phase of this process is the recovery phase. A quality period of recovery with proper nutrition allows the muscles to heal, and the strengthening process begins here.
As the muscles heal they increase in strength and mass, building the muscle in the process, as they adapt to be able to more easily deal with the stresses your body is being put through by your training.
While the most efficient process for achieving these results is weight lifting, running can also follow these principles to build muscle, providing you stick to the core, rudimentary elements of the process.
Can Running Build Muscle?
Yes, it absolutely can. But to do this you need to be putting in the proper amount of effort. The stress of your body impacting the pavement, as well as the repetitive and demanding movements of running put stress on your muscles that forces them to adapt.
The glutes and calves particularly benefit from this process as they are the driving force behind most running.
The key to building up your strength and power through running is to ensure that you target the fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers to get a full workout of your muscles.
Fast twitch fibers are the muscle fibers that handle fast and powerful movements. These fibers tire more easily but are much more responsive and stronger.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are slower to move but don’t tire as easily, and these are the fibers most often targeted by cardiovascular exercise such as running or cycling.
Ensuring that you target fast twitch fibers by incorporating sprints into your running regime will really help muscular development.
Techniques to Improve Leg Muscles While Running
There are a few different types of running you should mix into your routine to ensure you get a well-rounded workout and build your muscles evenly.
Let’s look at some of the best examples of different types of running workouts you can do to overload your muscles and add stress to your workout;
High intensity continuous training – This type of running is done with a high resistance at lower speeds for five to 20 minutes and a good example of this would be trail or hill running.
Sprints – Sprints adds a unique challenge to your running routine and can be done in intervals to really build anaerobic fitness, recovery times, speed, and power.
High Resistance Interval Running – This type of running is done with some form of resistance such as a weight vest or heavy backpack and is often done in short bursts of 10 seconds with 60 seconds of active rest. This is very similar to fartlek training.
No muscle can be built without proper nutrition and there are some key points to be aware of if you want to build quality mass.
The key to muscle recovery is protein. A high protein diet that’s low in fat and simple carbs is the best way to build lean mass, maintaining definition while building muscle.
There are tons of different diet plans out there and not everything will work for everyone, but the throughline of all the different variations is that no muscle can be developed without adequate protein.
Protein shakes are a good option if you don’t eat a lot of meat or can’t afford to eat a lot of meat. Beans, pulses, and nuts are a good alternative for vegetarians and also include a lot of good fats and protein.
Running is one of the best forms of exercise, and not only does it improve cardiovascular endurance, but muscle mass and definition as well as the strengthening of core and stabilizing muscles throughout the body.
When used correctly, running can build leg muscle and add definition to key areas such as the calves and is a great way to mix up your workout routine and cut fat, exposing muscle you already have.