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Can running and cardio build muscle? Your questions answered

muscle legs running up stairs to showcase the article asking "can you build muscle from cardio"

Many people believe that running is only good for cardio and weight loss, but can it also help build muscle? The answer is a bit complicated, but the short answer is yes. Running can help build muscle, but it depends on how you approach your running workouts.

Sprinting can help build muscle

The type of running that is most effective for building muscle is known as sprinting. As we all know, sprinting involves running as fast as possible for a short distance, such as 50 or 100 meters. Sprinting is an explosive movement that requires a lot of power, which means that it can help build muscle in your legs, glutes, and core.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that sprinting increased muscle mass in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes of the study participants. However, the study also found that sprinting did not increase muscle mass in the calves or the upper body. This means that if you are looking to build muscle in your upper body, you may need to incorporate other types of exercises, such as weight lifting.

Hill sprints help to build muscle

Another type of running that can help build muscle is hill sprints. Hill sprints involve running up a steep hill as fast as possible and then jogging or walking back down to the bottom. Hill sprints are similar to regular sprints in that they require a lot of power and can help build muscle in your lower body.

In addition to sprinting and hill sprints, running can also help build muscle if you incorporate resistance training into your workouts. Resistance training involves using weights or resistance bands to provide additional resistance to your muscles as you exercise. By adding resistance to your running workouts, you can help build muscle in your legs, glutes, and core.

athlete running up a hill to demonstrate how hill sprints can help build muscle

Add some resistance to your running

For example, you can try running with ankle weights or wearing a weighted vest. These types of equipment can add resistance to your running, making it more challenging and helping to build muscle. However, it is important to start with a lower weight and gradually increase the weight over time to avoid injury.

It is also important to note that running alone may not be enough to build significant muscle mass. Building muscle requires a combination of resistance training, proper nutrition, and rest. Without these three components, your muscles will not have the resources they need to grow and strengthen.

Nutrition and resistnce running is key to potential muscle growth

In terms of nutrition, it is important to consume enough protein to support muscle growth. Protein is essential for repairing and building muscle tissue. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, and dairy products. It is also important to eat enough calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle growth. If you are trying to build muscle, you may need to eat more calories than you burn in order to provide your body with the energy it needs to build muscle.

Rest is also essential for building muscle. When you exercise, you create small tears in your muscle tissue. These tears need time to heal and repair, which is why rest is so important. Make sure to give your muscles time to recover between workouts by taking rest days and getting enough sleep.

The world of personal trainers (those people who struggle to count to 10 when counting your reps) is also 50/50 on running as a muscle building exercise. One un-name PT from a national UK gym chain said


“Running can definitely help build muscle, but it’s not the most efficient way to do so. If you’re serious about building muscle, incorporate resistance training into your workouts.”

National Gym Chain Personal Trainer

Running CAN help build muscle, but it depends on how you approach your running workouts. Sprinting, hill sprints, and resistance training can all help build muscle in your lower body, but it may be necessary to incorporate other types of exercises to build muscle in your upper body. Remember to also focus on proper nutrition and rest to give your muscles the resources they need to grow and strengthen. So, whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting out, running can be a great way to build muscle and improve your overall fitness.

Andy Barr
the authorAndy Barr
Editorial Lead
Andy was late arriving into the world of fitness, running and training. He did not really take up regular gym going until he was in his late 30's. He lost over 7 stone in weight since starting and completed an olympic length triathlon in June 2018. He enjoys playing football, boxing and outdoor running.

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