Does Running Build Muscle Or Hurt Gains?


Does Running Build Muscle Whether you love it or loath it, running is one of the oldest forms of staying in shape, burning calories and improving your fitness. But does running build muscle?

Of course, it started back when our ancestors were running away from saber tooth tigers and other extinct animals and they did so more for need than esthetic appearance, but running has always been around.

I’m sure you have heard the debate cardio before or after weights but…

As someone who cares about how you look, should you really consider running though?

Does it help build muscle or does it drag down your potential gains?

We have all the answers to your questions right here. 

Health Benefits Of Jogging

Before diving into how jogging may affect your body negatively, it is important to go over all the desirable health benefits.

For starters, jogging is excellent for the respiratory system. Any and all aerobic activities force your heart rate to increase. This transports more oxygen throughout the body as you push carbon dioxide out.

As you continually exert yourself through running, both your lungs and your heart must become more effective in transporting blood and oxygen through your body. Over time, the respiratory system in your body becomes more efficient in how it transports blood and oxygen.

A stronger respiratory system, in turn, helps with all other athletic and physical activities, including lifting.

You’ll deliver oxygen and blood to your worked muscles in a more efficient manner, potentially improving your lift as muscles recover faster.

Tied directly with the boost in your respiratory system is the improvement within the cardiovascular system.

As your heart beats faster, pushing blood through your body at a quicker pace, your body in return burns additional cholesterol. This reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream. By cutting cholesterol in the blood stream you’ll not only have more room devoted to blood and oxygen, but you’ll become less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

By improving your cardiovascular system, you’ll strengthen your heart, which is a key component to any form of working out. So not unique to running, it is a benefit that works your heart in a different manner than weight lifting.

With the increase in your blood and oxygen circulation, your body will begin to look younger.

In order to help regenerate skin cells, your body needs blood and oxygen circulation. So while you will not turn back the clock on heavy wrinkles, it can help improve your overall complexion and appearance (Healthsomeness, 2017).

Does Running Build Muscle?

When you run, you work different muscle groups.

Naturally, you work most of your lower body, but is this the area you see most muscle gain?

After all, you usually don’t see people with massive thighs and gluteus running marathons. Instead, most are on the slender side. When running, it is actually your diaphragm muscles that are strengthened the most.

This is fantastic news if you are a singer, but you’re not going to head out to the beach and show off your diaphragm.

Running does work your lower body, including nearly all of the muscles within your legs as these muscles, are constantly targeted.

However, running is not going to build massive muscle for a few reasons.

First, the movement is more of an elongated stretch. It stretches the leg muscles, which targets all of the muscle fibers, but it doesn’t put the weight on your muscles as you would with a deadlift. Instead, it is best to look at jogging as you would performing a lift with an extremely light weight.

For example, consider performing a curl with a five or 10-pound weight. You might be able to perform dozens if not well over 100 reps of the weight before you’re maxed out. When you perform the sheer number of lifts, you’re not doing so to gain muscle size.

You’re doing it to help tone your body without adding the bulk. This is essentially what running does to your body. 

Negative Side Effects Of Running?

If you are a regular at the gym, you probably know the other regulars at the gym.

There’s always the guy on the stair stepper, sweating out a giant puddle under the machine. There’s the speed walking girl on the treadmill, who has the full hip sway going (as well as the water bottle belt). And there is this kind of pain, which can come from a sudden increase in distance or speed.

You’ll see the same guys lifting big weights and the girl counterparts who you’re a bit terrified of. You likely know exactly the kind of workouts they do and how they do them. If there is an everyday jogger, you may have noticed they tend to wear additional support around their knees. They may say it’s to reduce tension on their joints, but in reality, it may because jogging is actually breaking their joints down.

It is important to point out that every workout has negative side effects when over performed.

Jogging is no different than anything else. There are some who swear by jogging every day. If they can do this pain-free more power to them.

However, over time, jogging every day can begin to break down your knee joints. 

Your knee joints are put through more stress than any other joints in the human body. These joints are fully flexible and yet must hold up your entire body weight.

This is why so many people receive knee replacements as they age. 

As you run, the cartilage and ligaments in your knees may start to break down.

As the important tissue breaks down, it increases the friction produced by your bones rubbing together. Jogging on cement increases this factor, so if you jog on a regular basis and suffer this kind of pain, you need to pull back, find a low-impact cardio workout and consider talking with your doctor.

Extended jogging can have another side effect on your body. Researchers at the Laval University in Quebec discovered that those who partake in jogging multiple times a week are more likely to suffer from lower testosterone levels.

This is because as it is a casual, repetitive workout, it does not force your body to engage in sudden bursts of strength, which helps increase testosterone.

Running intervals is better with avoiding this kind of an issue. By sprinting for short amounts of time, followed by a gentle jog, followed again by bursts of sprinting, you’ll challenge your heart and force the body into the suddenly charged performance (Telegraph, 2017).

But Does Running Prevent Muscle Growth?

First, to understand how running and jogging may or may not prevent muscle growth, you first need to understand what propels muscle growth.

Nutrition is a key aspect to building muscles.

You also need both carbs and fats to boost your muscle’s ability to recover following the workout. Protein helps build muscle while rest is essential. If you continually work the target muscle area the muscles will not grow.

This is where running and really any other cardio could be an issue.

Running is not unique on its own in regards to how it affects muscle growth, so it should not be singled out. Instead, running and all cardio should be lumped together.

After workout out your lower body, you’ve burned through most of the stored energy you have. Should you decide to go running later that day, the protein, carbs, and fats originally destined to help recover and build the damaged muscles now goes towards fueling your running cardio.

Ultimately, you could be stealing away possible energy from your muscles in order to perform your cardio.

This is why most extreme runners you see are so skinny.

It’s not simply because they burn through so many calories. Over time, the body’s ability to burn calories jogging is reduced but your cardiovascular endurance is getting better.

Instead, the body is thinner because the muscles do not have the available energy to recover and repair your muscles.

So that means you simply shouldn’t perform any kind of cardio, right?

No, that’s not accurate either. It is more about discovering the fine line of too much and not enough.

It is also about finding the right kind of cardio.

Remember how earlier we discussed how jogging is great for the cardiovascular system in that it increases blood flow and oxygen flow?

This is great for boosting muscle recovery and delivering necessary nutrients to your body.

In other words, running can be good for muscle gains and actually improve your ability to build muscle, you just need to know when and how much jogging is the right amount.

When And How Much Jogging?

You need to use jogging as a form of recovery cardio.

Also, you need to determine cardio after lifting or before hand…

However, you don’t want to immediately turn to it. After you spend a day working your lower body, you don’t want to immediately turn to jogging. This time should instead be dedicated to rest and allowing the muscle fibers to repair.

However, the next day is the perfect time to perform cardio with your lower body. As you work your upper body with weights, you can jog, which will not put any strain on your upper body and help deliver more oxygen to your lower body.

Realistically, you should only run two or three times per week. The day after your leg workouts is an excellent chance for you to perform lower body cardio such as jogging. You can also jog on your off days. If you have a heart tracker, shoot for around 100 to 120 beats per minute. As your body becomes accustomed to jogging it won’t beat as fast, which means you’ll need to increase the intensity.

However, you should only jog around 20-30 minutes at a time in order to prevent the jogging from cutting into your recovery and muscle gains.

There is another option though if you don’t want to just jog for 20 minutes a few times a week. Instead, you can look towards something known as Alactic Intervals.

This is where you target the fast twitching muscle fibers of your body and perform short bursts of athletic activities. For example, you sprint as hard as you can for 10 to 15 seconds.

You then rest for five times the length of time you sprinted for, then repeat and do this about five times. When you perform this kind of cardio workout, your heart rate actually elevates after you are done with the activity.

So while you’re running as hard as you can for 15 seconds, your heart is not able to catch up until after you have finished it. This strengthens your heart and yet does not take much out of your energy tank because you’re only going hard for 15 seconds (or a total of 75 seconds, if you’re doing it five times).

With an Alactic Interval workout, you can combine it with other quick burst performances, such as jump squats, medicine ball throws or something else of this nature. The combination gives you a charged up cardio workout without totally emptying your energy reserves, which is necessary for muscle gain.

Essentially, it all comes down to doing it in small quantities.

Whether you decide to run for 20-30 minutes a few days a week or take up the small, short sprint intervals, there are running and sprinting options available that will not hamper your ability to increase muscle size.

Just make sure to take note of how your own body is feeling. If you go in on leg day and you don’t have the necessary energy, yet you’re maintaining the same diet, it means your cardio is getting in the way and you need to take it down a notch.


Cardio is very important when it comes to obtaining your physical appearance goals. 

You’ll blast more calories in the short period of time, which helps in combination with your weight training.

However, you need to be careful with your chosen kind of cardio. 

As long as you’re mindful of what your body tells you, your cardio should not have much of an impact on your muscle gains while giving you the kind of calorie burning boost you need.

-Terry Asher

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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