Does Running Build Leg Muscle?

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If you are planning on trying out a new form of exercise, you might be thinking of going for a good run. Now, you are probably aware of the fact that running has many benefits, both for your mind and body. With that being said, one of the things that many people wonder is whether or not running builds leg muscle.

After all, running is known as a cardiovascular exercise, or in other words, is designed to help you increase your cardiovascular health.

It’s definitely a good option if you need to increase your endurance, stamina, and your heart health, but what about your muscles? So, does running build leg muscle? As you could probably assume, this fairly vigorous type of exercise is going to build leg muscle. Let’s get to it and figure out exactly how this happens.

How Does Muscle Grow?

Before we can talk about whether or not running builds leg muscle, it’s a good idea for you to know how muscle grows. When you work out, your muscles get slightly damaged. In other words, very small tears known as micro tears occur in your muscles.

Every time you work out, these micro tears occur. Then, after you work out, your muscles repair themselves. Your body replaces or repairs damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process known as hypertrophy.

Muscle fibers get fused together to form new muscle protein strands, which are more numerous and bigger than they were before. This results in muscle growth.

Simply put, whenever you exercise your muscles, you actually break them down a little bit, which then causes them to grow back bigger. Yes, running is a form of exercise, and if you do it vigorously enough, it could very well have benefits for your leg muscles.

Does Running Build Leg Muscle?

The fact here is that yes, running does build leg muscle. Just like any other form of exercise, running also breaks down the muscles in your legs. Primarily, running builds muscle in your legs, not in the rest of your body.

When it comes to your legs, your glutes, quadriceps, thighs, calves, and hamstrings are the primary muscles that are worked out. With each step you take, all of the muscles in your legs are worked out.

When you challenge yourself by running harder and faster, those leg muscles are going to get broken down more and more. The more you challenge yourself by running, the more those leg muscles get broken down, and therefore the bigger they grow back.

So, the simple answer to today’s question is that yes, running does build leg muscle, and you can actually do so quite effectively. This is especially the case if you follow the tips that we are about to provide you with below.

Tips for Building Muscle by Running

Right now, we want to take you through some of the very best tips that you should follow when it comes to building muscle through running.

Challenge Yourself

The most important thing to follow here is to always challenge yourself. Of course, muscle grows when you challenge yourself. Your muscle isn’t going to grow if it doesn’t get tired. If you don’t feel your muscles getting very tired, exhausted, and painful, chances are that they aren’t going to grow very much.

After all, this is how muscles grow through weight training, which is the number one way to grow muscles. You have to constantly challenge your muscles to the point of failure, so you break them down as much as possible.

The more you break your muscles down, the more they grow afterwards. Therefore, seeing as running isn’t the number one best muscle building exercise out there, you do need to challenge yourself the whole time. The more you challenge yourself through running, the more your leg muscles will grow.

Generally speaking, this means running faster and longer. If you feel like either your pace or distance aren’t enough to really challenge you anymore, then you want to take things up a notch. Never let yourself plateau, and always keep yourself challenged. This will help ensure that your leg muscles keep growing.

Does Running Build Leg Muscle

Try New Things

If you are planning to build muscle in your leg through running, there are a variety of things you can do to increase the difficulty level. For instance, you can try running hills.

If you think that your quadriceps and calves hurt now, just wait until you try running up some really steep hills for an hour. That is going to absolutely shred the muscles in your lower body. Running hills is one of the best ways to grow muscle quickly when it comes to running.

If you really want to build some muscle quickly, you can always try doing some high-intensity training. By running extremely fast for short bursts of time, you’re going to greatly challenge your muscles. This could indeed lead to creating muscle growth.

Something else you can always try doing is attaching some weights to your body. You could attach some ankle weights or a weighted vest. You could even use a backpack with some dumbbells in it if you so choose.

The bottom line is that the more weight to have on you, the more weight your legs have to hold up, and the more of a challenge you will be faced with. If you strap on an extra 100 pounds of weight to your body, it’s definitely going to challenge those leg muscles. In fact, that would be like a combination of cardiovascular exercise and weight training.

Let Your Muscles Recover

One of the biggest mistakes that all too many people make when exercising is not letting their muscles rest and recover.

Rest and recovery is an important part of the muscle growth process. This is because after your muscles get broken down, you need to rest to let them heal and grow bigger. If you do not let your muscles rest, they can’t grow bigger.

In fact, if you keep exercising the same muscles day after day, without letting them rest, the results might actually be negative. If you keep breaking down your muscle fibers without letting them repair, you might actually be causing damage to your muscles.

Therefore, if you are a beginner runner, don’t run for more than one or two days at a time before taking a break. If your muscles are already in a whole lot of pain, there’s no point in pushing them further until they have recovered at least a little bit.

Diet Matters

The other thing to keep in mind is that your diet does matter. If you expect to build muscle, you need to consume a lot of protein, carbohydrates, and branched chain amino acids. If you are really looking to build some muscle, consuming at least one gram of protein for every pound of body weight is recommended.


The simple fact of the matter is that running does build leg muscle. Now, running probably won’t build as much leg muscle as if you are squatting heavy in the gym. However, it’s still better than nothing for muscle growth. Moreover, if you follow the tips listed above, you should see significant muscle growth in a limited amount of time.

Read also: Does Jumping Rope Build Muscle?

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