Will Running Make Your Legs Muscular?

Medically Reviewed on 3/19/2021
Yes, but if you go overboard and the overall caloric intake is not matched
Yes, but if you go overboard and the overall caloric intake is not matched

Yes, but if you go overboard and the overall caloric intake is not matched, running and jogging long distances will most likely chip away the muscle.

However, if cardio involves running sprints or any form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where it consists of explosive movements or even some form of resistance, this may help maintain or even increase muscle mass depending on your training age.

The best way to maintain your muscle mass is through mindful calorie intake and incorporating some form of resistance training. Resistance training is a form of stress that causes the muscles to adapt by creating bigger and stronger muscles, thus leaving you with more muscle mass.

Running seems simple but it puts lots of force and load onto your muscles and joints, so it requires practiced and precise movement. Building up your leg strength will reduce your risk for injury by making muscles and joints stronger and reinforcing proper form.

Running is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Since running is a repetitive exercise with no added resistance, it builds muscular endurance as opposed to strength.

The following are the major leg muscles that build up through running:

  • The quadriceps:
    • The muscles on the front of the thighs are called the quadriceps.
    • These muscles get active whenever you extend your knee. During running, your lower legs move from a bent to a straight position, working the quadriceps.
  • The hamstrings:
    • The backs of the thighs contain the hamstrings.
    • These muscles flex the knees, causing your lower legs to move back toward your butt.
    • While running, this takes place when your foot leaves the ground, and your leg starts moving forward for the next foot strike.
  • The gluteal:
    • The gluteals are located in the buttocks.
    • Hip extension is a motion that involves these muscles.
    • While you run, you build the glutes when your thighs move from a position parallel to the ground to a position behind your body.
    • You will especially notice a contraction of your glutes when you run up the hills.
  • The hip flexors:
    • The hip flexors get worked when your thighs move toward your stomach.
    • You experience this motion after your foot leaves the ground behind you and your thigh comes upward before the next foot plants.
  • The calves:
    • The calf muscles, located at the back of the lower leg, get worked when your toes point downward.
    • This motion, known as plantar flexion, takes place right before your foot leaves the ground and when your heel is in the air behind your body.
    • In a similar fashion to the glutes, the calves get more in action while running up hills.
  • The tibialis anterior:
    • The tibialis anterior muscles run down the front of the shins.
    • They get built up when your toes point up instead of down.
    • This motion is called dorsiflexion, and it takes place when your leg is in front of your body right before your foot lands on the ground.
    • When you first start running, this area can become sore. This soreness is known as shin splints and will go away as the muscles get stronger.
  • The peroneal:
    • The peroneal runs down the sides of the shins.
    • These muscles get worked when your heels are elevated, which is similar to the calves.
    • If your toes were to turn out, the peroneal would get worked harder.

What are the benefits of working out legs?

Legs are the foundation of the body and training them should be a top priority for overall physique and health. Working the legs will not only make you speedier on the track, but it can also speed up your metabolism. To summarize, the leg exercises benefits:

  • Maintains good body symmetry
  • Prevents osteoporosis and maintains good bone health
  • Makes joints stronger
  • Strengthens the core
  • Improves functional movements
  • Helps lose fat
  • Provides better aesthetics and muscularity
  • Promotes better muscle conditioning and body composition
  • Increases strength, making us strong overall
  • Shapes the butt
  • Boosts testosterone levels and growth hormone
  • Boosts self-esteem and confidence

Common leg strengthening exercises:

  • Running, speed walking, and cycling are a few of the best ways to get fit and stay in shape. Running builds endurance, speeds up your metabolism, and burns tons of calories.
  • Squatting is effective in developing leg strength. By activating the quadriceps, the squat may help stabilize your knee and absorb the impact of each landing smoothly without knee pain and fatigue.
  • The deadlift is probably one of the top exercises. As the deadlifts strengthen the hamstring, glutes, and back, runners can benefit by having improved posture, stability, and overall strength.
  • Walking lunges mimics the pattern of running and it trains your body to accelerate forward at a quicker pace while developing coordination and alignment.
  • Calf raises should be a part of everyone’s workout regimen because it helps to prevent fatigue and ensure overall strength.


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Medically Reviewed on 3/19/2021
Duke University. Strengthen Your Legs. https://hr.duke.edu/wellness/runwalk-club/training-education/strengthen-your-legs

Department of Health & Human Services. Running and Jogging - Health Benefits. State of Victoria. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/running-and-jogging-health-benefits