Does Running Build Leg Muscles? (Running Intensity & Muscle Building Nutrition)

Many people associate leg muscle building with strength training, but running is also a muscle-building activity if you stick to proper nutrition and training plans. If you desire to build leg muscles through running, you must challenge yourself to achieve the goal. Running is an alternative worth embracing for those who loath weight lifting but crave building muscles on their lower body. Strong muscles play a significant role in bone strengthening, enhancing body metabolism, managing protracted conditions, and more effortless performance of day-to-day tasks. Primarily, running builds and strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

How Does Running Build The Leg Muscles?

How Does Running Build The Leg Muscles

The way leg muscles are built through running depends on the intensity of your run. Muscle building through long-distance running is different from short sprints. While sprints add bulky and sturdiness to your leg muscles, long-distance running builds leaner muscles suitable for endurance running. Sprints use fast-twitch muscles, while long-distance running uses slow-twitch muscles. This article discusses step by step how leg muscles are built via running. We will also discuss the required nutrition for efficient muscle building on your running legs. But first, let us understand the leg muscles responsible for various running activities.

Slow-Twitch Vs. Fast-Twitch Muscles

When jogging or sprinting, you use either slow-twitch muscle fiber or fast-twitch muscle fiber. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are reputed for exceptional oxygen supply and enduring long-distance running without tiring. However, the muscles are not strong compared to fast-twitch muscle fibers.

On the other hand, fast-twitch muscle is stronger but gets exhausted quickly. It is ideal for sprints. Thus the bulging muscles evident on sprinters’ legs result from fast-twitch muscles, while lean muscles on the legs of long-distance runners are a composition of slow-twitch muscles.


The quadriceps consist of four muscles and are among the largest muscles in the human body. The quads’ responsibility is to lift and extend your knee when running. A fast-running activity such as sprinting requires strong quadriceps, while long-distance running does not necessarily need strong quadriceps. In other words, sprints build bulky muscles in your quadriceps, while endurance running develops lean muscles.


Glutes are the backside muscles of your legs. Sprinters primarily use glutes to help in propulsion. Glutes also give support to the functions of the quadriceps and hamstrings. Exercising glutes minimizes injury incidents to the legs. Recommended exercises to the glutes include squats, back leg lifts, and lunges.

Calf Muscles

When you run regularly, your calf muscles develop tremendously. Remember, the calf muscles are vital since they propel you whenever you take a step forward. Hill running and barefoot running develop the calf muscles better.


Hamstrings play an essential role in long-distance running. The hamstring muscles gain strength when you run regularly. However, if imbalanced, they might stiffen and cause injuries. It is recommended that all lower-body muscles be worked together to attain the required balance. The muscles to be exercised together include the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

For a runner to develop leg muscles safely, it is essential to vary the running training. For instance, long-distance runners should focus on strengthening their calf and quadriceps muscles by hill training and occasional sprints. Likewise, sprinters need to do long-distance runs to strengthen the hamstrings and make them flexible.

How The Body Builds Muscles?  

How The Body Builds Muscles

The main component involved in body muscle building is protein. When muscle protein synthesis (MPS) surpasses muscle protein breakdown (MPB), the body builds muscles. In a nutshell, your body requires to produce more protein than it loses to necessitate muscle building.

Exercises are only used to promote the process of muscle building in your body. Otherwise, diet plays a vital role. However, proteins alone can’t build your leg muscles. You must challenge your legs by engaging in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to build the lower body muscles.

The process of lower body muscle building involves stress and recovery. You stress the muscles by working them out through running intensively, then you rest them to recover, resulting in solid muscles.

Simple High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts For Muscle Building

Below are four sample HIIT workout schedules that help in leg muscle building:

1. Indulge in six sets of 20-second high-intensity sprints punctuated by two minutes of jogging or walking.

2. Try five sets of 30-second high-intensity sprints punctuated by a walk or jogging for 4 minutes.

3. Engage in four sets of 45-second moderate-intensity sprints, then tone it down by walking or jogging for 5 minutes.

4. Attempt four sets of 30-second hill sprints, then walk down the hill slowly.

The above workouts can be modified to fit your experience and comfort level. Depending on how your body reacts, you can increase or decrease the rest time between the sets.

Maximize your chances of leg muscle building by repeating the workouts 3 to 4 times per week.

If you warm up before the workouts and cool down after the exercise, it will help prevent injury and improve recovery chances.

Appropriate Muscle Building Nutrition

. Nutrition plays an essential role in supporting the process of leg muscle building. For your body to support muscle building, it requires enough proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and water.

1. Proteins

Exercises are known to spark muscle protein synthesis, but proteins boost it further, enhancing the required muscle achievement. Thus, it is necessary to drink shakes rich in proteins at the tail end of workouts.

The recommended ratio of protein consumption for muscle gaining is 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight every day. This averages 96 to 137 grams of protein for a person weighing 62 kilograms.

The recommended good protein source include poultry, fish, meat, eggs, beans, legumes, and soy.

2. Fats And Carbohydrates

If you are a sprinter, your primary energy source should be carbohydrates, whereas long-distance runners’ energy sources should be fats. In other words, high-intensity runs such as sprints are well served with carbohydrates, while low-intensity runs such as long runs require fats.

To enhance your workout, aim to consume 45-65% carbohydrates and 20-35% fats.

3. Water

Water in muscle building aims to keep you hydrated and regulate your body’s temperature while on the workout.


For running to build muscles effectively, ensure you consume a balanced diet and take sufficient water to take care of dehydration when doing the workouts.


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