Can you run to build muscle?

Categories: TRAININGPublished On: March 15th, 2024

We’ve heard of running as a method to help lose fat more than once, but this time we present it as an exercise that will help you gain strength and size.

And it’s not the running itself, but rather how it’s done that will provide one result or the other. If we spend a fair amount of time racing at medium or low speed, our goals are sure to be different from someone who does series of short sprints. Could this be useful for bodybuilders as a method to build muscle? I firmly believe it can, as long as it is carried out the way we propose here.

Let’s quickly explain that our muscles have various types of muscle cells or fibres. Basically, we can divide them into two large groups: the red, slow and oxidative fibres and the white, fast or glycolytic fibres. What happens is that, depending on the type of effort we want to make, one or the other set of fibres is activated. Red when we do things that have little difficulty (or intensity), although they last for up to long hours, whereas white when we make very demanding efforts, but in return we can’t do them for more than seconds or a minute at a time. The former preferably consume fat, the latter glucose.

The former carry out a kind of effort called aerobic, whereas the latter perform an anaerobic effort. Once this is explained, we’d like to point out a fun fact about these two types of muscle mass: the red hardly hypertrophies, while the white can get to be several times its original size. Now we understand why a bodybuilder’s standard physical activities address the white fibres mainly. We only concern with the red if we need to improve our cardiovascular condition or are trying to burn fat.

And this is where we hear about running for bodybuilders. Of course, we’re not talking about running several kilometres as a way to improve muscle size and strength, but rather about anaerobic race training. It will produce considerable benefits, not only in terms of helping to gain size, it will also help improve muscle coordination and separation, improve your nerve connections, boost the production of anabolic hormones and help prevent injuries.

The ideal running plan for a bodybuilder is the following:

Ultrashort sets: Only 50 metres or less; do 10 sets of pure sprints with breaks of two-three minutes, twice a week.

Short Sets: Up to 100 metres at most; do 8 sets of continuous sprints of several seconds with breaks of 3-4 minutes, twice a week.

Slopes: Choose smooth slopes at the beginning and increase over time, no more than 40-50 metres; do 6-8 series with breaks of 3 minutes, once or twice a week.

Shuttles or Swings, i.e.: to run from one side to the other as fast as possible with efforts of at most 10 seconds. They will mainly help improve your joints, your sense of reaction and your speed. Do 6-8 sets twice a week with 2 minutes recovery between sets.

The way I propose this method, would be introducing it into volume training, added to the functional hypertrophy cycle. If you don’t work with this periodicity, you can add 6 weeks of this training once or twice a year and see if it’s useful to you.