People often wonder why their legs are getting bigger from running. The common thought process is aerobic training only slims the body and does not make it grow, but this is not the truth for many. The main reason has to do a lot with your body type and the number of calories you are consuming.
Running, just like any form of exercise, utilizes muscles to create movement and propel your body forward. One major reason to consider with how running builds muscle is the type of running you do.
Distance and intensity counts a lot when it comes to muscle growth. Running is just not for cardiovascular health as many people think, but it does not simply increase the size of your legs like resistance training does.
What does Running do to Your Legs?
This type of exercise activates the primary muscle groups in your legs known as quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes as well. These large muscle groups when targeted become stronger and tear the muscles microscopically, which encourages muscle regeneration causing your legs to get bigger.
Bigger does not necessarily mean in size where your pants will not fit.
Slight changes will be seen in the size of your legs, but without enough calories and more intense running your leg muscles do not increase drastically. Instead, you can see them become more defined and the muscle separation is apparent.
You would need to perform sprints instead for bigger muscle development. Alternatively you can increase your long distance running tempo faster and slower instead of maintaining the same pace all the time.
So does running make your legs bigger this way?
The answer is yes it may make it bigger if you either do sprints or perform running interval training unless your body isn’t genetically designed that way.
Bigger Legs depends on your Genetics too
Genetics are what you are born with. In terms of body development, this is the ability for your body to change naturally without the use of modifiers such as steroids.
A lot of change has to do with the amount of different muscle fibers you have called slow twitch and fast twitch.
Without giving you an entire anatomy lesson, the easiest way to understand these fibers are slow twitch enables you to have more endurance. Slow twitch fibers do not grow as big and give the lean appearance more. An example are long distance runners.
Then fast twitch muscle fibers encourage more explosive strength naturally. You will see bigger muscles if you have fast twitch muscles more abundant, and the size changes easier than slow twitch.
An example for this would be sprinters. They can accelerate fast under short distances, but longer runs are difficult to accomplish.
You can train your muscles to adapt and force change by various training methods as your body becomes stronger. Not everyone who was meant to squat heavy was born that way, and the same applies to all long distance runners. The process will take longer to adapt, but you can make changes if you push your body to change overtime.
When out of shape it is hard to tell at first which type of body you have, but overtime if your legs are getting bigger and long distances are not easy, then you can most likely assume you have more fast twitch muscles in your body.
Normally the legs will begin to slim down first before any muscle starts to show if your carrying extra body fat. As they begin to slim you can start seeing muscle definition until body fat is at an athletic level.
After this point, you will not see leg growth as significant because muscle does not increase as quickly as fat does.
Other Ways to Make Your Legs Bigger and Stronger
If you want bigger legs then running is not your only option. You can also perform exercises to develop your legs that isolate the lower body, which place muscles under more tension for progress.
The best exercises to add in a few times per week are squats, lunges, and step ups.
If you have been wondering how to make your thighs bigger, then these exercises are definitely needed.
This exercise primarily uses your quads, thighs, and hips to execute the movement. Glutes become more involved if you use resistance, or pre-activate them with exercises such as kickbacks.
Lunges require a lot of quad, thigh, hamstring, and glute use. These are great if trying to strengthen your knees as well. You can perform them stepping back or forward.
There are executed when you place one of your feet on a higher elevation and step up controlling your balance. They also improve knee and core strength while utilizing your quads, hamstrings, hips, and calves.
All the above three exercises can be performed without weights if desired, and in the convenience of home as well.
However, if you want bigger changes you need to use more weight instead of just using your body weight. So instead of bodyweight squats you can do dumbbell squats or barbell squats.
Its always recommended to start with bodyweight exercises and after few weeks you can progress to dumbell squats or barbell squats.
Aside from exercise, the amount of calories you consume makes a difference. An active person who exercises regularly is going to burn more calories.
This is good for fat loss only, but if you want to see an increase in leg size from running then calories need to be consumed more than what is being used.
Muscles use protein to repair and grow during protein synthesis. Without enough protein being consumed they just cannot grow very much because your muscles need this to make everything successfully. You will also feel sore after your runs with a lack of protein intake.
You do not have to drink multiple protein shakes or anything to eat beyond what you need. All nutrients can have negative effects when consumed excessively and not just the well-known carbohydrates.
Also, you are giving your muscles nutrients to grow and not just recover only. The main reason most people do not see muscle growth is because not enough food is being consumed, and eating in a deficit for too long also does not support fat loss well either.
Supply your metabolism with energy by eating enough food daily for both fat loss and bigger legs.
Running Equipment for Legs
There is actually resistance equipment available for you to use in leg development. Adding resistance supports the use of muscles more than normal, but does not necessarily mean you will be able to run longer either as this is based on endurance.
First thing you should do is to decide if you want more growth or increase endurance.
The three types of equipment you can purchase for different running variations are resistance bands, weighted vest, and ankle weights.
1. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The one that you would want is called a stride resistance band, which attaches to your thighs and stay in place while you run.
These are more for sprinting or short distances instead of doing miles of running. However, this is still great to utilize before the distance runs or as an accessory to your running program. They build up speed, strength, and leg development.
2. Weighted Vests
Before executing on a run, you should test and see if your muscles and joints are strong enough to carry the extra load. You can do this by performing squats and walking with the weight on. Normally they do not exceed 20lbs in resistance and can be adjusted.
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3. Ankle Weights
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The last one to consider are ankle weights. These are a bit mixed in opinions on to use or not, but many see results in leg development from their use. Definitely wear these for walking instead to get used to the resistance just around your ankles. After some acclimatizing to the equipment you can start going for jogs instead of walks.
So Does Running Make Your Legs Bigger?
You can see from what was covered that there are no definitive results from running unless your body is designed that way to grow.
A lot of this has to do with how you run, eat, and just if you are meant to have a bigger pair of legs.
The easiest ways to make your legs bigger are mixing all of the above tips together.
Running only is most likely not going to make your legs much bigger. There is no resistance being added in enough to increase the use of muscles after they have adapted to the distances being ran.
Consuming more nutrients may help for a short time, but resistance or more sprinting is needed to actually see leg development.
Running on a calorie deficit is going to help keep your legs slim if this is what you prefer. Muscle will develop in place of the fat being lost, but will not grow too much beyond normal.
Instead, this will give the lean look instead of bigger legs.
Enjoy running and give some of the ideas that we have covered a try if you want to build bigger legs.
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