Why Running and Bodybuilding Are A Great Combination

Although not our favorite, running is far more effective than other types of cardio.

Running has long been thought to lose all those gains you worked so hard for in the gym. Many bodybuilders have been conflicted by this, for that hard-earned muscle deserves to stay. There seem to be two camps; those who believe running helps gain muscle faster and those who feel it is harmful for muscle growth. Although a tedious and monotonous exercise to do on the road, and even worse at the gym, the connection between running and bodybuilding is hard to ignore.

The question remains of just how to incorporate both so as to not lose those big gains while also improving cardio and allowing running to be part of your workout routine. High-volume endurance running can lead to a low-protein diet and muscle loss, but when done right, running can benefit you in more ways than one. As a bodybuilder, it is crucial to keep a solid physical and mental state and while lifting big is the fun part, sometimes you must do the necessary evil to maximize your gains.

When done right, you will see all the work you’ve put in on full display and you will feel great in the process. Lace up those shoes and get ready to run because these reasons should be enough to slip running into your workout regiment at least a few times a week.

Running

Muscle Growth

With frequent, long distance runs, it is easy to lose muscle and unless you are training for a marathon or long-distance competition, it is not necessary to do this. By adding running to your workout routine, it is important to have a diet that is high in protein and high in carbs to increase your chances of keeping that muscle on while also getting the most out of running. With higher intensity workouts, the more growth hormones will flow in your system and lead to increased muscle mass (1). By incorporating cardio, in particular high interval cardio, into your workouts, you will lose excess fat and that physique will begin to show (2). Shorter runs or interval training will provide a great alternative to lifting, and with the right supplements, you won’t burn your hard-earned muscle for energy.

Increased Performance

Running, like other forms of cardio, are the best way to build that endurance base to keep you going in the gym for much longer. With increased lung capacity and an efficient heart, your gains in the weight room will improve simply because you have that increased stamina to do so. Recovery is also key to building muscle and that boost from running will increase the amount of blood your heart can pump to those worn-down muscles (3) and help reduce the amount of lactic acid in your body. It can send those vital nutrients to damaged muscles in desperate need of recovery.

Running increases the demand on the circulatory system and makes your heart work hard to get blood to those areas that need it most (4). With poor circulation, muscle cramps and numbness are an unfortunate side effect that can hinder a bodybuilders training. Good circulation will lead to increased performance and enable you to build muscle much faster.

Running

Promote Solid Sleep

Sleep is often overlooked for our busy schedules tend to keep us fighting to get that much needed rest. Although large amounts of caffeine and supplements can keep us awake and getting tasks done, it is a disservice to our muscle growth to deprive our body of well-deserved shut eye. During sleep, the body repairs muscle tissue that was torn during the workout (5). Through protein synthesis, it can also enhance muscle recovery. Testosterone, which is produced during sleep, plays an important role in muscle growth as well so getting the proper rest is crucial to seeing those gains work. With running, or some other high intensity activity, studies have shown it improves our quality of sleep (6). More sleep means more energy for that next day’s training session.

Skip Leg Day? No Problem.

While leg day is important to hit as a bodybuilder, running can reach those muscle groups that may get overlooked, or at least not looked at enough. Running at a steady pace in between weightlifting days can also increase muscle mass and prevent muscle deterioration. Instead of sprinting, a well-placed run in your regiment can be incredibly beneficial for your muscle gains. The increase strain on your legs mixed with a solid recovery session will help your legs pop and make you feel good that you didn’t leave out any muscle groups.

Running

Improve Mental Health

Often times when you are stressed, people will tell you to go for a run. This is because a good run can release your “feel good” endorphins, which when released, can help you deal with stress (7). The increased blood circulation has a powerful effect on your mood and can reduce anxiety and depression (8). Any good athlete knows that mental power is important to possess when faced with adversity. Running will give you confidence and allow you to push through mental walls to get you to the next level. An increased mood and stress-free attitude will allow for better athletic performance, increased sleep, and better opportunities for muscle growth.

Wrap Up

Running can be a difficult exercise to will yourself to start. As a bodybuilder, you may see running as the evil exercise that will diminish and ruin your hard work. But the benefits of running and bodybuilding go hand in hand and when done right, the growth can be great. Higher intensity workouts, like sprinting, are solid exercises to do to boost cardio and give you that much needed energy in the gym. The ability to promote sleep, increase blood circulation, and support mental health are just added bonuses with running. It is important to know your body and to know what works best, but with a solid diet and supplemental regiment, mixed with a great lift and an equally beneficial amount of cardio, your gains and athletic performance as a bodybuilder will shine through and you will look and feel great.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato

References

  1. Kazior, Zuzanna; Willis, Sarah J.; Moberg, Marcus; Apro, William; Calbet, Jose A. L.; Holmberg, Hans-Christer; Blomstrand, Eva (2016). “Endurance Exercise Enhances the Effect of Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Size and Protein Expression of Akt and mTOR”. (source)
  2. Heydari, M.; Freund, J.; Boutcher, S. H. (2012). “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males”. (source)
  3. Bailey, David M.; Williams, Clyde; Betts, James A.; Thompson, Dylan; Hurst Tina L. (2010). “Oxidative stress, inflammation and recovery of muscle function after damaging exercise: effect of 6-week mixed antioxidant supplementation”. (source)
  4. Cantwell, J. D. (1985). “Cardiovascular aspects of running”. (source)
  5. Dattilo, M.; Antunes, H. K. M.; Medeiros, A.; Monico Neto, M.; Souza, H. S.; Tufik, S.; de Mello, M. T. (2011). “Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis”. (source)
  6. Dermack, Rachel (2015). “Long-Distance Running: An Investigation Into its Impact on Human Health”. (source)
  7. Harte, Jane L.; Eifert, Georg H.; Smith, Roger (1995). “The effects of running and meditation on beta-endorphin, corticotropin-releasing hormone and cortisol in plasma, and on mood”. (source)
  8. Dermack, Rachel (2015). “Long-Distance Running: An Investigation Into its Impact on Human Health”. (source)
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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.