Not Too Muscle Bound to Run

Suggest to a bodybuilder that they should incorporate running into their training regimen and they are likely to look at you as if you have grown a second head.   A few might even ask why on earth would they want to lose the muscle mass they have worked so hard to put on.  I’ll tell you why because the benefits of running outweigh any potential muscle loss.

Now before you think I’ve lost my mind, hear me out.  It is true that running is a form of aerobic exercise that is effective at burning calories quickly.  It’s also true that bodybuilders have historically avoided cardio exercise for fear of losing muscle and because of concerns that running would add more stress to knees and other soft tissues – areas already carrying additional muscle mass — potentially leading to injury.  However, the truth is that aerobic exercises like running are not going to prevent you from putting on muscle or result in a higher risk of injury, provided you do it correctly.  

Running can actually help with weight training in several significant ways.  It can increase the rate of recovery between workouts.  It can help you to limit any fat gained.  Running can bring on muscle definition faster and it can speed up metabolism which we know helps to burn off fat and condition our bodies so that we can train better and faster.  Finally, running before lifting has the added benefit of warming up your cardiovascular system.  To me, these potential benefits are well worth any small decrease in muscle mass you may encounter. Besides, consider this, wouldn’t you also make up any muscle loss through your continued weight training?

Research suggests that runners typically don’t start to burn muscle until they have been running steadily for around 60 minutes.   Short runs, between 20 and 30 minutes are what you should instead incorporate into your workout.  Sprinting is another great alternative to consider.  The fuel for these short runs will likely come from what’s already in the bloodstream and the energy stored in the liver.  Also, because they are shorter, the likelihood of any breakdown in muscle mass is slim.

Several notable bodybuilders have incorporated running into their workouts. Tom Venuto, Frank Zane, Frank Roberson, and Franco Columbu, a multi -Mr. Olympia have all spoken about running as part of their regiments.  In combination with a regular lift program, it is clear that running can provide a well-balanced exercise program with significant health and wellness benefits for everyone, including those focused on weight training.