Running is the most popular exercise on the planet, according to the LA Times. Many also believe that it’s the key to losing fat and that resistance training is what you do when you want to look like Goku.
Yet, what if you wanted to look like Son Goku, but you could only run? Is that even possible?
Can You Get Jacked from Running?
The term ‘jacked’ comes from the gym — literally. “Jacked” is used to describe someone who’s big and strong enough that they could literally replace a jack (such as a car jack). You better have a ton of lean muscle for that job…
In reality, to be jacked, you need two things:
- You need to remove all but the essential excess fat from your body (sub-10% body fat percentage).
- You also need a body composition that can be described as “muscular.” Without good enough muscle tone, you’ll look skinny-fat.
To answer the question if you can get ripped or jacked from running: No, you cannot “get” jacked from running. Sorry to break it to you, but it simply isn’t possible.
Why? Well, there are various reasons.
Running Won’t Grow Muscle Mass
Unless you have a running style that has you slamming head-first into the ground every 5 yards, your upper body is never doing anything. Without resistance training, muscle mass won’t grow and might even deuterate when you’re in a calorie deficit.
That’s because the body responds to external stimuli.
Sure, running might tax the muscle fibers in your legs, such as the ones in your glutes and quads, but your biceps ain’t feeling a thing. So, they’re going to look pretty lanky.
Lifting weights or bodyweight exercises seems to be the best thing you can do to build muscle. You can control the amount of strain the muscle undergoes (mechanical tension) and increase it over time.
By doing so, you’ll be able to actually give the muscle mass reason to adapt. Bigger muscles mean your ripped physique is gonna look miles better.
Running Might Actually Burn Muscle
Burn muscle? Like… How do you burn a steak?
Good joke, but no… not at all.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body will look for energy wherever it can — food, fat, muscle, anything goes. That’s survival 101.
When a bodybuilder diets for a show, they increase their protein intake, and they also proceed to use strength training to retain muscle mass!
A runner, on the other hand, won’t do any interval training or any training that’ll lead to muscle retention. Thus, the body won’t have any reason to retain muscle mass in the upper body. And, let’s be honest, runners who do long distances don’t exactly scream “jacked.”
So unless you consume more calories to cover the energy burnt by running, you’ll burn fat as well as muscle.
But… What If I Love Running?
If you’re the type of person who loves running (or any cardio activity, really, like rowing) and still wants to be jacked… there is a way.
It might not be easy, and it certainly won’t be something that’ll happen overnight, but it is possible. Regardless of the goal, all fitness boils down to three things: Diet, training, and recovery.
Step 1 – Fix Your Diet
So, you wanna run several hundreds of miles while having six-pack abs, big ‘ol biceps, and thighs that’ll tear through your running tights? That last part makes zero sense, but if we only did what made sense, we wouldn’t spend hours of agony getting ripped.
Diet will be the largest determining factor behind your success. If your diet is crappy, you can do all the running you want. Hell, you can run a half-marathon, and you still wouldn’t be jacked.
So, what is “a good diet,” anyway?
There isn’t such a thing. There is, however, a good diet for you.
Individuality matters, and while we can’t prescribe a personalized diet to you, we can give you the guidelines for eating properly:
If you’re trying to decrease your fat percentage, you’ll need to consume 150 – 200 calories less than your maintenance (calculate that here!), thus placing you in a deficit. To gain muscle mass, consume 150 – 250 more than maintenance.
Protein, Protein, Protein
With all the running you’re going to be doing, your calorie intake will be pretty high, as should your protein intake. Enough protein will allow for more fat to be burned and more muscle to be built. At least 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.
Your Fats Matter
The remainder of your calories can be split between carbs and fats. However, at least 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight is needed to ensure you don’t run into health concerns.
Controlling Energy Levels
This might only be for those who really run a lot, but consuming more carbs around your workout or on harder training days might help provide you with enough energy (sometimes called ‘carb cycling’).
Step 2 – Training
To reiterate, running does not build muscle!
Calorie intake can only do so much, but a muscle group in the upper body will not grow unless you train it. Thus, training them with weights is needed…
So, how should a weekly training split look? Ideally, you would want to train each muscle group at least once per week, ideally twice.
Here are some simple examples of how a weekly training schedule could look.
|Option 1||Option 2|
|Monday||Full Body Weights |
|Upper Body Weights |
|Tuesday||Running||Lower Body Weights|
|Wednesday||Full Body Weights |
|Thursday||Off||Upper Body Weights |
|Friday||Full Body Weights |
|Lower Body Weights|
* Note: your training requirements will be completely individual. Full-body training seems to be better for beginners, but you should choose a style you enjoy and that fits your schedule. Off days are completely off, meaning no running and no training. However, you might do some stretching or rehab.
When it comes to weight training, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Aim to get a stronger week-to-week by using progressive overload (using more weights or more volume as time goes by). Make sure you track your progress to make things a bit easier on yourself.
- Unlike running, being tired when attempting a set is bad. Make sure your breath is back before going for the next set.
- Use the lifts that target large muscle groups first.
- Heavy weights aren’t necessarily better. Start with weights you can handle before adding more weight.
Step 3 – Recovery
Now that you’ve sorted out your diet and created a workout plan, we quickly have to create a plan for recovery — something most people don’t do…
Recovery encapsulates everything you do when you finish exercising. This includes sleep, doing your job, stress management, etc. Literally everything.
So, how do you “control” literally everything?
Well, you make sure you get enough sleep. You make sure you don’t train with too much volume. You ensure you don’t bring body fat percentages down below 10% for too long.
You guarantee that your carb cycling has enough high days to combat high cortisol levels. Perhaps instead of running daily, you take a brisk walk some days. You match your daily calorie intake to your daily activity. You shed fat slowly to make the strain of running less.
You go for massages. You remove yourself from stressful environments. You cut unnecessary people from your lives — especially those who keep making excuses for not doing what they said they would. You don’t need that kind of negativity.
Generally speaking, you take a slower pace with life. The body will resist change if you push too hard. So treat your body with respect.
Get Ripped From Running Conclusion
Is getting ripped easy? No. Is getting ripped easier when running? Hell no.
Running is, by and large, a cardio exercise, and there’s no increase in mechanical tension. Thus, you’ll never “force” the muscle to adapt.
That said, it can be part of a fitness plan.
- Running would cover the cardio part, and you’d ideally engage in resistance training 3 – 4 times per week.
- You’ll also need to follow a diet rich in protein that has enough calories to allow for muscle gain or fat loss.
- Lastly, enough sleep will save you a world of pain.
To get jacked, you either need to lose weight or build muscle. Adjust your running volume and daily calories accordingly, lift weights, and sleep a few hours daily (8, ideally).
Simple as that. You’re on your way to having a ripped body at full speed.