Running With Weights Won’t Build Your Muscles: Here’s Why

Building muscles is an essential part of being an athlete. This is true not only true for strength athletes but also endurance athletes such as runners. Many new runners have a misconception that simply running with weights will give you muscle gains in an effort to hit two birds with one stone.

However, running with weights provides little benefit in muscle gain because it does not overload your muscle. Building muscle requires overloading different muscle groups and subjecting them to time under tension which running does not provide.

Ahead, we’ll talk about the things you need to build muscles. We’ll also discuss some best practices that runners do to build muscle and strength.

What You Need to Build Muscles


Muscle building is an endeavor that interweaves diet, fitness goals, and weight training. These are all integrated into a training plan that you should follow as a guide towards healthy muscle build-up.

When building muscles, a good diet consisting of carbs, proteins, and fat is necessary. Carbohydrates are responsible for fueling your body during the workout in the form of glycerin. Protein is great as it aids in replenishing damaged muscle tissues and maintaining muscle growth. Lastly, some healthy fats are useful for hormones that are responsible for inducing growth.

Progressive Overloading

Another thing needed to build muscles is a workout centered on progressive overload—a gradual increase in your training intensity or volume.

The idea is to challenge your muscle so they will adapt and grow. This can only be done by lifting heavier weights or subjecting your muscles to longer time under tension.


Finally, to grow muscles you have to do this consistently. A good program should be able to initiate overloading without risking overtraining.

Why Running With Weights Won’t Build Your Muscles

Running with weights is not an effective way to build muscle since the gains are minimal with this method. Instead of increasing your strength, running with a vest is known to increase cardiovascular endurance

However, the same goal can be achieved by just running normally, and you do not need other gear to reach new heights. 

You will be better off doing regular strength training rather than using weights while running. The gains will be much better, and progress can be seen easily. 

Not only that, but you will be sure of which muscle groups you want to develop, and can switch between push, pull, back, and leg exercises on any given day. This avoids one-dimensionality during training.

Also, running with weights greatly increases the risks of injury not just to your legs but also to your back and hips. 

This is due to the greater load that your body needs to take just to compensate for the weight. You might develop stressful conditions such as patellar tendon tears and tendinitis.

Lastly, is that running with weights simply tires your body more than regular running. This means that you are less likely to participate in further muscle exercise and run routines during the day, and halts your development as a runner and athlete.

Also read: Why Running With Weight Vest Won’t Make You a Fast Runner

Do Runners Train With Weights?

Long story short, professional runners at the elite level such as Eliud Kipchoge do not run with weights. This is because it is a high-risk, low-reward activity that is deemed unnecessary at the highest levels. Instead, they make use of a good nutritional diet, multiple intense runs, as well as strength training to support their running performance.

Many runners rely on weight training giving emphasis to their glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves instead of running with weights which can result in overuse injuries.

How Runners Can Build Muscles

Resistance Training

The most effective way to build muscle is through resistance training. Just as the name suggests, it’s loading your muscles against resistance. It could be in the form of body weight, machines, resistance, bands, or free weights.

Some good strengthening exercises are deadlifts, squats, and presses. They not only increase your overall strength and improve your physique, but they also strengthen your core which is very important for runners.

Strength or resistance training can increase your impact threshold, and protects your body from further damage. When inserted into your running training program, then you will have greater benefits.

Terrain Changes

Another great way to build your leg muscle is to run on different terrains with different slopes. This can be in a form of running uphill and downhill to increase the resistance and challenge your muscles in a new way.

In research done by Minetti, it was found that higher gradients when running lead to more energy expenditure and added demands for muscles.

The same research also states that energy efficiency is also affected by the type of ground you step on. A softer ground means more energy costs while a harder ground conserves more energy.

Thus, you can safely elevate your running performance by taking extra effort in changing up where you run instead of running with weights.

Diet and Nutrition

Exercise is not the sole contributor to muscle growth. Good nutrition is as important as having a good strength program. Thus, maintaining a good ratio of carbs-to-protein is the way to go. Generally speaking, you should have 3 parts of carbs for every 1 part of protein to facilitate muscle growth and gain enough fuel when running. 

Food that fits this recommendation well includes pasta with chicken, beef bowls, and even salmon with rice. You also need an ample amount of hydration to go with this diet, so making use of electrolytes in sports drinks is also a good idea.

Also read: What to Eat Before a Marathon (From a Week to a Few Hours)

Does Running With Weights Tone Your Arms?

Running will tone your arms by reducing your overall fat, but it will not build muscles in your arms. As stated earlier, building muscles require overload and specificity. Running does not provide any of those.

That said, your arms will only be as toned as your underlying musculature. If you have well-developed muscles underneath a slab of fat, running could help you reveal those.

Final Thoughts

Running with weights is not a good strategy to build muscle mass. if your goal is to build muscle, then you should start doing resistance training and put yourself in a caloric surplus to support muscle growth.

Running with weights only increases the difficulty of the run, but it does not provide progressive overload and increase time under tension which is needed to induce muscle growth.

Hey, if you’re looking for the perfect running gear and you’re having a hard time choosing one, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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