Does running give you abs?
Abs are popular. Everybody wants them, and if you take a second to Google the term “six pack” or “abs” you will get thousands of suggestion on how to get abs.
In this article, we will focus on running and I will try to answer the following question: “Does running give you abs?”
Everybody has abs
First of all, we need to agree that everybody has abs or abdominal muscles, as they are called. When we talk about “abs” and “six pack” we are focusing on the visibility of the abdominal muscles.
For something to be visible, two things need to be in place.
It has to be big enough so it can be seen
It shouldn't be hidden by something
So what do I mean by this?
Let’s start with condition number 2
The biggest issue most people have with visible abs is that they are hidden below a nice layer of belly fat. For men, the abs will start to show if the body fat is around 20 percent and become very visible at 15%. For women, we need to stay below 25%.
So the first thing we need to consider is to remove the belly fat so that the abs will show.
Condition number 1
Even though everybody has abs, the size is different from person to person.
Muscle sizes are genetic controlled. This means that everybody can’t get a body like a big bodybuilder, but we can always change the size and strength of our muscles with the right workouts and nutrition. Therefore, even though we can’t get huge we can always change our muscle size to some degree.
When it comes to the abdominal muscles we want them to be as big as possible if we are just out for visible abs.
The bigger the abs are, the higher the fat percent can be and we still will get a nice six pack. On the contrary, if our abs are very small, we need to have a lower fat percent to get a six pack.
So how does running fit into this?
Let’s split it up again in condition 1&2
Big abdominal muscles
Running is a fantastic way to work out. Your cardiorespiratory fitness will benefit a lot from running. But when it comes to building muscles the picture is slightly different.
Muscles need energy to grow, and running also requires energy in order to keep going. Therefore, longer runs and muscle building might not be the best combination. In other words, you will have to be filled up with a lot of energy, which could also result in some fat storage.
More important is the different stimuli for building bigger muscles, especially building muscles for stamina through long-distance running.
When building muscles we want to teach the muscle that it’s too little. And therefore need to become bigger in order to deal with the situation we put it in. We do this through few but heavy repetitions.
For stamina, we want to teach the muscles to administer the energy in the best possible way so we can continue for as long as possible. This is done through many light repetitions.
Finally, running mostly addresses the muscles in our legs. Of course, our abs are involved to some extent, but we do not focus on them.
So when it comes to building big abdominal muscles we might have better options than running. Having said that, it also depends a lot on how long our running sessions are. The best way to prove this is to look at a marathon runner and a sprinter.
For longer distances, a smaller body (smaller muscles) are preferable, whereas a sprinter needs bigger muscles.
What about the belly fat that hides the abs?
Generally speaking, fat is stored in our body when we get more energy than we can use. And we burn fat when we get less energy than we need. Again, this is speaking generally as nutrition has a big impact on how the body stores fat. Simple carbohydrates will easily be stored as fat than complex carbohydrates and proteins. You can read about the six-pack diet here.
If we just focus on the energy intake and usage for losing belly fat we can easily say that running is very efficient.
Running requires a lot of energy, and if we limit our energy intake our body will start to burn fat - it’s that simple.
So to reduce our body fat percentage, running is fine.
So, does running give you abs?
Yes and no 🙂
If we are just looking at getting rid of our belly fat, it’s fine. But if we want to build bigger abdominal muscles, we could find better options.
So what do you do?
Combine your running with some strength exercises that focus on your abs and core - I have some here.
Keep your running to a maximum of 1 hour - preferably 30-min faster run. Or even better, combine it.
Try to run at intervals, as this boosts your metabolism for a long period.
Consider your diet and stop eating simple carbohydrates.