Does Running Build Muscle in Your Arms?

Running can build muscle in our legs, but does it build muscle in our arms?

Running does not build muscle in our arms.

Running can burn fat in our arms and make our arm muscles more visible. But it does not necessarily build muscle strength or size. 

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Books You Should Check Out

The Obesity Code” by Jason Fung, MD


The ‘Obesity Code’ is one of the most highly recommend books for losing weight and maintaining a balanced weight. Your arms will definitely look more toned and refined when you follow the guidance in this book.

You Are Your Own Gym” by Mark Lauren

Bodyweight Exercise Book

I highly recommend Mark Lauren’s book above. I have the kindle version and I used to use it religiously for years. He knows what he is talking about, my arms definitely got more definition and I got stronger throughout my whole body.

My Experience

When I was young and running on my high school track and cross country teams, I noticed that the only way that my arms would get more muscle was by doing resistance training. I could maintain or build muscle mass or strength either by doing push-ups and pull-ups or by doing a variety of exercises in the gym.  

If I went long periods where I just ran and didn’t do any resistance training, I would lose a lot of upper body muscle. And the most significant loss of muscle was in my arms.

Resistance Training will Build Muscle in Your Arms

Resistance Training

The only way to build muscle or improve strength in the arms is to create more resistance so that the body can produce more muscle tissue. 

Running, especially long-distance running produces very little resistance for the muscles in our arms. 

The repetitive nature of running makes it so that we can endure long durations with our biceps being contracted.  After months of training, we can endure the running position needed for our arms to expend less energy output.

Like everything in nature, our bodies are trying to perform more efficiently for the stress we put on them. 

So, when we run our body will optimize our electrical network so that we efficiently conserve energy.  If we need more strength in a certain part of our arms, our bodies will provide that strength via building up a certain part of our muscle or fascia. 

Does Building Muscle in Your Arms Help You Run Better?

Run Faster with Stronger Arm Muscles

The simple answer to this question is yes. 

The more strength that we have in our arms will help us to endure longer runs. Stronger muscles in our arms will help us to propel our bodies forward when we are sprinting or picking up to a faster tempo.

There is a limit of course to how much muscle you build in your arms and the benefits of running with excess weight. But reaching those limits would be very difficult unless you are extremely dedicated to building muscle in your arms. 

Strength and speed are very closely connected to how fast we run. But weight also plays a factor. The heavier our bodies are the more energy we have to expend to push it through the air. 

Do You Need to Strengthen Your Arms to Run Faster?

Entire Body Strength for Running

Being stronger and flexible is usually a very good thing. But, running faster and running over long distances does not require a lot of muscle in our arms. 

Yes, we do need to strengthen our arms to run a little faster and maybe run a little bit further. But, the majority of our strength will come from our core and our legs. 

Focusing on exercises that will create more mobility and strengthen our muscles around our core will give us huge gains in our running speed and endurance.  Also, strengthening exercises for our legs will greatly benefit our ability to prevent injury.

Having a stronger core and stronger legs is beneficial for almost every sport. If I were wanting to run faster and run for longer I would put my attention on gaining strength and muscle in my legs and my core. 

As I’m writing this article, I am focusing on strengthening my entire body.  

I do push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. 

What are the Benefits of Strengthening Your Entire Body for Running? 

Full Body Pull Up for Running

When we look at our bodies as an entire system we come to a better understanding of why it’s important to strengthen everything from our toes to the top of our head.

We have connective tissue that runs from the tip of our feet to the very top of our head. It’s called fascia. And in some parts of our body, fascia is stronger than any muscle. 

Won’t perform any exercise our bodies will strengthen our fascia and muscle. When we do exercises that strengthen everything from our legs to our neck, we are creating a better environment for our bodies to work in coordination and perform better at any athletic pursuit. 

Running is very natural, but it can cause stress on our bodies. Strengthening your entire body will help to mitigate the stresses that running can put upon you. That is why I recommend doing total-body resistance training. If you have a trainer at a gym or a coach that can give you a cross training workout plan, take advantage of it.

I personally subscribe to doing bodyweight exercises. I find that it’s more convenient to do bodyweight exercises. And there really is no need to do more than bodyweight exercises unless you have an injury or have a specific problem that you are working on. 

How do You Build Muscle in Your Arms for Running?

One Arm Push Ups

This is a very simple process. I recommend you ask a personal trainer or a medical professional to give you specific advice for your body. But, from my experience and the experience of many friends, you can do a few simple bodyweight exercises.

1 Push-Ups

Push-ups will work your triceps, shoulders, and chest. The closer you place your hands next to one another, the more you will work your triceps.

There are literally hundreds of variations of push-ups that you can do. But I recommend doing the basic push-up we all learned in PE class. If you are not able to do that you can do a push-up variation where your knees are on the ground while the rest of your body remains straight.

For those of you who are more advanced, I highly recommend one arm pushups. These will work out almost every part of your body. One-arm push-ups target the core chest, triceps, and shoulders. 

2 Pull-Ups

Pull-ups will work your biceps, back, shoulders, and chest.

There are many variations of the pull up that you can do as well.  If you are not able to do a full pull up, you can try Scapular Pull-Ups. I have a short YouTube video that shows you how to do this.

For those who are much more advanced, you can do one-arm pull-ups. You can also add weight to your waist if you need more resistance.

In Conclusion

Running does not build muscle or strength in your arms.

Running can help you tone the muscles in your arms due to the repetitive nature of running. You may also lose fat in your arms and throughout your entire body if you run more often.

If you do want to build muscle in your arms I recommend seeing a personal trainer or a medical professional to give you a personalized training program.

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