Can Running Give You Abs?

fitness goals

“Can running give you abs?”

This is one of the most common questions I get from readers and friends alike.

Here’s the truth. Trying to build a six-pack while running is a goal worth pursuing.

But as in life as it is in fitness, you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.

In today’s article, I’ll outline the relationship between running and abs.

More specifically, we’ll look at:

  • The function of the core when running
  • How to strengthen your core muscles
  • How running helps
  • And so much more

Sounds great?

Let’s lace up and dig in.

Does Running Give you Abs

The short answer is no, running alone won’t help you build toned and sculpted ab muscles.

In fact, if you took up running in the hope of someday having the stomach of an MMA fighter, you’ll be actually heading in the wrong direction.

With the right training approach, proper diet, and a few other things, running is the perfect complementary activity.

Let me explain.

Why running?

Cardiovascular training refers to any continuous exercise that increases the heart rate for a set period of time—and running is, by far, one of the best, maybe thee best, go-to option.

Logging the miles is convenient and can be done anytime and anywhere. In fact, if you can walk, then definitely you can run.

At roughly 100 calories per mile, it should come as no surprise that one of the main reasons people take up running is to lose weight and slim down.

As you lose weight, your body composition changes, and you’ll experience an improvement in the definition of your abs.

What’s more?

Running not only engages the muscles of your body, but your core muscles are also put to work.

But that’s still not enough to build an awesome six-pack.

Your running intensity, duration, diet, as well as cross-training workout all have a say on your six-pack building results. Yes, building the core is a multifaceted approach.

How To Build Abs While Running

Let’s look at some of the things you need to do in order to build the core of your dreams while logging the miles.

The way you run has the greatest impact on your ab muscles. All in all, if you’re looking to build a sculpted core while running, high-intensity interval runs are the way to go.

High-intensity interval training consists of a short, intense burst of cardio activity—anywhere from 20 seconds to two minutes in length—divided up by recovery periods.

Research has shown that this form of training builds the muscle for runners, with drastic gains reported in muscle groups of the lower body.

This is because intervals boost the production of the growth hormones in charge of burning fat and preserving muscle, even hours after your session.

That’s not the whole story.

Intervals not burn mad calories and build muscle but also keep your metabolism high for long hours after your workout. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn.

A good example of a simple speed workout is to try 15 20 reps of 100m sprints at the local track, with 30 seconds of walking breaks between sprints, following a 10-minute dynamic warm-up (like this one).

How Often

If you want to get toned abs while running, hit the pavement at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes. Just don’t too much too soon, especially if you’re a beginner and/or haven’t done any speed work before.

Your Genetics

Genes play a major role. In fact, not everyone is genetically liable to have a sparkly six-pack. It’s not you; it’s just your DNA. Nothing personal.

Just keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world—you’re still can run and reap all the benefits. And that’s what exercise should be about—not just good looks.


You cannot outrun a crappy diet—no matter how fast you can get.

That’s why the miles alone are not enough. Sooner than later, you’ll have to eradicate those extra calories from your diet.

Even if you log in 60 miles a week, your belly fat won’t go away if you keep eating French fries and donuts all day long.

Of course, nutrition alone, again, won’t sculpt you into that perfect body, but it plays a major role.

Here are the diet rules you need to follow:

Eat Enough

Eat enough calories to satisfy your body’s needs, but not enough to keep nourishing your excess body fat. This, of course, is easier said than done, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

In other words, if your ideal body weight is 160 pounds, follow a nutrition plan that sustains 160 pounds of body weight.

No more. No less.

No Junk Food

To stop going over your daily caloric allowance, stop eating processed foods. Instead, consume food in its most natural and raw form. This means lots of vegetables, lean proteins, fresh fruits, as well as healthy fats and grains.


Protein is key for muscle growth, which can significantly impact how your body readjusts to training, especially during the recovery window—the hour following a workout.

As a general rule, shoot for 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein for each pound—based on total body weight. Again, protein needs depend on many factors. For example, the harder and longer you exercise, the more protein your body will need to sustain your efforts.

High-quality sources of protein include lean meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, and quinoa. Your muscles will thank you. Believe me.

Strength Training

To get sculpted abs, you’ll need to train your core muscles with strength exercises.

The key to core-focused exercises, like bridges and planks, and do them on a regular basis.

That’s right. Developing a strong core is a multifaceted task. Your approach should also be!

To Conclude

So, to conclude, if you want to build your abs while running – think like a sprinter. Do plenty of speedwork workouts, whether it’s intervals, hill reps, or fartlek. Your diet and cross-training workouts also matter. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

David D.