Can you still build muscle from cardio?

khelmann Posts: 14 Member
edited January 2017 in Fitness and Exercise
Kind of new to the exercise thing. First 20 lbs lost strictly from dieting. I've read that strength training is obviously the way to go to build muscle, but can you still build muscle with cardio for example walking and running on the treadmill, at least in the beginning stages? I've never been a runner even in my youth but have been doing hiit on the treadmill, will this still tone up the muscles in my legs?


  • Azdak
    Azdak Posts: 8,281 Member
    Your body will adapt to the demands of the activity you perform. A beginner might not have the full muscle strength needed to perform a cardio activity at the the desired intensity. If so that person will notice an increase in strength necessary to do the activity. However, the increase will ONLY be to the extent needed-it will quickly plateau. It is not equivalent to resistance training.

    In addition, feeling "toned" does not mean you are "building muscle". It just means you are getting stronger.
  • Randy391
    Randy391 Posts: 9 Member
    U can build muscle from cardio butttttttttt it takes time. When you run you burn calories therefore the food you eat gets digest quicker. When u build muscle you need enough calories and protein. In your case you're doing cardio. You will gain muscle but it takes time. When u are doing cardio You are basically leaning out your muscles so yea you are building them. If you want toned legs however I suggest you Google "200 squats" and "200 lunges" (I believe that's what they're called) and it sets a 5 week program 3 days a week and I'm telling you rn. It really tones your legs and makes them stronger. Plus if you like that there's more like 100 pushups and 100 sit ups and 100 dips. Its all meant to tone your body and bodyweight workouts are always recommended for beginners to help start them out and help them focus on form. Happy New years!!
  • livingleanlivingclean
    livingleanlivingclean Posts: 11,752 Member
    "toning" to me involves losing fat to make muscles more visible and defined, it has nothing to do with building muscle.

    Running and walking may help you look more toned if you're in a deficit and losing fat, but I doubt you'll build much if any muscle from it. Youll get better at it, and probably feel stronger
  • crackpotbaby
    crackpotbaby Posts: 1,297 Member
    I do my cardio jogging trails with hills and climbing steep stairs in the local nature reserve.

    I've also just started cycling (socially, with my family).

    I am building muscle, I imagine from the resistance of the stair climbing, hills and bike riding ... it's the resistance factor rather than the 'cardio' building the muscle and the fat loss from the cardio making the muscle more visible.

    I do (irregularly at the moment) do some weights too (squats, deadlifts, cleans etc but not very good at remembering to do them so 'cardio' has been the main exercise for me lately. The weights contribute though.

    Here's a pic of my legs to illustrate. Appologies as I've posted this in a few places already

    Although in contrast, an old pic. Left cardio (skating), right heavy lifting + HIIT 44vti57aaaee.jpeg
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,811 Member
    If you are stressing your muscles beyond their current capability then yes you have the possibility of increasing strength and building some muscle as they adapt to the new/increased demands. So a lot depends on your start point. Your comment "in the beginning" is very pertinent.

    Extreme example: I spent 3 months unable to weight bear on one leg and suffered huge muscle loss, regained about 3" of the 5" muscle loss mostly with walking and stairs. But it took strength training to get the remainder back.

    Less extreme example: 8 week intensive cycle training ahead of a big event added 1" to my quad circumference. Lots of hill work in there.
  • fattothinmum
    fattothinmum Posts: 218 Member
    It depends. I did only cardio for a year - running. My thighs and calves got stronger, firm and bigger in an overall deficit, but it did nothing for the rest of me and my glutes never activated. I don't believe cardio alone is enough for many of us. It depends what we want really. With squats and some beginner lifting, even a little glute strength means I run better, so is slowly improving my cardio. Yes, cardio like running can build muscle, but it might not build it where you want it, or give the strength to greatly improve that cardio.
  • mrp56839
    mrp56839 Posts: 159 Member
    I ran several days a week back in 2013-14. My calf muscles were pretty defined and my legs were strong, but I had flattass syndrome. In 2015, I stopped nearly all of my running and started weight training, earning myself a nice booty. Then I started training for a half and, poof. No more booty. I asked my trainer why and he said something about the different kind of something-twitch muscles that are activated by cardio and that I was basically burning off the lean mass that I had built through running at a deficit and it just happened to be in the booty area for me. I stopped running so much for a few months and the booty is back. The scale has been pretty stable for almost a year now, so he might have been onto something.