Every time you go for a run, you're also getting an ab workout. Yes, it's true: running "challenges and strengthens your core musculature," said exercise physiologist Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, a marathoner and fitness adviser for Bowflex. "The abdominal muscles play an important role in stabilizing the body and generating force while running," he explained. Though running on its own won't carve out a six-pack the way that dedicated ab work and strength training will, both long, slow runs and shorter, fast ones will engage, push, and strengthen the muscles in your core.
Do Different Kinds of Runs to Strengthen Your Abs
Mixing up the kind of running workouts you do will get you the best results in your abs and core, Tom told POPSUGAR. He suggested three options:
- Steady-state endurance runs.
- Sprint intervals, like this interval speed workout.
- Hill repeats, like this hill workout.
The slower, longer runs will aid your core stability, Tom said. They're also monster calorie-burners, which can help you burn fat and make your abs visible. Sprint intervals and hill work are the better ab-strengthening, core-building workouts, although they'll also torch calories along the way. In general, Tom told POPSUGAR, just try to "vary your paces, your intensities, and your distances for maximum benefit."
Incorporate Strength Training and Diet to See Abs From Running
Of course, you have to be strategic when you're mixing muscle-building goals with cardio. Running can lead to muscle loss if you overdo it, which is why it's a good idea to incorporate both running and strength training into your routine to see the best results. (Here's a weekly workout plan that includes both.) For abs in particular, Tom recommended compound exercises like squats and multi-planar exercises such as medicine ball chops. "These are powerful exercises that will significantly strengthen and sculpt your core," he said.
In addition to strength training, you'll also want to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of protein to repair muscles and prevent wasting, fats to keep you satiated, and healthy carbs to keep your energy up. To lose body and belly fat and be able to see the abs you're building, you'll also need to eat in a healthy calorie deficit, focus on whole, non-processed foods, and do your best to curb overeating by eating until you're full, not stuffed. Here's more about losing belly fat with diet and a healthy eating plan to get you started.
You'll also want to do specific, ab-focused workouts. You can even do those core routines in conjunction with your runs, Tom said, adding one before, after, or even during the run by stopping every mile or so for a few minutes of abs. "It's a great way to get in your core workouts while adding variation to your routine," Tom said. Try this 10-minute ab-burning workout or this core session made especially for runners.
Abs don't happen overnight. But you can maximize every part of your fitness routine for peak core activation, engaging your abs throughout strength training workouts and choosing cardio that works your core, such as running. That potent combination, along with a strong diet, puts you right in business to get the abs you want.