Can You Get Abs from Running? Discover the Connection Between Cardio and Core

Can I get abs just by running?

Many fitness enthusiasts ponder the question: can you get abs from running? The short answer is yes, running can effectively help you develop a stronger core and potentially reveal a set of toned abdominal muscles. However, achieving visible abs isn’t solely dependent on running, as factors such as body fat percentage, nutrition, and complementary exercises also come into play.

Through engaging in various running workouts, individuals can target their core muscles, leading to an improvement in overall strength and stability. Incorporating steady-state endurance runs, sprint intervals, and hill climbs into your running routine can be highly beneficial for developing those sought-after abs. It is important to remember that combining running with a balanced diet and additional strength-training exercises will further enhance the likelihood of attaining a toned midsection.

While running alone might not guarantee washboard abs, its significant contribution to calorie burning and overall fitness levels make it an essential component of a well-rounded workout plan. By focusing on more than just the mileage, incorporating variety into your running regimen, and paying attention to nutrition, runners are more likely to see progress in their quest for a sculpted core.

Running and Abdominal Muscles

Engaging Core While Running

Running is an effective way to engage the core and develop abdominal muscles. While running, the body uses the core muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis. This means that an intense running session can effectively work the abdominal muscles, contributing to a stronger and more developed core.

Impact on Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis, often referred to as the “six-pack muscle,” is the most visible of the abdominal muscles. When running, especially during speed sessions, this muscle is engaged to help maintain posture and balance. As a result, runners can see improvements in the strength and tone of their rectus abdominis muscles over time.


The obliques consist of internal and external obliques on both sides of the abdominal region. They are responsible for rotating the trunk and supporting the spine. Running can work effectively on these muscles by engaging them in stabilization and weight transfer motions. With consistent and proper running form, the obliques can become stronger and more defined.

Transverse Abdominis

The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles, wrapping around the torso and providing stability to the spine. While running might not directly target this specific muscle, it does help strengthen it by engaging the entire core. A strong transverse abdominis can lead to better running performance and reduced risk of injury.

In summary, running is an excellent way to work on the core muscles and develop strong abdominal muscles. By engaging the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis muscles through regular running sessions, runners can potentially see improvements in their overall core strength and muscle definition.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Running

Fat Loss and Calories Burned

Running is an excellent way to burn calories and achieve fat loss. During a run, your body utilizes energy in the form of calories to maintain your pace and propel you forward. As a result, the more you run, the more calories you burn, which can lead to a reduction in both body fat and visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat surrounding your organs, while subcutaneous fat is the fat stored just beneath your skin.

Consistently engaging in running can help you create a calorie deficit, ultimately leading to fat loss. However, it is important to remember that diet and other lifestyle factors also play a crucial role in achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition.

Increased Metabolism and Heart Rate

Running not only helps burn calories during the activity itself but also increases your metabolism even after you’ve finished your workout. This is known as the afterburn effect, where your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate for an extended period after completing a run. This contributes to additional calorie burning and fat loss over time.

In addition to boosting metabolism, running also has a positive impact on your heart rate. As a cardiovascular exercise, running increases your heart rate, which in turn strengthens your heart and improves your overall cardiovascular health. Maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system is essential for overall wellbeing and can lower the risk of many health issues.

By incorporating consistent running workouts into your routine, you can experience numerous cardiovascular benefits, including fat loss, increased metabolism, and improved heart health. However, remember that it is also important to combine running with other forms of exercise, such as strength training and flexibility exercises, as well as a balanced diet to achieve optimal results.

Incorporating Strength Training and Core Exercises


Planks are an effective core exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back. To perform a plank, start in a push-up position, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground. Hold your body in a straight line, with your core engaged for 30 seconds or more. Planks help develop a strong and stable core, which can improve running posture and overall athletic performance.


Squats are another important exercise for runners, as they target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core muscles, all of which are involved in running. To perform squats, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and lower your body as if sitting in a chair. Keep your chest up and make sure your knees don’t travel past your toes. Perform 15-20 reps for 2-3 sets to effectively incorporate squats into your strength training routine.

Abdominal Crunches

Abdominal crunches can help increase core strength, essential for maintaining proper running form. To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet firmly on the ground, and your hands behind your head. Raise your upper body toward your knees while keeping your lower back pressed into the ground. Perform 15-20 reps for 2-3 sets to effectively target your abdominal muscles.

Resistance Training and Cross-Training

Resistance training and cross-training can enhance running performance by building overall strength and conditioning, including core muscles. Resistance training typically involves the use of free weights, resistance bands, or gym machines to target various muscle groups. Cross-training might include activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga, which can help improve muscle balance and flexibility.

By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can improve core strength, enhance running performance, and potentially develop more defined abdominal muscles. Remember to always consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.

Interval and High-Intensity Running


Sprinting is a form of high-intensity running that involves short bursts of maximum effort followed by periods of rest or lighter activity. This type of running can be integrated into high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which are effective for developing strong abdominal muscles as well as improving overall fitness.


Another form of interval training is Fartlek, which is Swedish for “speed play.” This type of workout involves varying the intensity of your run by alternating between periods of fast and slow running throughout the entire session. Fartlek training allows runners to work on both their aerobic and anaerobic systems, making it an effective method for building core strength and improving overall fitness.

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are another high-intensity running workout that can help you develop a strong core. By running uphill, you engage your abdominal muscles more than when running on a flat surface, which helps improve core strength. To perform hill repeats, find a hill with a moderate incline and sprint up it as fast as possible. Then, recover by jogging or walking back down to the bottom before repeating the sprint.

Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), such as sprints or Fartleks, offers several benefits that can contribute to developing strong abdominal muscles:

  • Increased calorie burn: HIIT workouts burn more calories than steady-state cardio, which can help reduce body fat and reveal abdominal muscles.
  • Improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness: HIIT workouts challenge both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, promoting overall fitness and endurance.
  • Core engagement: High-intensity running requires greater core activation for stability and power, which can lead to stronger abs.
  • Time-efficient: HIIT workouts tend to be shorter than traditional cardio sessions, making them a convenient option for those with limited time.

In summary, incorporating high-intensity running workouts like sprinting, Fartlek, and hill repeats into your training can help develop a stronger core and improve overall fitness. By consistently challenging your body with these exercises, you can work towards building a defined set of abs while reaping the additional benefits of improved endurance and strength.

Diet and Nutrition for Developing Abs

Protein Intake and Lean Muscle Growth

Protein plays a crucial role in building and maintaining muscle mass, which is essential for developing abs. It is important to include sufficient protein in your diet to support the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Some excellent sources of protein include:

  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish, such as salmon and tuna
  • Legumes, like lentils and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products, like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese

A general guideline for protein intake is 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for those participating in regular physical activity 1. This may vary depending on individual factors, such as age, sex, and activity level.

Reducing Junk Food and Maintaining Calorie Deficit

To achieve well-defined abs, it is crucial to reduce body fat, which requires maintaining a calorie deficit. Running can help create this deficit; however, it’s critical to combine it with a sensible and healthy diet. Avoiding junk food and opting for nutritious, whole foods can help you achieve and maintain a calorie deficit more easily.

Here are some strategies to incorporate into your diet:

  • Limit processed foods and added sugars.
  • Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Choose healthy fats, like those found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts.

Reducing junk food and focusing on a healthy diet can not only help you reach a calorie deficit but also provide the essential nutrients needed to support muscle growth and overall health.

By ensuring adequate protein intake and maintaining a calorie deficit through healthy food choices, you can support the development of lean muscle mass necessary for well-defined abs. Combined with consistent running and targeted core exercises, this approach to diet and nutrition can help you achieve the desired abdominal definition.



Factors Affecting Abs Visibility

Genetics and Body Fat Percentage

Genetics play a significant role in determining the visibility of abs. Some individuals may naturally have a lower body fat percentage, making their abs more prominent. On the other hand, others might store more fat around their waist, making it more challenging to achieve visible abs. Although genetics cannot be changed, it is essential to focus on reducing body fat percentage through a healthy diet and regular exercise 1.

A low body fat percentage is crucial for making the abs visible as it allows the abdominal muscles to show through the layer of fat covering them. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts typically have a lower body fat percentage, ranging from 6% to 13% for men and 16% to 20% for women, promoting better abs visibility 2.

Importance of Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular exercise is vital for strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing body fat percentage. Running, in particular, can help create a caloric deficit and potentially reduce the padding around the abdomen, increasing the likelihood of visible abs 3. However, the effectiveness of running in achieving abs depends on various factors, such as the intensity, duration, and frequency of the runs, as well as the individual’s diet and overall lifestyle choices. Incorporating high-intensity interval training, speed sessions, and long-distance runs may also yield better results for abdominal muscle development 4.

In addition to running, it is essential to include other forms of strength training and core exercises to define and sculpt the abs, such as:

  • Crunches
  • Planks
  • Leg raises
  • Russian twists


Proper posture plays a significant role in the visibility of abs. Individuals with a slouched or hunched posture may find it more challenging to reveal their abdominal muscles. Maintaining good posture not only helps in emphasizing the abs but also contributes to overall core strength and stability. Some tips for improving posture include:

  • Engaging the core muscles while sitting or standing
  • Avoiding excessive sitting or using a standing desk
  • Practicing yoga or Pilates for increased flexibility and muscle strength
  • Stretching regularly to release muscle tension

In conclusion, genetics, body fat percentage, the commitment to regular exercise, and posture are key factors affecting the visibility of abs. While some factors cannot be changed, individuals can work on optimizing their exercise routines, diet, and lifestyle choices to improve the appearance of their abdominal muscles.




In summary, running can contribute to the development of abdominal muscles. The key to achieving visible abs through running lies in factors such as the intensity and duration of workouts, diet, and individual body composition. High-intensity interval runs are particularly effective in targeting the abdominal muscles and lowering fat stores around the stomach area.

Several aspects play a role in determining whether one can obtain visible abs from running. These factors include:

  • The frequency and duration of running sessions
  • The individual’s diet and caloric intake
  • Current body weight and overall fitness levels

Incorporating various core exercises, such as planks, side planks, and Russian twists, into one’s workout routine can also help kick-start abdominal muscle development. These exercises complement running by strengthening the core muscles and improving overall athletic performance.

Running, as a form of cardiovascular exercise, is beneficial for overall health, weight management, and reduction of abdominal fat. However, it is crucial to approach running and abdominal muscle development with realistic expectations and tailored workout plans. Despite the potential of running to contribute to abdominal muscle visibility, individual results may vary. A consistent routine and a balanced diet are essential in achieving and maintaining a flat stomach and stronger core muscles.

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