This question has been asked among fitness enthusiasts for decades. Now it’s time to answer the question and truly end this great debate.
If you’ve been doing a lot of jogging or low-intensity running and haven’t noticed a real change in your physique, you may be doing it all wrong. Most long distance runners are not really lean and have higher body fat percentages than you may think. In contrast, look at a sprinter, who is lean and muscular with very little body fat. Take a look at professional sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey vs. Kenenisa Bekele, one of the best long-distance runners in the world (both pictured below). These guys are both at the top of their respective sports. Who has the more impressive physique? 99.9% of people would have to agree that Aikines-Aryeetey blows him away. That’s why they truly say a picture says a thousand words.
Just look at Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. You can tell that sprinting not only activates the lower body but it builds the upper body as well. When sprinting, you entire body builds fast-twitch muscle fibers. Not only does Aikines-Aryettey possess some impressive legs through sprinting, but his upper body (especially his arms) grow rapidly.
Kenenisa Bekele mainly utilizes slow-twitch muscle fibers as he runs long distance. Even though he is defined, you can see that his body does not have much mass to it.
Why is there such a difference in their physiques? One sprints. One runs. It’s that simple.
Sprinters maximally contract their muscles, which requires a lot more work from their bodies than a slow, staggered, constant run. In addition, testosterone and growth hormones are released in greater amounts with short maximal energy bursts. These hormones are anabolic in nature, meaning they build the body up. That’s where the term “bodybuilding” essentially originates from. On the contrary, running for long periods of time releases cortisol, a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks the body down. This is associated with muscle wasting, and over time, can actually break the body down. Sprinters use primarily fast twitch muscle fibers, which are thicker than slow twitch muscle fibers and continually grow in size with the right training. With sprinters, it’s all about power and high energy output for short duration of time. Long distance runners do not require great strength as their events rely more heavily on endurance.
Jogging is not a natural exercise. Think about it like this: no other animal in nature jogs. Animals either walk wherever they go or sprint as fast as they can when they are hunting or being hunted. Even think about our anthropological history. We were meant to move quickly to catch our food during the caveman days. They didn’t just jog continuously for minutes or hours on end to catch their prey.
Sprinting will reduce body fat and strengthen you more than long distance running due to the maximal recruitment of muscle.
Sprinting activates more human growth hormone and testosterone and strengthens your skeletal muscles. The benefits of sprinting are endless.
Let’s even look at a chicken for example. Have you ever heard of the expression “chicken legs”? A chicken has a big upper body but its lower body is tiny. A chicken’s legs are primarily made up of slow twitch muscles (dark meat) because a chicken is on its feet most of the day. However, whenever a chicken occasionally flies, it’s usually in short bursts that require the use of its upper body (white meat).