Does Triathlon Sports Give You Abs? Swim Vs Bike Vs Run!

Gone are the days of doing endless crunches or situps to try to achieve the elusive six-pack. While some find they’re able to achieve a lean, muscled core as a byproduct of their athletic pursuits, most people will need to add dedicated ab training if they want to see results.

Even then, some may never achieve the six-pack of their dreams – and that’s okay! Weight distribution is genetic, and it can require a dangerously low body fat percentage to achieve that look (Source).

But are there any sports that are better than others for getting abs?

Like running and swimming, cycling can be a way to burn more calories to assist in overall body composition. All three disciplines will still require some level of strength training to get noticeable abs. A solid strength training routine paired with your aerobic activity of choice can put the individual on the path to a lean physique.

Read on to find out more if running, swimming, or biking can help you reach your aesthetic goals. Also, check out “Can You Be Muscular and A Triathlete? Is Triathlon The Ultimate Fitness Workout!

Can I Get Abs Just by Running?

No, one cannot get abs just by running. Growing abs can be a notoriously difficult endeavor. It requires dedicated ab work, whether that’s as part of an overall weight lifting plan or as an addition to any regular running routine.

There are many exercises you can add to your workout routine to work your abs (Source):

  • Ab rollout
  • Weighted plank
  • Hollow hold
  • L-sit
  • Hanging knee raise (with or without added weight)
  • Side plank with rotation

You can go on youtube and check each of these workouts in depth then mix and match the ones that work for you. Here is one,

One easy way to add ab work to your routine is by doing 1-3 ab exercises after each run. You can start small and gradually build up. This will give you dedicated time to work on your core without having to overthink an entirely new routine. 

If you’re not seeing the results you want after a couple of months, you will likely need to up the ante. This can look like adding weight, doing more reps, or doing more challenging variations.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re fueling your body right – you’ll need extra protein to help your muscles repair and grow.

How Much Should I Run to Get Abs? Is Running Good for Your Core?

Running more won’t translate to stronger abs if you aren’t simultaneously working your core. Simply losing fat will only reveal what’s underneath – if you don’t have a solid layer of muscle built, there won’t be much to see. However, running can be a useful tool in burning additional calories if you’re trying to lose fat.

This is often referred to as body recomposition: losing fat, building muscle, and overall maintaining your weight (as opposed to simply losing weight, which could be either fat or muscle) (Source).

On a side note, we do recommend that you check out our post “What Is The Ideal Weight for A Triathlete? BMI Impact!

It can be difficult to get the balance just right. You’ll want to be in a slight deficit to lose body fat while still consuming enough to fuel your workouts and eating enough protein to support your muscle growth.

It is a long, slow process, but you’re more likely to see lasting results than you would if you went on an aggressive (sometimes dangerous) diet.

That being said, running can be a good core-building exercise. The stability needed to keep your body in constant forward motion can stimulate the core. Sprints in particular can be very effective at working the abdominal muscles (Source).

You should still aim to add core-building exercises into your routine as this will help prevent injury.

How Much Should I Swim to Get Abs? Is Swimming Good for Your Core?

The amount of swimming you’ll need to do in order to get abs will depend on how many calories you’re looking to burn. The adage “abs are made in the kitchen” can be overly simplistic, but the overall message has a grain of truth. After all, if your swim burns 500 calories and you eat 700 calories to compensate, you may not lose enough body fat to see all of your hard work.

Also check out our post on “Swim, Bike & Run Typical Calories Burned & Timings In Triathlon

On the other hand, if you don’t “eat back” any of the calories you burned, you run the risk of being at such a high deficit that you start to lose muscle – not what you want when you’re trying to get that six-pack look.

It’s important that your muscles have the fuel they need to grow, and that your body is able to recover enough to continue your fitness journey.

One strategy to better target your abs while swimming is to utilize different swim strokes

The butterfly stroke burns the most calories and is considered the most challenging to master, so that can be a great option to focus on when you’re trying to build your abs (Source).

And regardless of which stroke you choose, you’ll be constantly activating your core in order to propel yourself through the water.

How Much Should I Bike to Get Abs? Is Cycling Good for Your Core?

Cycling can be a great workout for your core. The core includes both the ab muscles and the back muscles, all of which are required to maintain power and stability on the bike. Keeping the core tight allows riders to have more power in each pedal stroke. This helps take pressure off of the lower back muscles and forces a bulk of the power to come from the legs. Consistently working on core engagement can help lead to stronger abs, though additional work will likely be needed to get a solid six pack.


Like running and swimming, cycling can be a way to burn more calories to assist in overall body composition.

All three disciplines will likely still require some level of strength training to get noticeable abs. A solid strength training routine paired with your aerobic activity of choice can put you on the path to a lean physique.

Things to Keep in Mind

Trying to get abs can be a fun, rewarding challenge, especially for athletes looking for a new goal.

However, a six-pack isn’t possible for everyone simply due to genetics and body fat distribution. If you’ve had to cut your weight so drastically that you feel extreme fatigue, get injured more often, or stop menstruating, it’s a sign that your body fat has gotten too low.

Your health is more important than the way your body looks, and long endurance efforts will require fuel to perform at your best. Find out How Many Calories Are Consumed In Triathlons; Why Is It Important? All Distances

In other words, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to get the abs you want. It doesn’t mean you aren’t “fit”, and you may decide it’s best to prioritize peak performance over a dream physique.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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