What Muscles Does Cycling Work? Complete Guide
Cycling is a fun physical activity that improves cardiovascular endurance and muscular structure. Cycling not only helps you lose weight but also tones and exercises many different body parts. It is a great way to get in shape physically.
Cycling, however, which muscles? The lower body, arms, and core are the main muscle groups that cycling focuses on. Once you commit to cycling, you’ll notice a noticeable improvement in these muscle groups.
Table of Contents
Cycling Works What Muscles? – Primary Muscle Groups Used in Cycling
- Gluteus maximus
Your gluteus maximus, or gluteus, is actively contracted as you depress the pedal. The biggest of your body’s three gluteal muscles is called the gluteus maximus. It can put additional strain on your lower back and knee once your hamstrings are overworked. Your glutes will consequently experience the pressure and eventually develop tone.
Typically, your hamstring muscles cross at the back of your knees after running from the hips down the backs of your legs. Because they allow you to bend your hips and knees while you pedal, hamstrings are crucial for cycling.
When you shift from a 6 to a 9 o’clock position, the hamstring muscles are most active. In order to prevent tightness in the hip and knee joints, it is crucial to execute these positions correctly. Hamstring and knee issues are typical issues that cyclists run into.
You work your quadriceps when you press the pedals down repeatedly. Thus, having protruding calf muscles is very obvious among cyclists.
- Calf muscles
Calf muscles can definitely be developed when pedaling with your toes. The calf muscles are located behind your lower leg. It starts below the knee and goes all the way to your ankle. Running, jumping, and cycling all require significant use of the calf muscles.
- Shin muscles
The foot is drawn from an extended end at the 6 o’clock position going to a 9 o’clock pedal stroke with the help of the shin muscles or anterior tibial muscles. They are necessary for standing and walking as well as for engaging in strenuous activities.
The balance between your foot and toe mobility depends on your shin muscles. When power pedaling, it is one of the muscles that is most active.
How Does Your Riding Style Change Which Muscles You Use?
Which muscles you use will depend on the kind of riding you’re doing. Road cycling and time trials involve spending a lot of time in a stationary position, which can cause aches and pains if your setup is off.
While a sprinter producing high amounts of power out of the saddle will also use their arms and back muscles, mountain biking is just as much about balance and positioning on the bike. The legs and back will be extended further than they would be while sitting when climbing out of the saddle, which is also true.
The position you take on the bike is crucial for efficient cycling; if you are too low or too far back, you won’t be able to recruit your major muscles, including your hip extensors, which are the strongest in the body, effectively.
Pedal Stroke – How Does It Work
What muscles are used when riding a bike? Most of your primary muscles are active when you are at 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock. When you make a pedal stroke, you flex your hips and knees, putting pressure on those muscles.
On the other hand, you will experience some knee flexion when you are between the 6 and 12 o’clock positions, which is good for the muscles in your lower body. It can also work your quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings when you pedal.
Your gluteus and quadriceps muscles are engaged once you power the pedal, which is where your hip and knee extend to press a downward pedal. The hamstrings and calf muscles will join these muscles each time you increase your pedaling intensity.
Build Endurance and Strength
Lifting weights improves more than just your strength and endurance. Muscle biking also improves your strength and endurance. You must ride in the highest gear in order to accomplish this. As a result, your bicycle’s gear and other parts will need more strength and power.
You can exert more effort, use key muscle groups, and tone them. When cycling, carrying a backpack or extra weight can increase the activity’s stress levels. Your core muscles can become stronger and more resilient by cycling uphill.
Here are some of the things you can do to build endurance and strength in cycling:
Squatting works a variety of muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings, and core. Bicycling’s power phase is very similar to squatting’s. Consequently, the position engages your core, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Single leg deadlifts
You only use one leg to pedal at a time, leaving the other at rest. When performing single-leg deadlifts, it is similar. Since the leg should support the weight alone when working one leg at a time, muscle imbalances can be corrected.
- Seated and standing biking
Your body experiences a tremendous amount of force, particularly in the quadriceps region, when you are riding a seated bike down a hill. Your hamstrings are the focus of standing cycling.
Using a slower cadence and higher gearing is recommended for both of these cycling positions. This will allow you to work your quadriceps and hamstrings harder. Your chances of developing leg strength and stamina increase with increased pedaling effort.
Use of Speed
While cycling, speed is also essential for building muscle. In a seated position, a faster cadence will specifically target the rectus femoris and hip flexors. When you raise your knee and foot to a 12 o’clock position while pedaling, the quadriceps muscles will contract.
The activation of your calf muscles can be accelerated by increasing the cadence. By doing so, you can enhance your aerobic fitness and improve your pedaling technique.
If you want to lose fat and gain muscle, interval training is ideal. You switch between challenging and simple exercises when you train this way. You can perform interval training by cycling at a fast speed and then a gradual, slow speed.
Altering your biking uphill and downhill is another way to achieve this. You can also help tone your muscles by regularly varying the activity and intensity of your cycling.
Use of Exercise Bikes and Elliptical Trainers
Elliptical and exercise bike training are additional ways to work your core and major muscle groups. You can regulate the tempo and difficulty of your exercise using this equipment. Setting a higher resistance training level and speeding up your workouts will help you quickly develop your muscles.
A brief interval workout can be done in addition to this. You can choose to reduce the resistance and speed. When you have more strength and energy, increase it once more.
On the other hand, since you will be in a more stressful environment outside, we advise you to do this. Hilly outdoor biking can also present more resistance.
What Are the Other Benefits of Riding a Bike?
Unquestionably, getting on a bike is a great way to gain strength and muscle mass, but cycling has many other advantages.
Kulikowski claims that biking, whether indoors or out, is beneficial for your heart in addition to strengthening your muscles. In fact, a 2016 study in the journal Circulation found that regular cyclists had a roughly 15% lower risk of heart disease compared to non-cyclists. A weekly bike ride of even 30 minutes was associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Biking is notable in particular because, in contrast to many other well-liked heart-healthy exercises, it is low-impact. For example, “running uses the same lower body muscles in almost the exact same way as biking, but biking is far better for your joints,” says Making impact can help train smaller muscles in the foot, ankle, and knee that do not get used enough to create great stability in that joint, she says, so it is not always a bad thing. However, biking is the best option for people who are prescribed a lower-impact exercise regimen due to pre-existing knee and ankle injuries.
In terms of mental advantages, research has connected cycling to lower levels of stress and anxiety, possibly because it can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that controls your mood. Additionally, research suggests that regular exercise can help with long-term depression, so both outdoor and indoor cycling may have benefits for mental health.
Although there is a fee to enter, Kulikowski claims that biking is an accessible exercise for people of all fitness levels.
What Are the Injury Risks When Cycling?
Cycling has the advantage that it places a lower load on the body than many other forms of exercise, making it less likely that you’ll pull a muscle. A bike fit is something to think about because holding a position for an extended period of time increases the risk of repetitive strain injury and aches and pains, especially if your bike setup is incorrect.
Cycling physiotherapist Nichola Roberts’ most common injury type in her practice at Velophysio is knee pain. According to her, an accident’s trauma and poor bike fit are the main causes of knee pain.
Muscle imbalances, which are frequently brought on by overtraining, can also lead to biomechanical issues. She emphasizes how crucial it is to increase mileage gradually and include stretches and exercises like squats in your routine.
Will Cycling Give Me Big Legs?
You might assume that your legs and buttocks would bulk up given how much emphasis is placed on the legs’ ability to generate power.
That’s frequently true of top sprinters and track riders who must generate a lot of power quickly—think of Sir Chris Hoy—but it’s not always the case.
Once more, the answer is based on the kind and quantity of riding you do. Even though some of the best road riders will have well-developed quads, they may be extremely skinny to help them climb hills as quickly as possible. In turn, their aerobic systems will be highly developed to deliver the oxygen those muscles require.
Cycling has a lower likelihood of producing massive muscles than bodybuilding in the gym because you need your legs to be able to move quickly and effectively.
Conclusion: Primary Muscle Groups Used in Cycling
The advantages of biking are numerous. Your muscles will benefit greatly from cycling. Your core and lower body can be strengthened by biking. Your quadriceps, shin, hamstrings, and glutes will all immediately become active and engaged.
You should be able to notice noticeable results in the aforementioned muscle groups if you cycle frequently to lose weight and tone your muscles. To see quicker results, though, you must be dedicated and consistent. Once you start to discover that cycling is becoming easier for you, you will be able to see your progress.
Hope you find the answer to the question “what muscles does cycling work?”. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Thanks for reading!