What Muscles Does A Bicycle Work?

Riding a bicycle comes with many benefits, both mentally and physically. The activity has been proven as a great way to keep active in a low-impact aerobic exercise.

Some use cycling as a means of transportation or simply getting away from it all. While you are pedaling away, you may lose track of the muscles you are working on. 

In this guide, we will look at what muscles does a bicycle work.

What Muscles Does A Bicycle Work

Leg Muscles

Regular cycling can improve the overall function of your lower body without over-stressing your joints. Obviously, cycling primarily works your leg muscles, as these are the ones that move you forward.

Those leg muscles include your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads. You may be surprised to learn that your shin muscles are also included.

How Does Cycling Work Your Muscles?

Each time you pedal, you are working different leg muscles. This does depend on your form and posture, but done properly each pedal rotation matters and involves your leg muscles.

Your knee extends as you push the pedal, which works your quads and calves. During the pull when the knee then bends upward, you are working your hamstring glutes and even your shin muscles get involved.

Several leg muscles will be worked whenever you are cycling. However, the terrain and the gradient should also be factored in. Flat land can be relatively straightforward and even easy, you may barely feel your legs working as you continually move along.

Go up a hill though, and you can feel your calves and quads working to push you up the slope. What goes up, must come down, and riding downhill is more about momentum than working your leg muscles. 

Maintaining your posture also works several of your upper body muscles too. That proper position should be with your elbows bent at the side and tucked in towards your body.

Your shoulders should be down with your wrists remaining neutral as you hold the handlebar. To remain stable, you should be using the triceps and biceps in your arms, and the shoulder muscles further up. 

There is also the transverse abdominis, which is the muscle that goes across the middle of your body, like a belt.

If you are riding outside on a particularly uneven surface, this muscle holds your body in place and prevents it from shifting from side to side. You likely do not notice it, but this muscle does a crucial job in ensuring you remain on your bike. 

Not forgetting your core, either, even though you may barely realize it when you are pedaling. Again, this all depends on whether your bike is set up properly with the seat and handles in the proper positions. That means having your handlebars and saddle at hip height.

When you are sitting on the bike seat, fully extend your leg downward and your knee should be a tiny bit bent at around a 25 to 35-degree angle. If all that is in order, then your core should be engaged the whole time you are cycling.  

Do not forget that your heart is also a muscle and cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise. Cycling is also a low-impact exercise, so you can benefit your heart without too much effort.

Regular cycling is a great way of improving the condition of your heart, and your general health too.  

How Does Cycling Work Your Muscles?

How To Strengthen Your Leg Muscles

There are some really simple exercises you can do at home to strengthen your leg muscles. Resistance training and movements such as leg presses, squats, and lunges with a kettlebell or a dumbbell can really make a difference.

If you do a regular workout, try sneaking these exercises in to make your legs even stronger to power you through your next ride. 

Ensure You Prevent Muscle Imbalances And Reduce Risk Of Injury

You could also ramp up the resistance on a stationary bike to prolong your riding and reduce the risk of injury. While you should look out for your leg muscles, you may even end up with muscle imbalances. This can become uncomfortable if you have concentrated on certain muscles, but not others. 

For better riding, you should be looking to strengthen your body with movements that include all planes of motion. The plane of motion you use during cycling is known as the sagittal plane, which gets a great workout.

By performing such movements as deadlifts, squats, hip extensions, planks, and back rows, you can give the rest of your body a workout too. 

Is There Any Difference Between Outdoor Cycling And Using A Stationary Bike?

Short answer, no. However, this largely depends on how advanced your stationary bike is. Your movements will still be the same, no matter whether you cycle indoors or outdoors. There will be a difference due to how more stable a stationary bike is.

As you work more on your balance and posture on an outdoor bike, you use your core and upper body more. This includes your chest and upper back. While these will be worked on a stationary bike, it just will not be as much as when you are cycling outside. 

Of course, stationary bikes can come with more functionality. You may take a spinning class that involves several unorthodox movements that you simply would not do when cycling outdoors.

These include tricep dips, shoulder presses, and bicep curls. While your leg muscles are being worked, working these muscles will also help your posture when you get back to cycling outside.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, regular cycling can help your lower body and work your leg muscles. You should see increased muscle mass in those muscles you continually work. Cycling can also improve your posture, balance, and coordination.

As long as your bike seat is in the right position, and you maintain good form. The process of keeping your bike upright by stabilizing your body will improve your balance, even your gait. 

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