What Muscles Does Biking Work?

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There is no doubt that cycling is good for our bodies and minds. People who cycle regularly enjoy the benefits, but they also understand how it transforms their bodies over time.

Cycling improves cardiovascular health, but it also works and tones your muscles. So what muscles does biking work? It may be no surprise to you that riding a bike primarily works your lower body, but there is more to it than that.

Therefore, we thought we would take a closer look at how cycling affects our muscles.

In this article, we will cover:

  • How Your Muscles Work while Cycling
  • How different types of cycling affect our muscles
  • What muscles does biking work?
  • How to compliment your cycling in the gym

Let’s get into the details of cycling muscles.

What Muscles Does Biking Work

How Your Muscles Work While Cycling

When you pedal while sitting on the saddle, you are most powerful when the pedals are between the 5 o’clock and 12 o’clock position of your pedal stroke.

It is at these points that your main leg muscles are engaged. You have hip flexion while your knees and hips are extended simultaneously, which is the primary pedaling movement.

You get some knee flexion when the pedal revolution sits between the 6 and 12 o’clock position. This helps bring the pedal back to the top of the stroke, using the calves and hamstrings. But most of the power comes from the downward pressure from the opposite leg.

The power comes from you extending your hip and knee, pushing the pedal down. This action uses your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and claves in succession.

But if you use clipless pedals, you can help by pulling up to help the pedal get back to the top position.

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How Different Types of Cycling Affect Our Muscles

When you look at competitive cyclists, you will notice that they have different physiques depending on their discipline.

For example, cyclists who sprint on track who use short and intense efforts have larger leg muscles. On the other hand, endurance riders are lean and have less muscle mass, although they are still incredibly strong.

If you want to be able to sprint away from a red light, you need to build your leg muscles. So hitting the gym and performing low reps with heavy weights will go a long way to increasing your power.

However, if you want to be fast over a long distance, you would be better off focusing on endurance rides, combined with weight training and sprinting.

You also need to think about how you ride. For instance, if you only sit in the saddle while riding, your leg muscles won’t grow too much. This is because you don’t experience much resistance while pedaling.

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However, by pedaling from the saddle, your legs will tone up and still develop an element of endurance.

When you stand on the pedals, you add resistance using your own body weight. This gives your legs more of a workout, especially your calves.

Riding on flat roads doesn’t do much for building muscle, as there isn’t much resistance. Therefore, you will benefit from finding a hilly route. Riding uphill forces you to work your leg muscles harder due to the increased resistance.

What Muscles Does Biking Work?

Your lower body muscles are the primary ones used while cycling. But when answering the question of what muscles does biking work? We need to go into more detail.

Therefore, we will look at the different muscles and how cycling affects them.

Gluteus Maximus

Your glutes give your pedal strokes their power as you push down. When you have strong glutes, you can minimize the work of your hamstrings, reduce pressure on your lower back, and prevent knee pain.

You will benefit from working on your glutes for effective and powerful pedal strokes. But to get the most power from your glutes as possible, you also need to stretch them.

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Hamstrings are incredibly important for cyclists. These muscles run from your hips down the back of your legs. They cross at the back of your knee and bend your knee and hip. Their action is essential for pedaling as it allows you to push down on the pedal while pulling up.

Your hamstrings are most active from the pedal stroke’s 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock position.

Common problems for cyclists include weakness in the upper hamstrings around the hips and tightness in the lower hamstrings around the knee. So if you experience these, you may want to visit a sports health professional.


Your quads are also essential for strong downward power on the pedals. These are the muscles that are worked the most heavily during cycling and are integral to being strong on the bike.

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Calf Muscles

Cyclists have defined calf muscles, especially mountain bikers and those who ride in hilly areas. Strong calf muscles are also essential for applying lots of downward pressure on your pedals. Your calf muscles are engaged more when you position your toes on the pedal rather than the ball of your foot.

Shin Muscles

You may not think about the muscles in your shins too much, as they are not the most prominent muscles in your body. However, your Tibialis Anterior is vital in drawing your foot from an extended point at the bottom of your pedal stroke and back up towards the top.

What Muscles Does Biking Work Other Than Leg Muscles?

You may be surprised to learn that cycling doesn’t just give your legs a workout, but what muscles does cycling work other than the legs? Other muscle groups get lots of action too, and if you want to maximize your time in the saddle, you will benefit from exercising them.

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Your biceps and triceps are used a lot during a ride, as are your shoulder muscles. Having a strong upper body is advantageous for all kinds of cycling, as you often need to support yourself and change position while riding.

For example, mountain bikers need to constantly change position depending on the terrain. But they also need to withstand big hits from jumps and drops, which requires strong arms, shoulders, and chest. This is something that improves over time, but hitting the gym will help you ride better and for longer.

Road bikers also need a strong upper body. They have to hold certain positions for extended periods of time, which increases upper body strength. This is made easier by fitting your bike with triathlon aero bars, but this isn’t the ultimate solution for everyone.

People who cycle regularly have strong core muscles too. This is because their core is engaged the whole time, especially their abs.

Your abdominal muscles stabilize you as you ride while providing a strong platform to push the pedals from. Your abs also play a major part in helping you keep your balance.

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A strong core is essential for moving around on the bike, especially for mountain bikers on technical terrain. Your core muscles contract to stabilize your body, which tones your abs while increasing strength and endurance.

5 Ways To Compliment Your Cycling In The Gym

There are many benefits to cycling, but you can enhance your cycling in the gym. For example, you can join a spin class, but you can also target muscles used when cycling.

Here are five things you can do to work on your cycling muscles.

1. Squats

Squats should be a staple exercise for all cyclists, as they work most of the muscles used for cycling. Squats work the gluteus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core muscles.

Both cycling and squats require you to extend your hips and knees in similar power phases. Make sure you do squats with correct form and don’t go too heavy too soon.

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2. Deadlifts

Deadlifts focus on your hamstrings, hips, and lower back. You can make the workout more effective and challenging by doing single-leg deadlifts. By doing this, you can correct muscle imbalances while working your core.

3. Heel Raises

You can do heel raises with or without weights. Standing on a box on your toes and raising yourself using your calf muscles works the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.

4. Speed And Efficiency

To work on your speed in the gym, jump on a stationary bike. When you pedal with a higher cadence on the saddle, you will improve target hip flexion and your quadriceps. The higher speed will also activate your calf muscles while improving your efficiency.

  • Related: How Long Does It Take To Bike 10 Miles?
  • 5. Don’t Forget To Stretch

    As you train more, your primary muscles will fatigue and become tight. Therefore, you need to stretch to loosen them up. Simple stretches include hamstring, glutes, hip flexors, and calf stretches.

    What Muscles Does Biking Work 9

    It is good to get into a daily stretching routine; it will greatly impact your comfort and riding in a positive way. This YouTube video is an excellent example of a stretching routine to follow.

    Alternatively, you can do a couple of yoga for cycling sessions every week.

    What Muscles Does Bike Riding Work? – Answered!

    As you can see, it is not just your legs that get a workout while riding a bike. Of course, your legs do most of the work, but cycling is a low-impact, full-body workout with many other benefits.

    If you want to learn how to improve your cycling fitness, check out the links below:

    FTP Test: What Is Functional Threshold Power

    Cycling Interval Training Workouts: Boost Your Speed And Power

    Photo of author
    One of BikeTips' regular writers, Tom is a mountain biking expert living in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on two wheels or a snowboard! Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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