What Muscles Does Cycling Build?

Cycling is one of those exercises that have many beneficial effects on our bodies. Besides being a ride, a bicycle can very effectively burn calories, build your muscles, and improve your total endurance. However, to get the most out of your bicycle, you should familiarize yourself with some of the muscles that will be affected, after which you’ll be able to adjust your technique. By cycling properly you’ll not only be less likely to go into early fatigue mode, but you’ll also prevent some of the common pains and injuries that go with it.

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Legs / Hips

While pedaling in a sitting position, the majority of power is spent between the 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions of the stroke. This is where the hip flexes, along with the hip and knee extensions, to create enough power and turn the pedal.  As you push the pedal downwards, you’ll mostly be using your gluteus muscles in the beginning, while your calves and quadriceps then enter to finish the move. And while the pedal returns to the top, your hamstrings become active during this recovery phase. Having strong quadriceps is especially important for everyday movements, but also for uphill cycling.


Being in an optimal sitting position is of great importance since it’ll prevent you from tiring early on and also help you avoid any back injuries or strains. You shouldn’t be leaning more than 45 degrees forward, so raise the handle bars if you’re leaning more than this to reach them.  Your core muscles are in charge of controlling and balancing the bike, and while cycling will help you build them, some additional exercise can go a long way to increase your cycling performance.

Back Muscles

Cycling in a standing position will empower your glutes, and the stronger they are – the more you’ll increase your cycling potential. If you choose to increase the intensity, by cycling uphill in a standing position, your back muscles will benefit very much out of it. You can also increase your cycling potential by exercising your glutes through squats, dumbbell step-ups, or forward lunges. Having strong deltoids in your shoulders will help your standing position, while strong upper back, specifically trapezius muscles, will make sure you maintain your posture.

Forearms, Hands, and Wrists

Holding the handle bars requires some strength in your hands, especially if you’re going for a bumpy ride, and they will gain strength during your rides. The same goes for your wrists and your forearms, and strengthening these is directly linked to the amount of body weight your hands have to hold while riding. Unfortunately, these are also the most injury prone areas because of the small size of the internal structures, so strengthening these muscles outside your cycling sessions will go a long way to ensure you stay healthy, but also increase your grip strength.

Lower Abs

If you’re cycling in a normal manner, you probably won’t get far in shaping your abdominal muscles. But if you’re a hard-core fan and are looking to cycle like a pro, it’s actually really easy to get your abs into shape. Removing your saddle, for example, and cycling in a sitting position without one, will do wonders for your abs. You probably already know that these muscles won’t ever be visible if you don’t get rid of the fat, so you should probably consider ditching your energy drinks and drink water instead since this will lose you more calories and help you shape your stomach.

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Start Cycling

Besides many benefits concerning your muscles, cycling will also help you improve your cardiovascular system, lower your stress level, and improve your overall physical health. If you’re reading this guide, you’re probably already in the two-wheel team, but in case you aren’t – we hope we’ve convinced you to join it. In the world overcrowded by cars and buses, riding a bicycle can turn out to be the most practical and healthy way of transporting yourself to your destination.

READ: Mindful Cycling – Practicing Meditation through Cycling

Even if you don’t own a bike, you can easily find awesome bicycles online. And it’s even more fun if you do it with your friends.

Written by Valentin Bosioc

Valentin Bosioc - wellness specialist, certified personal trainer, certified fitness instructor, celebrity trainer, Musclemania Champion, Ninja Warrior Semifinalist, world wide motivator!

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