Which Muscles Are Trained On An Exercise Bike?

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Riding an exercise bike is not only great cardiovascular exercise. It also trains several of your major muscle groups. Although essentially a lower body workout, the core and upper body muscles can come into play. These upper body muscles provide balance and support while maintaining a good posture,

Thighs and buttocks

QuadricepsThe hardest working muscles when you cycle are the quads (front of thigh) and hamstrings (back of thigh). Your quads supply the force on the downwards pedal stroke.



The hamstrings work during the upward part of the pedal stroke. If you are using a bike that requires cycling shoes that attach to the pedals, the hamstrings work harder by pulling up the pedal as well as your leg.


GlutesOn a studio bike, where the position is very similar to a road bike, you are also using your glutes (buttocks). Although an upright bike also engages the glutes, a studio bike does more so, as you are learning forward more. Be careful when setting the resistance level. Although higher resistance will work your muscles harder, you also increase risk of knee injury.


CalvesMany people do not realise the impact of the calf muscles when cycling. This is because the muscles of the upper leg and buttock are doing more of the work. However the calves still push and pull with every pedal stroke. They flex in a similar way to when you do a calf raise. Point your toes downward on the upright stroke to work the calves harder, instead of keeping the foot “flat” throughout the full stroke. This motion will feel more natural if you are wearing cycling shoes. However it is still effective in normal gym shoes. Interval training where you stand and sprint as you pedal will work the calves even harder.

Core muscles

Core musclesYou need to maintain your posture in order to give your abs and back a work out on an exercise bike. Allowing yourself to slouch will stop you from engaging these muscles. You will lose out on many of the training benefits and also increase your risk of injury. You should always keep your abs tights and your back straight on any bike. When you train on a studio bike the forward leaning position challenges your back muscles more than your abs. A recumbent bike is the opposite, placing more focus on the muscles in the abdomen. An upright bike falls between the two, working both back and core. If you unsure of what each of these types are this article will explain.

Upper body

You will not use your upper body on recumbent bikes, and only to a slight degree on upright bikes. But when you are using a studio bike you engage your upper body muscles much more. Leaning on the handlebars to support you upper body. This works you arms, shoulders and upper back. Helping to tone and strengthen the muscles in these parts of your body. Some people chose to work the muscles in the upper body on a recumbent or upright bike by doing arm exercises such as curls and over raises with light weights. This is not a great idea and requires perfect posture to decrease risk of injury. If you want to train your upper body you are better to do it when you are not on a bike.

Final thoughts

The main muscles used in cycling are in the lower body. With quads, glutes and hamstrings doing the majority of the work. However it is still possible to train other muscles with the correct technique and type of exercise bike.

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