What Muscles Does Cycling Work? (How To Train Muscles?)

This question is very close to my heart. I was an overweight guy with poor health. 

Breathlessness was a constant. I was tired all the time and practically indulged in self-loathing for most of the time that I was awake. Plus, I was always afraid I might catch a serious disease like coronary issues, diabetes, etc. 

One day I woke up and literally just decided not to live like that anymore. 

I had to lose weight. I couldn’t live in this fearful and tired state. But what could I have done?

Gyming wasn’t an option for me. I just couldn’t do something repetitive and boring. Besides, my primary purpose was to just shed extra pounds and not become the next Schwarzenegger. 

That’s when somebody recommended me cycling. And that was the first day of my new life. I cycled regularly and have gained enough experience to accurately answer ‘what muscles does cycling work?’. Let’s explore this question down below!

What Muscles Does Cycling Work?

Any activity that you do requires muscle action. Yeah, that’s right. 

Even lazing around on your couch is possible because of the muscle activity. But these actions don’t work up the muscles. Exercising does. So cycling is one activity that commands extreme muscle action. 

While cycling, most of the muscle action is done in the lower part of the body. It’s obvious, right? Some muscle work is obvious, like your thigh and calf muscle definitely gets some tight action when you are cycling. 

But some action is subtle, and you may not know about it. Here we shall discuss all the muscles that get into action when you pedal your two-wheeler or the machine if you are doing it indoors.

  • Calf – Soleus, and gastrocnemius.
  • Thigh – Hamstrings and quadriceps.
  • Gluts/Buttocks – Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.
  • Arms – Biceps, and triceps.
  • Shoulders – Deltoids
  • Foot – Plantar flexors, and dorsiflexors

The above-mentioned are the primary muscles that take the most impact when you cycle. Thigh muscles are the crucial ones. To understand muscle movement further, let’s take a deeper plunge into the topic and understand how these muscles work.

How these muscles work

Muscles are built-up with the base element called fibers. They are spaghetti-like threads that group up to make the muscles. 

These fibers are the contact point between the muscles and the brain as well. So when you sit on a cycle, the hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper leg and soleus and gastrocnemius in the calf come into action.

They work in harmony simultaneously, which creates a contracting action that moves your cycle forward.

How to Train Muscles for Cycling?

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If you want to cycle the right way, then you’ll require some serious cooperation from your muscles. Because anything more than 20 paddles requires strength and effort. 

Trained muscles aren’t a necessity for just athletes. You need solid muscle work even if you want to enjoy cycling every other Sunday. Weak muscles will make your overall cycling experience unenjoyable. It’s not fun when you are gasping for air just after a few pedal strokes.

How to strengthen the muscles so that they make your cycling experience fun and robust? There are a few routine exercises that you can do to get there. 

Straight leg hold

Lay down on your back, loose and relaxed. Then turn by turn, put one leg in the air at a distance of about 2 feet from the floor. Hold for however long you can. 

Don’t get dishearted if you can’t get past a few seconds on the first day. With time, your muscles will strengthen, and you’ll see that you can hold your legs in the air for longer and longer. This exercise directly strengthens your thighs which are significant for cycling. 

The hamstrings and quadriceps will both gain strength with this. Do it for a few weeks, and you’ll see that you can cycle for longer intervals without your legs going dead.

Split Squats

This one is another brilliant way to strengthen your legs and make them strong enough to enjoy cycling. 

Split squats put pressure on your gluteus and quadriceps. This is a very simple exercise and can be done without any external weights. And that’s how you must start. Once you get comfortable, you can then carry an equal amount of weights in each hand.

You can even watch a couple of YouTube videos to understand the angles and methods. There are slight variations in different types of split squats. Do the one that keeps your body the most comfortable.


Can I tell you a secret? You can get better at cycling by cycling daily. 

Yes, the cat is out of the bag. Cycle your way to become a better cyclist. Make it a routine to be with your bike for at least 15 minutes a day. Gradually you’ll see that you can go past 30, 40, and 50-minute marks without getting tired. 

Cycling is the best exercise for your lower body. That’s how I got better at it, and that’s how I lost my extra unwanted pounds. 

Sleep better 

Rest is required for the muscles to heal. If you don’t sleep well, you can easily end up with a pulled muscle or muscle injury. 

Proper sleep gives your body time to recover. 

Eat better

Muscles are made with proteins. Exercising is just one part of muscle training. The other part is what you feed your muscles. 

Eating nitrate-rich foods can truly make your muscles ready to take on any cycling challenges that come your way. It worked well for me. I’m sure it’ll work well for you too.

If you have renal problems or any other health conditions, it’s recommended that you consult a doctor or a nutritionist before increasing your protein intake.

Summing up, exercising, resting, and consuming a proper diet are the three vital things to do to strengthen your muscles for cycling. Now unto the next part, Does Cycling Build Muscle?

Does Cycling Build Muscle?

Yes, it does. My flabby fatty thigh muscles now look like a finely crafted hourglass. They’re smooth and in shape. 

Sure, they may not resemble someone that does leg exercises in the gym for hours. But I have no intentions of displaying my thighs on stage to win bodybuilding competitions. My goal was to acquire a decent physique and get into a reasonable shape. 

Cycling has delivered way more than what I expected.

Let’s break down and see what muscle development you can expect out of cycling?

Lower body

An absolute yes to this. All the muscles that we have in the lower body get worked up well with cycling. Personally, I can see the most impact in the thigh and the calf area. But the development is overall.

Lower abs

Cycling goes some work in your abs region as well. No, you’ll not get 8 packs just cycling for a couple of hours a day. 

But you’ll definitely see a reduction in your belly area. Plus, your core will strengthen as well.

Upper body

There’s not much development in the upper body region. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but you can’t expect to have your biceps and chest toned like your calves and thighs. 

Overall, cycling doesn’t have much impact on the upper body region.

If you are looking to get fit and lean, then cycling is an excellent thing to do. If you are looking for overall muscle development from head to toe, then you’ll have to incorporate other exercises in your fitness routine as well.

How Often Should You Cycle?

Okay, this one is a personal preference. You can cycle every day, or you can do it on alternate days. 

It depends upon what you want out of cycling. But for cycling to have any impact on you, the minimum recommendation is that you do it thrice a week at least. 

If you are gymming as well and are looking at cycling as a complement to your foot workout, then a couple of days in a week shall be fine as well.

If you want to lose weight, however, then you’ll need at least 4 to 5 sessions of rigorous bike riding in a week for you to see an impact. 

So, there’s no one fixed answer to this, and it really depends upon what you are looking to achieve in your cycling. Only then can you align your cycling sessions with your goals in the right way.

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Summing up – What Muscles Does Cycling Work?

Well, cycling has been a life-changing experience for me. 

I never thought that I’d go from a fat disease-prone individual to someone lean who advises people about achieving fitness via cycling. But here I am, communicating with you the blessings cycling brought into my life and will hopefully produce magical results for you as well.

It’s an excellent activity to build muscle and maintain overall body fitness. Don’t think much and start. The results will only make you regret one thing that you should’ve started sooner!

James Dawson

After learning how to ride a bicycle much later than all the other kids, James Dawson hasn't looked back. The author now actively rides a bicycle as a part of the community cycling group and competes regularly in local competitions. Aside from that, he loves technology and always keeps up to date with the latest cycling tech.

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