What Muscles Are Used to Ride a Bike?

Updated May 15, 2018

Riding a bike on the road, or in a spinning class, and you'll use muscles throughout your entire body--not just in your legs. A light workout on a stationary bike burns 245 calories per hour, based on a body weight of 81.6 Kilogram. Vigorous cycling, at a pace of about 15 miles per hour, will burn more than 800 calories as you build and tone muscle.

A Strong Core

Bike riding helps you strengthen your core--the abdominal muscles, which help you keep your balance while riding. Strong abdominals also support your lower back. You work all these core muscles any time you ride a bike, but you work them harder when going uphill. Sit-ups and crunches will help you work these muscles when you're not on your bike. Crunches, during which you touch your elbow to the opposite knee, will also help work the oblique muscles, which are on your sides. At the gym, a rowing machine will help build core strength--and you'll work your leg muscles, too.

Strong Legs

The anterior tibialis muscles are located on the front of the shin. You'll feel them working when you flex your foot and put pressure on the bike pedals. The calves are the muscles on the back of your lower leg. These muscles are continually working while you are cycling, but they work harder when you're standing or pedalling uphill. The quadriceps, or quads, are the large muscles in your thighs. They work every time you extend your knees. The hamstrings are on the back of your thighs. You'll feel the burn in your hamstrings when you pedal hard while standing. There are a number of ways to strengthen the leg muscles while using a bike. It can be as simple as parking your car at the far end of the car park to get some extra walking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. At the gym, the elliptical and stair machines will help build strong legs, as will lifting weights.

The Bottom Line

The glutes are the muscles of your buttocks. When you extend your knees, you are working your glutes. You can strengthen your glutes with two simple floor exercises. Lying on your back, with arms at your sides and palms down, bring your knees toward your body with your feet still flat on the floor. Lift your hips, tightening your glutes as you go up, release, and then repeat. For the second exercise, position yourself on your hands and knees. Kick back one leg at a time, straightening your leg without hyperextending it. You should feel the pull in your glutes.

How to Get Started

Even if you have never ridden a bike before, you can join the estimated 57 million Americans who bike for fun and fitness. The League of American Bicyclists, which started in the 1880s as the League of American Wheelman, has chapters throughout the country. Its members, avid cyclists of all ages, can help you get started with bicycle education and safety courses. A key activity of the league is to encourage communities and businesses to be more supportive of cycling by offering facility support, education, infrastructure, and public recognition.

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About the Author

Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.