When asked what muscles work during a bike workout, anyone will answer only leg muscles, and not be mistaken. However, some of these muscles work at full power, while others are in auxiliary mode.
At the same time, not only the leg muscles are involved in cycling. About what a person “shakes” when pedaling, we will tell in this article.
Cycling, like running, is a cardio activity, that is, it involves the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Basically, when they talk about the positive impact of cycling on health, they are exactly describing the aerobic component. But, in addition to training the heart, while riding a bicycle, a person also trains a wide range of muscles.
Humans evolved to do knee and hip extension work: walking, running, jumping. During pedaling, the same thing happens, but with less stretching, which has a slightly different effect on the leg muscles.
The leg muscles are the main muscle groups trained on the bike. They are used to drive the pedals. The force produced is what pushes the bike forward. Among them:
- quadriceps femoris (anterior);
- iliac muscle, responsible for flexing the leg at the knee and extending the hip;
- posterior thigh muscle group;
- buttocks – large, medium, small gluteal muscles;
- leg muscles – gastrocnemius and soleus;
- muscles that flex the foot.
Body and arm muscles
You can’t go far by bike alone. It all depends on the muscle groups of the body – the back and the abdomen. They work to maintain the stability of the upper body, that is, they are responsible for stability.
Few cyclists give credit to the abdominal muscles, but if back pain occurs, one of the reasons is precisely the weakness of the former. In addition, the abdominal muscles form the basis of leg work, which needs a solid and stable base to get the most out of it.
And the hands receive a charge. You can feel it if you first leave the asphalt in the forest to the crossroads and drive there for a very long time. The next day, pain will be felt in the hands. The muscles of the body and arms are particularly strained when they get up from the saddle, when the cyclist climbs a hill.
But a strong shoulder girdle is important for a long stay in an air landing, that is, triathletes and cyclists who specialize in time trials need to train these muscles.
Those who cycle long distances at a time know how strained the neck is. Here, the belt muscle of the head and the trapezius muscle are included in the work.
Thus, in the upper body, the following muscles are involved:
- abdominal press: rectus, transverse and oblique muscles of the abdomen;
- muscle that straightens the spine;
- arm muscles: biceps and triceps;
- deltoid muscles (shoulders);
- latissimus dorsi;
- pectoral muscles;
- muscular belt of the head;
- trapezius muscle.
How Long-Term Cycling Affects Muscles
Cycling has a definite advantage over the same running in that it creates less stress on the musculoskeletal system. The possibility of having a sprain, stress fracture or inflammation of the periosteum here is reduced to zero, but due to the fact that a person is in the same position for a long time, there may be back and neck problems .
This can be more affected if the riding position on the bike is very far from proper. If you’ve ever ridden a low-saddle kids’ bike, you’ve probably seen how badly your muscles work in this bad position.
In order to avoid lower back pain, it is important not only to sit comfortably on the bike, but also to strengthen the muscles of the back and the abdomen: sufficient abdominal strength is essential to prevent lower back pain when you are in the saddle for a long time.
In general, core muscles stabilize the spine, pelvis, hips and are the center of muscle activity in the body.
By the way, knee problems are not only the plight of runners. Due to poor saddle height and low cadence, knee pain can also affect cyclists. Of course, this happens in the case of long and frequent trips.
Read on the topic: What should be the cadence when riding
Why don’t all cyclists have bulky legs?
Since the legs do most of the work, you’d think that anyone who loves to ride a bike’s legs and buttocks would increase in size. However, only elite runners on the track and sprinters who need to develop a lot of power in a very short time need truly noticeable leg muscles.
Marathon cyclists or mountaineers do not need such a volume of muscles: most of them are thin, which requires the specificities of skating. For these runners, a developed aerobic system is of greater importance, which supplies oxygen to the working muscles.
As far as regular Cathals go, nature knows best, and so cycling is less likely to build massive muscle than weight training in the gym. Yes, it works the leg muscles, but there will be no noticeable increase in muscle mass.
How the cycling heart muscle works
Cycling (especially for recreational, non-competitive purposes) is primarily an aerobic activity, which means the heart, blood vessels and lungs benefit from a low-impact, stress-free workout.
Regular travel improves overall fitness and the heart, like muscles throughout the body, becomes stronger and more resilient, as constant aerobic exercise strengthens heart muscles, lowers resting heart rate and blood cholesterol levels .
A trained heart for a cyclist is of paramount importance, since it is he who provides blood circulation, which, in turn, means the efficiency of the supply of oxygen to the muscles.
You may be interested in: Cycling heart rate zones
What exercises are good for cyclists
Indoor strength training may not be associated with cycling, but it has real benefits for competitive athletes: strength training is essential to cycling performance.
Training in the gym will help increase muscle capacity and the number of fibers involved, which will lead to more power.
What to do exactly? The best exercises for the major working muscles – quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings – are squats and deadlifts.
There are many ways to train your upper body. For a cyclist, there will be enough bodyweight exercises that are easy to do at home.
For the muscles of the body, the best option would be the simplest barbell and all its variations, as well as push-ups and pull-ups.
However, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time doing strength training and lifting heavy weights, as fatigue can negatively affect the main workouts, namely cycling.
Materials that will be useful to you: What is cycling and can it replace cycling?
For beginners, it is recommended to incorporate strength training into the process during the transition period. And in general, you should not train in the same way indoors all year round: follow the periodization with a gradual increase in the load in the base period and a decrease in the race period.
If you’re not interested in the athletic component, don’t worry about strength training, just get on the bike and enjoy the freedom it gives!
Read next: How to ride a bike in the city: rules and tips