What Muscles Does Biking Work -Muscle Groups Used For Cycling

Riding a bicycle is a great physical activity that works out a lot of muscles and body parts, and thus gives you a good dose of exercise. To put it simply, it’s an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, and it’s practical and environmentally friendly as well.

Besides, we’ve all seen the excellent body shape that cyclists have, from their lean but strong upper body to their impressively toned biker legs. You can achieve that too, as long as you do things right, and keep riding your bike.

But first, let’s answer a few questions. What muscles does biking work?  What are the target muscle groups for cycling, and how does riding your bike impact these muscles? Or, just how exactly can cycling benefit you?


What muscles does biking work?

Cycling engages various muscles all throughout your body, from your biceps, core, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Your hamstrings alone contribute to about ten percent of your pedalling power. These muscles all work together in maintaining your balance and keeping you stable, providing you with pedalling power, and more.

Each muscle plays an important role in keeping you moving, but these muscles can also suffer if you ride the wrong bicycle, or cycle with an incorrect form. Below, we will explain each of these things in more detail, including how much pedalling power you get from each muscle.

couple biking together

Target muscle groups for cycling- Overview

Here is a list of the different muscle groups that are worked with a regular bicycle exercise. We’ll talk about what they do once they are engaged, how they are impacted, and how much pedalling power they contribute, so you know how to most effectively work your muscles in order to achieve the perfect cyclist body.


The hamstrings are located above the thighs and below the buttocks. These are what allow you to bend your knees to work the pedals, and gives you about ten percent of pedalling power as your knees flex. You can build strength and endurance by working the hamstrings, but it’s advisable not to overwork them to prevent tears and ruptures.


The calves are muscles on your legs that allow you to pedal by working with the hamstrings and quads, keep your feet stable on the pedals, and contribute to twenty percent of your pedalling power. Cyclist calves are toned and strengthened with regular cycling, although some risks involved are tears, strains, and pulled muscles if you don’t stretch or warm up prior to riding.


The glutes on your pelvic area are what keeps you stable on the bike seat and enables your hips to rotate, as well as contributes to twenty seven percent of your pedalling power. These aren’t exercised as much as other muscles, but they can be strengthened with targeted glute workouts.


The quadriceps or quads on your thighs are the source of most of your pedalling power, amounting to thirty nine percent, by working your legs down the pedals. Cyclist quads are extremely toned, and yours can be toned with cycling alone or combined with other exercises, but prior warm up is required as to not strain or pull the muscles.


The arms are where your biceps and triceps are located, and while cycling may seem like a lower body exercise, your arms play an important part too, since they support your body, keep you balanced, and help you navigate. As such, these muscles can be toned over time, but incorrect positioning may result in numbness, tingling, and pain on the arms, wrists, and hands.


In relation to the arms, your shoulders also get a bit of workout when you ride your bicycle, since these are what enables the arms to move around, and receive the pressure and force from your arms and upper body as you try to keep in position and ride over rough spots and hilly paths.

Abdominal muscles

Your core is where the abdominal muscles or abs are housed, and it works to keep you stable, reduce side by side motions, and even exert around four percent of pedalling power depending on how you ride. You can exercise the core if you want to enjoy more pedalling power, but be careful to ride the correct sized bikes so you don’t experience any lower back pain.


Of course, the feet are the body parts always in contact with the pedals when you’re riding, and are what receives the power from the entire body in order to allow you to work the pedal and move forward. Your risks here mainly lie on possibly slipping and getting your feet jammed somewhere in the bicycle, hence cleats are the preferred footwear for safety and efficiency.

Benefits of cycling

As you have already read, cycling is an excellent form of exercise and comes with many health benefits to keep you fit and healthy. Cycling keeps you in good shape, improves your cardiovascular health, enhances your muscles’ metabolic activity, prevents arthritis, and more.

You can also build your strength, tone your muscles, enjoy a bit of weight loss, and boost your overall happiness by cycling every day. Just make sure you’re protected if you explore more uneven roads with these best MTB knee pads. And, all of these are not even factoring in the fact that bike riding is practical, economical, and is mother-nature approved.

Build strength

Riding a bike is a form of physical exercise, and as any other exercise routine, one of the most important benefits you can enjoy is more physical strength. Think of it this way- you ride your bike to build strength which enables you to ride better and build more strength, and so on.

And of course, with this improved upper and lower body strength, especially in your core and legs, you also get to enjoy a better form, and can confidently tackle any task and adventure that comes your way.

Build muscles

You’ve read earlier how cycling can build your muscles and how. This doesn’t just give you a much better physical appearance with all the toned muscles and those dreamy cyclist legs, but more importantly, you become healthier overall.

And, you can easily build your muscles whether you opt for riding your bike outdoors, whether as a form of daily commute, or as a more challenging exercise on bike trails and hilly paths, or if you choose to go with a stationary bike workout at home or in the gym.

Weight loss

Another great benefit of cycling is the eventual weight loss, which comes with building your muscle mass. This in turn burns more calories so you burn fat more effectively, even when you’re not riding your bike.

As with all other forms of exercise, the longer and the more consistently you do it, the better shape your body gets in, and the more weight you lose as well. So, if you want to shed a few pounds, get stronger, and look better, cycling is a great way to do it.

Boost happiness

It’s a proven fact that exercise triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which facilitates positive emotions, so you’re happier, less stressed, and less prone to depression. And as bicycle riding is a form of exercise, this is just one of the many benefits you can enjoy.

Plus, if you ride outdoors, you also get to enjoy the view of both familiar and new surroundings, see people and animals outside, and commune with nature, all of which have plenty of positive effects to the mind and body.

Is cycling a good form of cardio?

More than what we’ve already discussed, cycling has a few other perks that you can experience. For one thing, biking is a great way to do some low-impact cardiovascular workout, since it also works your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Remember, your heart is also a muscular organ, and cardio exercises such as bicycle riding works out the heart so that it’s healthier and leaner. In fact, regular cyclists, from commuters to racers, enjoy a much lower risk of various heart diseases.

In conclusion

To recap, the answer to the question of “What muscles does biking work?” is that it works out your hamstrings, calves, glutes, thighs, arms, shoulders, abdominal muscles, and feet, so you can have more physical strength, toned muscles, less body fat, and a happier life.

You can enjoy the many health benefits of cycling regardless of whether you opt for indoor or outdoor bikes, although riding a bike outdoors gives you the extra perk of enjoying the wonders of nature, such as breathing fresh air.

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