Cycling: The Surprising Full-body Muscle Builder

When you think of muscles and cycling, monster quadriceps immediately spring to mind. While cycling does heavily target these, it also works many other muscles over the body – some you would never expect.

You might not need to be hitting the gym to get the toned body you crave. Here are the muscle groups that regular cycling can help build and strengthen...

Discover more: What Are The Health Benefits Of Cycling? [Interactive]

Lovely legs

This is the obvious one, but an important one none-the-less. We’re all too familiar with the burn our thighs feel when tackling a monstrous climb, so it’s no wonder our legs are so greatly affected. When you cycle uphill, your quads (front of the thighs) take most of the strain with your hamstrings (back of the thighs) coming in a close second. You’ll find that strengthening these two muscles – using exercises such as squats and lunges - will have a significant impact on your cycling performance.

Don’t forget about your calves! You might not feel the burn in the same way as your thighs but that doesn’t mean they’re not working away. As you turn the pedals to the 6 o’clock position, your calves are working in the same way as they would if you were stood on your tip-toes. Having strong calves will make it easier to pedal for longer periods of time and will prevent injuries such as shin splints.

Glorious glutes

Who doesn’t want a toned derrière? Especially in lycra! Luckily, cycling can target the glutes too. Granted, your usual, relaxed morning ride won’t be doing much for your glutes (you are sat down after all), but there are a lot of elements of cycling that’ll tone this area.

The moment you embark on a tough climb and come out of the saddle, your glutes start working in overtime to power the movement. Increasing the intensity by upping the resistance on a spin bike or tackling an even steeper climb will really up the ante for your backside and eventually leave you with glorious glutes.

Carved core

While cycling doesn’t primarily rely on your core muscles, they’re working hard nonetheless. This is because to keep stable as you pedal, you activate your abdominal muscles which are part of your body’s core muscle unit. It’s the core muscles that not only help keep the body upright but also provide a stable platform for the hips, thighs and knees to work from as well as minimising discomfort and injury in the back.

To provide this stability, your ab muscles contract. It’s these constant contractions that give our abs a good seeing to. Albeit, it won’t have quite the same effect of doing the plank for minutes on end, but you have to admit it’s not bad for a leg-based activity!

Solid shoulders and built back

Although most of our weight is taken by the bicycle seat, our upper body bears some of the weight as a result of us leaning on the handlebars. Therefore, muscles in your back and shoulders are constantly being worked and strengthened as you ride.

Most notably, the deltoids in your shoulders which help hold you up and the trapezius muscle which helps maintain your posture while you’re riding. Due to these muscles being worked, your posture will be improved when off-bike too – ideal if you’re sat at a desk all day!

Athletic arms

Let us not forget the trials and tribulations our arms, wrists and hands go through while we grip onto those handlebars, especially on bumpy surfaces. Mountain bikers, in particular, will know the strain a bumpy trail can put on your arms and hands.

Road cyclists will also see the benefits - many road bikes have drop handlebars, requiring you to lean forward and support your upper body with your arms. When you combine this with the squeezing of the breaks, your arms, wrist and hands have had a mini work out all of their own!

Knowing what you know now about cycling being an excellent full-body workout, you’ve got a great excuse to pass up on the sweaty, claustrophobic gym and wheel out your trusty bicycle for a much more scenic and enjoyable workout. So, persist with the pedalling, and you’ll be looking like a chiselled god in your lycra in no time…well, that’s the theory anyway!

If you are planning on hitting the roads for a health boost, be sure to check out cycling insurance.