Which Muscles Are Used When Cycling: The 5 Most Used for Biking

Cycling is an excellent way to raise your heart rate and burn calories, but did you know it also works many muscles?

In this blog post, we’ll look at the various muscles involved when riding your bike, so you can be better aware of what your body is doing.

The quads and glutes are the primary muscles engaged when riding. While pedaling, your quadriceps help to lengthen your legs, while your glutes offer the power to hold you upright. Furthermore, your hamstrings are substantially involved when climbing hills or slopes.

Thumbnail for a blog post which muscles are used when cycling: the 5 most used for biking
Thumbnail for A Blog Post Which Muscles Are Used when Cycling: The 5 Most Used for Biking

What is a muscle?

Muscles are soft tissue that helps you perform different functions. Muscles are made up of stretchable fibers. Your body contains over 600 muscles. Pulling and pushing are the primary movements of any muscle group. Some muscles help you run and jump.

My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

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My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. It looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

The five most used muscles when cycling

Every sport has key muscles that make up most of the effort in the specific motion. Primary muscles, also known as movers, are the first to be activated when there is a demand for enhanced speed or force. For example, these muscles are located in the hips and legs of a cyclist. The legs, also known as pistons, rotate at 80 to 100 reps per minute and are crucial for providing power and speed.

These are the most commonly used cycling muscles.

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Hamstring
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Soleus (Calves)

1. Gluteus maximus

The gluteus maximus (sometimes known as the “glutes”) is the largest of the three gluteal muscles and provides the force for your stroke when you push down on the pedal. To get the most power from your glutes, you should work on building, using, and stretching them when you’re not riding your bike.

2. Quadriceps

The quadriceps femoris is a collection of muscles in the front of your thigh. They contain greater bulk than any other muscle group in your body. You use your quadriceps to kick, run and jump.

3. Hamstrings

The hamstring muscles travel down the back of your leg from your hips to the back of your knee. They are essential for cyclists since they are active in bending the hip and knee for both the pushdown and draw-up movements of the pedal. The hamstrings are most active during the pedal stroke from 6 to 9 o’clock.

4. Calf muscles

A hallmark of a hardcore biker is bulging calf muscles, which, like quads, are necessary for a powerful downward force on the pedals. When you use your toes to press the pedal, your calf muscles are most stimulated.

5. Shins muscles

Finally, in the pedal stroke, the tibialis anterior, or shin muscle, is critical in pulling your foot from an extended point at 6 o’clock back up towards 9 o’clock.

Image of a man standing in one leg with black socks and white shoes. Source:david dvoracek, unsplash
Image of a man standing on one leg with black socks and white shoes.

Can you target individual muscles to work out when cycling?

You can’t target individual muscles when riding because cycling is a total-body workout. However, focusing on certain body parts while you work out at the gym will make your workout more effective and get you better results faster than if you just cycled without any goals. So you may target them when working out at the gym by focusing on your routine.

If you want to target individual muscles for cycling, you can use a weightlifting or home gym equipped with adjustable weights and pulleys. You can also buy specialized equipment such as stability balls, Swiss balls, TRX systems, and other items to personalize your workouts to your specific demands. For example, if you want to work out your upper back, you may do exercises like lat pulldowns or French press shoulder pushes.

Below are some workout tools you should consider.

[azonpress template=”grid” asin=”B0187LW088,B01LXL27XI,B07X64MXBS”]

If you have the right equipment, it’s time to get started.

  1. Decide which muscle group you want to work on.
  2. Select an exercise that works properly for that specific muscle group.
  3. Change the weight as needed and do the required reps with good form; be careful not to stress your joints.

If you want even more tips, watch this video called “Cycling Muscles Used: How to Unlock Greater Strength, Endurance & Power Part 1” from the Christopher Hole YouTube Channel.

A video called “Cycling Muscles Used: How to Unlock Greater Strength, Endurance & Power Part 1” from the Christopher Hole YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about what muscles are used when cycling.

What muscles do you use when riding a bike?

You use your hamstrings, quads, and glutes when riding a bike. The hamstring muscles are in charge of stretching the hip joint, whereas the quadriceps muscles aid with rotation. The gluteal muscle is crucial for foot placement and body stability while cycling.

Does cycling help build muscles?

Yes. Cycling can help you grow muscles, but you must ensure that you are cycling correctly. To get the best benefits, cycle for at least 30 minutes daily and combine it with cardiovascular training. Improving cardiovascular health is vital for muscle gain because it permits oxygen-rich blood to reach all of your muscles more easily.

How do people become stronger cyclists?

Cycling is a great all-around activity that can help you gain muscle, strengthen your bones, and boost your endurance. You can enhance your strength and conditioning by regularly following an organized cycling routine and regular training.


Proper form is essential for good cycling. If you can accomplish this, you will be able to ride faster and with less weariness. Slow down or take a break if your hands start shaking and your back starts hurting.

This article covered what muscles are and the most commonly used muscles. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Many stretchable fibers make up your muscles.
  • Your body contains over 600 muscles.
  • Different muscles perform different functions.
  • Every sport has key muscles that make up most of the effort in the specific motion.
  • You can’t target individual muscles when riding because cycling is a total-body workout.
  • Focusing on certain body parts while you work out will make your workout more effective and get you better results faster than if you just cycled without any goals.
  • Cycling workouts are a great approach to building all muscle groups.
  • Cycling is a movement-based workout. Therefore, the muscles engaged are comparable to those used in running or sports like football and basketball.
  • However, cycling helps you improve your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and abdominal muscles due to the long-standing position and pedaling motion that manage the bike’s stability while going downhill.
  • The chest, shoulders, and arms comprise the upper body. To cycle well with such a huge upper body, it is critical to train all these muscle groups so you can cycle at a high level at any age.
  • The saddle is an essential component of the bicycle, contributing to its handling characteristics.

So, did you know all the muscles you use when cycling? Don’t lie. Did we cover everything you wanted to know? Let us know in the comments section below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on fixed and single-speed bikes. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

Yerain Abreu
Edited by Yerain Abreu, Staff Editor

Yerain is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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