Woman cycling

Does cycling build muscle? Here's how your new bike can help your strength goals

Posted by for Strength

That new bike won’t just get you from A to B. Here’s how cycling can help you build muscle.

First, everyone coped with lockdown by running. Now it appears we’re all obsessed with cycling. If you don’t already know a handful of people who have recently bought bikes, stats from online retailer Wiggle that show bike sales increasing by 192% during lockdown should prove it. 

Cycling is amazing because it’s low impact, meaning that the joints don’t come under too much pressure during the workout. So if your knees are suffering from all of that practice to get a new 5k personal best time, it might be a good option for you. It’s also an amazing form of cardio and endurance training

But getting a bike won’t just help your heart (and get you around town while we avoid public transport): cycling can also act as a muscle building workout while we stay out of gyms too.

“Your muscles grow from working against resistance,” explains cyclist and trainer Elle Linton. “In cycling, resistance comes from pushing through high gears or hills.”

This resistance leads to hypertrophy, or muscle growth, as the force creates tears in the muscles which then grow back bigger and stronger. In cycling, the muscles working will be in the lower body, mainly your quads and glutes from the pushing movement you do to move the pedals round. If you use clips, you’ll also be working your hamstrings as you pull the pedal back around, too. 

Woman cycling
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However, much in the same way that you can’t rack the same weight on the squat bar every time you go into the gym and expect to keep seeing change, you need to push your muscles to fatigue in order to see growth.

“You can do that on an indoor or outdoor bike. Use heavy gears for your session and increase the incline. Much like running, you will probably be able to go less distance, but it will be much harder on the muscles,” says Elle.

Elle also recommends doing strengthening work off the bike in order to progress during your cycles. “If you’re completely new to cycling, it might help to build up some strength first, focusing on core and leg sessions. But also think about recovery: new cyclists shouldn’t be riding for strength six times a week – that’s something to build up to.”

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. 

Images: Unsplash

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).