Cycling is one of the easiest and best ways to get fit and have fun simultaneously. Cycling does not cause undue stress on the joints like other forms of cardio, and it is a timeless form of exercise that anyone can do at any age. Let’s take a look at the many advantages of cycling, as well as the various muscles you’ll be working as you ride.
The Benefits of Cycling
Whether you’re riding through the trails on the weekend or commuting on a bike every day, there are several benefits to cycling for you and the environment.
- Eco-Friendly Travel – Cycling is excellent for our environment, as it is a pollution-free mode of transportation. When we cycle, we benefit not only ourselves but also those around us.
- Reduces the Risk of Health Problems – Cycling is at the top of the list regarding significant health benefits. Cyclists have an 18 percent lower rate of heart disease than noncyclists, and cycling lowers the risk of diabetes and obesity.
- Improves Mental Health – Cycling is not only good for you physically, but it also enhances mental well-being. When you cycle, you are getting a powerful mood lifter and a dynamic anxiety reducer.
- Improves Physical Health – Cycling helps to strengthen the bones, improve flexibility, and increase muscle strength.
Muscles Toned During Cycling
The degree to which the muscles are toned depends on the intensity and duration of your ride, as well as how perfect your bike fit is. But, as you pedal, you’ll be working everything from your arms and bottom to your legs and core.
The quadricep femoris muscles are located in the front of your upper thigh and are responsible for flexing your hip and extending your knee. During cycling, these muscles are the ones that help you push the pedal down. There are four components to the quadriceps femoris, including the:
- Rectus Femoris – Flexes the thigh at the hip joint and extends at the knee joint.
- Vastus Lateralis – Extends the knee joint and stabilizes the patella.
- Vastus Medialis – This muscle performs the same as the vastus lateralis, but it’s located more medially.
- Vastus Intermedius – This muscle also performs the same as the lateralis and medialis, only this muscle attaches at a more anterior and lateral angle.
These are the large muscles you sit on, and they help keep your pelvis stable and allow for hip rotation while you’re on a bike. There are three glute muscles.
- Gluteus Maximus – This muscle is the largest in the group and considered the most important during cycling.
- Gluteus Medius – This muscle is located between the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus. It is responsible for maintaining the side-to-side stability of the pelvis, as well as hip abduction (the lateral and medial rotation of the hip away from the body).
- Gluteus Minimus – This muscle is the most minor and most profound of the glute muscles and is primarily responsible for thigh abduction and internal and external rotation.
The hamstrings located in the back of your upper leg are responsible for flexing your knee and extending your hip. These muscles consist of three parts and are vital during the entire pedal stroke.
- Semitendinosus – This muscle is the longest of the hamstring muscles and is responsible for thigh extension, tibia rotation, and knee flexion.
- Semimembranosus – This muscle is the largest of the hamstring muscles and is also responsible for extension of the thigh, rotation of the tibia, and knee flexion.
- Biceps Femoris – This muscle has two parts and allows the knee to flex and rotate and extends the hip.
Your calf muscles work with the hamstrings and are activated when you hit the pedal with your toes. These muscles consist of two main sections, which play a lesser role in the pushing motion of the ride, but they are still being worked when cycling.
- Gastrocnemius – This more significant section of muscle is biarticular, performing both plantar and knee flexion. This part of the calf muscle is an antagonist during knee extension.
- Soleus – This smaller section of the calf muscle is responsible for plantar flexion of the ankle and stabilizing the tibia on the calcaneus, helping to prevent any forward sway.
Upper Body and Core
The muscles of your upper body, including your biceps, triceps, deltoids, and upper and lower abdominals (which make up your core), are necessary to keep your body balanced and upright while cycling. The activation of these muscles comes into play when you’re cycling uphill and riding out of the saddle.
Muscle Care 101
Other critical factors involved in cycling include a healthy diet, along with getting enough quality sleep. After all, our muscles need the energy to work while we are cycling and time to rest and recover afterward.