How Indoor Cycling Works Muscles All Over Your Body

Woman at spin class

Rob and Julia Campbell / Stocksy United

If you're looking to lose weight, change your body composition, or build cardiovascular endurance, indoor cycling is a great choice. If weight loss is your goal, keep in mind that you'll also need to create a calorie deficit through a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.

Of course, indoor cycling has many benefits beyond weight loss. For one thing, cycling works muscles all over your body. Indoor cycling is a total-body workout that strengthens more than just your legs.

While genetic factors play a significant role in muscle definition, anyone can get stronger from spinning. If you work with appropriate amounts of resistance on your bike, indoor cycling can help you develop stronger, leaner muscles.

5 Muscle Groups Used in Indoor Cycling

If you have already tried indoor cycling, you may have noticed that your muscles are sore all over—not just your legs. Road and mountain biking work similar muscles to indoor cycling, but recumbent bikes (whether stationary or on the road) require less work from the upper body and core. Here's what your muscles can expect from an indoor cycling workout.


When you hinge forward at the hips to cycle, the muscles in your lower back end up supporting your upper body and helping to stabilize your torso as you ride. Keep your spine straight as you lean forward and you’ll engage your back muscles optimally, helping to strengthen them as you pedal.

Upper Arms

Maintain the proper hand position as you shift between seated and standing positions, and your arms will provide some support for your upper body. Shifting positions in and out of the saddle will help strengthen your biceps and triceps, in particular (no weights required).

Hips and Glutes

Contrary to what many people think, the hips and core generate much of the power for indoor cycling. Off-the-bike workouts that include exercises to strengthen your hips and glutes can help you boost your pace and comfort when you're on the bike. In addition, participating in indoor cycling regularly can help you strengthen the muscles in your hips and glutes. It’s a powerful two-way street.


If you hinge from the hips, maintain the proper posture, and avoid leaning on the handlebars when you cycle, you’ll engage the muscles in your core, which can help tone and strengthen your entire abdominal wall.

If you gently sway from side to side as you cycle, the upper body rhythm you generate will work the muscles along the sides of your abdomen (obliques) as well. Over time, you’ll likely notice that your core has become a lot stronger all around.


As you pedal, the quadriceps (the large muscles in the front of the thighs) are working hard, especially on the downstroke. The muscles in the back of your thighs (the hamstrings) get a workout when your legs pull up during the up-stroke.

The calves get a workout on the down-stroke as well as the up-stroke. The upshot: Develop fluid pedal strokes, and you’ll end up with strong, lean legs from your hips to your ankles.

Other Fitness Benefits of Cycling

Indoor cycling classes provide a challenging workout. If you attend classes regularly, you will likely experience the physical benefits.

Research shows that indoor cycling, when combined with strength training, can improve cardiovascular health and fitness. In addition, training at high-intensity intervals, which is common in most cycling classes, has been shown to effectively burn calories and build stamina.

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles does biking work, vs. running?

Compared to cycling, which works the legs, core, back, and upper arms, running mostly targets the lower body. The muscles that are strengthened from running include the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles, hip flexors, ankles, and other tendons and ligaments in the legs, as well as the core.

What are the benefits of a cycling class?

Aside from the physical benefits, there are other great reasons to try indoor cycling. You may find that indoor cycling helps to clear your mind and temporarily relieve stress. Taking a class with an instructor instead of riding on your own means you have someone to safely guide you through different intensities and also help you stay motivated.

In addition, you may thrive off the energy of other cyclers around you as everyone works hard together to meet their goals. You may even find a studio that you like to attend regularly and feel like you're part of a fitness community.

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2 Sources
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