How Indoor Cycling Works Muscles All Over Your Body

Cycling workouts

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

Some people take up indoor cycling to manage their weight or change their body composition, but there are many health benefits beyond beyond weight loss. For one thing, cycling is a low-impact activity that builds cardiovascular endurance. Second, with the right workouts, you can potentially work muscles all over your body helping you to become fitter and stronger.

While genetic factors play a significant role in muscle definition, anyone can get stronger from spinning or cycling. If you work with appropriate amounts of resistance on your bike, indoor cycling can help you develop stronger, leaner muscles. Here is what you need to know about which muscles indoor cycling impacts.

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. In fact, many times you can get a similar workout to what you would riding a road or mountain bike.

With the exception of recumbent bikes—which require less work from the upper body—you can expect that indoor cycling will impact your entire body. Here's how an indoor cycling workout will affect your muscles.

Back

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. In fact, participating in indoor cycling regularly can help you strengthen the muscles in your hips and glutes. Meanwhile, if you feel like you need more power, 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.

Core

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 if you cycle consistently.

Legs

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

The calves also get a workout on the down-stroke as well as the up-stroke. And, if you focus on developing fluid pedal strokes, you will end up with strong, lean legs from your hips to your ankles.

Other Fitness Benefits of Cycling

Indoor cycling classes provide a challenging workout. So, 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.

A Word From Verywell

Indoor cycling is a great, low-impact exercise that has the potential to work your entire body. Focus on using good form and not leaning on your bike to ensure you get the maximum benefit from your workout. Additionally, keep in mind that in order to see results from a cycling regimen, you need to be cycling consistently.

However, if you get bored with the same indoor cycling workouts, try mixing it up with other types of low-impact exercises as well as strength training. The variety will challenge your body and your mind. And, as always, if you are new to exercise or if you are recovering from an injury, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider first.

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.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat lossJ Obes. 2011;2011:868305. doi:10.1155/2011/868305

  2. Wood KM, Olive B, Lavalle K, Thompson H, Greer K, Astorino TA. Dissimilar physiological and perceptual responses between sprint interval training and high-intensity interval trainingJ Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(1):244-50. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001042

By Stacey Colino
Stacey Colino is a Certified Spinning® instructor and and group exercise instructor through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).