Does Biking Construct Muscle? The Details About Rising on the Bike

When some individuals need to construct muscle, they begin biking. No, we’re not speaking about utilizing efficiency enhancing medicine — these construct an excellent little bit of muscle with an entire host of uncomfortable side effects. We’re speaking about truly biking as in, using a motorbike.

Numerous types of biking are gaining reputation, both outside in the actual world or on a stationary bike within the fitness center, so why not experiment with biking your option to extra muscular legs?

Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Spin instructors have good legs and the muscle burn you are feeling from biking might be comparable, or much more intense, than some conventional strength-training leg workouts. So let’s breakdown this unconventional strategy to see how, or if, you possibly can pedal your manner towards thicker legs.

Does Biking Construct Muscle

Biking For Muscle

Basically, biking is a type of cardio. It taxes your endurance and it doesn’t have the normal advantages of energy coaching workout routines like squats and lunges. Biking additionally doesn’t have coordinated “lifting and reducing” phases of motion (i.e. the concerned muscle tissue don’t endure a contraction part in opposition to resistance adopted by a muscle-lengthening part in opposition to resistance).

Nonetheless, the pedaling required to cycle forces a number of concentric muscle contractions — working in opposition to resistance — alongside many main leg muscle tissue. There may be hip flexion, knee extension, and a few knee flexion happening with every stroke of the pedal, so it’s legitimate to surprise if muscle progress can happen. That is all a flowery manner of claiming that, when biking, your muscle tissue nonetheless produce pressure to contract, basically much like energy coaching.

Muscular Contractions and Pressure

Technically talking, all you want for muscle progress is mechanical stress. (1) That is lively pressure alongside muscle fibers till they attain involuntarily sluggish contraction speeds. It’s why the previous few reps of a set of squats are the toughest and, typically, the slowest transferring.

It’s additionally why coaching near, as much as, or beyond failure builds muscle. These ultimate, extremely difficult reps are what triggers hypertrophy.

Person in gym on spin bike
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

So whilst you don’t calculate coaching quantity or rely reps on a motorbike the identical as with a weight coaching train — no person jumps on a motorbike for “650 pedals” — mechanically talking, there is potential for biking to set off progress in case your muscle tissue are sufficiently challenged.

We’ll discuss extra about optimizing this later, however let’s go over some cardio myths first. Biking is, in spite of everything, nonetheless primarily an endurance-based train which is usually a battle of curiosity for getting jacked.

Low Depth vs. Excessive Depth Cardio

Much like energy coaching, cardio might be carried out at numerous intensities. For simplicity’s sakes, let’s deal with low depth, steady-state cardio (LISS) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Whereas there are different cardio coaching strategies, evaluating these ends of the spectrum will assist you to perceive the important thing variations.

You’ll be able to maintain comparatively decrease depth cardio for longer intervals of time, therefore the “regular state” designation. Examples embody strolling, jogging, slowly swimming laps, informal biking, or something carried out at a comparatively sustainable tempo.

Larger depth cardio is often damaged up into intervals of labor alternated with intervals of decrease depth cardio or full relaxation. (2) You’ll be able to’t maintain a near-maximum sprinting pace for too lengthy, or else it wouldn’t actually be a dash.

The Proper Cardio for Muscle Development

Whereas each strategies have cardiovascular elements like enhancing your resting coronary heart fee and VO2 max (the quantity of oxygen your physique makes use of throughout train), excessive depth interval coaching can probably stimulate some muscle progress. HIIT requires you to carry out for durations and intensities nearer to conventional energy coaching.

Due to this fact, if the purpose is utilizing biking to build muscle, you might want to crank up the bike’s resistance. In case you’re biking for 20 minutes or extra, the resistance is probably going too low to attain a real muscle-building stimulus even when your legs “burn” rather a lot. Equally, should you had been to curl three-pound dumbbells for 20 minutes with out stopping, positive that may really feel the burn, but it surely’s not environment friendly or efficient at constructing muscle.

Does Cardio Eat Muscle?

In case you’ve heard tales about cardio dwindling your muscle away, there’s some reality to this, but it surely’s not what you assume.

Person in gym using seated bike machine
Credit score: Adulwit Natheetavesak / Shutterstock

Cardio, whether or not LISS or HIIT, is offering your physique a stimulus to adapt to. Exterior of undereating and never exercising in any respect, your physique doesn’t “lose muscle.” Nonetheless, whereas cardio doesn’t eat away your treasured glutes and biceps, the stimulus that you’re imposing is a bit conflicted.

Give it some thought. While you raise heavy weights and attempt to get stronger, you’re telling your physique it ought to develop muscle to raise heavier weights. However if you cycle or run, you’re telling your physique to get extra environment friendly at transferring longer distances, and one option to be extra environment friendly is to stop constructing important muscular physique weight.

That is why endurance athletes, like marathon runners, are sometimes slimmer and energy athletes, like powerlifters, are reliably extra muscular. While you attempt to deal with excelling in each throughout a coaching routine, there’s a compromise referred to as the interference impact. (3)

The interference impact doesn’t essentially trigger muscle loss, however it might probably compromise the diversifications and constructive outcomes made on each ends — muscle progress and constructing endurance — until you are taking care to design the plan with very focused programming.

So whereas we established that biking can construct muscle underneath sure circumstances, you gained’t construct as a lot as somebody who prioritizes their coaching and restoration towards typical leg exercises like squats and deadlifts. That is the precept of specificity — particular actions will set off particular diversifications in your physique.

How you can Cycle For Muscle Development

In case you’re planning to hop on the spin bike simply since you take pleasure in it, and also you’re nonetheless hoping to construct some muscle, no worries. That’s an appropriate trade-off and right here’s how you’ll go about it.

The pedaling approach is fairly easy. So long as you’re pedaling along with your foot secured, you may be coaching your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Since constructing muscle requires progressive overload — a persistently elevated problem from exercise to exercise — an in-gym stationary bike can be higher than getting outside on a street bike. It will allow you to extra simply observe, monitor, and regulate nearly all of variables.

Long-haired person in gym using stationary bike
Credit score: Maridav / Shutterstock

In case you insist on biking out within the wild, attempt to precisely observe variables by deciding on the identical distance route with the identical elevation adjustments, and monitoring your pedal output, together with cadence and whole time.

Switching routes continuously is like switching between dumbbells, kettlebells, and cables each week. You’re continuously altering issues, however precise progressive overload won’t be occurring.

Biking Frequency

Subsequent is the location of your biking session. Schedule it on the finish of a leg exercise or on the training day after working your legs. This ensures that your legs are recent sufficient to deal with conventional energy coaching, which is able to develop probably the most muscle.

Doing all of your biking the day after may even enable your legs to be barely pre-fatigued, which may also help you get comparatively extra stimulus with comparatively much less work. After a tough leg session, your legs gained’t want as excessive a level of biking depth to achieve fatigue.

In any case, by no means place your biking session proper earlier than your leg exercise. Your leg exercise will negatively affected and you’ll not find yourself triggering a lot muscle progress. Bear in mind, biking to construct muscle is already a compromised strategy. Don’t compromise it additional by ruining your common leg exercises.

Biking Depth

It is advisable to cycle with depth. For biking to construct muscle, it can’t be preformed at a leisurely, steady-state tempo. It should have to be intense sufficient to almost resemble a set of energy coaching.

Intervals of 20-60 seconds of labor in opposition to a excessive resistance is an effective purpose. Goal for eight to 10 units, which ought to be a lot if you’re doing this hypertrophy-focused biking session a few times per week.

Goal for a constant resistance setting and time for every set. On the finish of your exercise, examine to see how a lot distance you lined. To make sure muscle progress and supply progressive resistance every week, you might want to enhance that distance in the identical timeframe utilizing the identical resistance.

Muscular person in gym using spin bike
Credit score: alejandro piorun / Shutterstock

Because the weeks go on, maintain pushing for extra whole distance with the identical resistance and time per set. When you get to a cushty distance, enhance the resistance barely and begin throughout.

In case you’re biking out in nature, your greatest strategy is to discover a hill and journey up for 10 units. Use the journey down as a part of your relaxation between every set. However you’ll nonetheless must progressively overload this routine. This might imply biking uphill whereas sporting a weighted vest or backpack, or looking out to discover a steeper or longer hill to extend the problem.


Constructing muscle with cardio is, in some methods, much like constructing muscle with energy coaching. Positive, one methodology is much more practical for this purpose, however the identical basic rules apply. Basically, you apply mechanical stress and you retain persistently apply extra so the physique adapts.

In case you can’t apply extra, which is able to inevitably occur, you might want to plan a deload. That is extraordinarily necessary as a result of biking at excessive intensities might be fairly fatiguing, particularly when carried out along with your regular energy coaching exercises.

You would possibly run right into a plateau or a drop in efficiency inside a number of weeks relying in your total plan and your basic conditioning. A plateau doesn’t imply you might want to push more durable, it means you might want to take a deload week the place complete coaching is considerably lighter and comparatively decrease resistance.

In energy coaching, this might imply utilizing lighter weights and/or doing fewer reps per set. On the bike, it means dialing again the resistance and taking some comparatively simpler rides. This enables any gathered fatigue to dissipate, so you possibly can comeback in every week or so to push for extra PRs and construct extra muscle within the long-term.

Skip Leg Day, Add Bike Day?

Some individuals would possibly now be questioning if it’s OK to completely cycle to construct their decrease physique muscle tissue. Technically, you may, but it surely’s fairly inefficient, particularly should you’re extra superior in your total health. However, you possibly can actually do what you need and practice nevertheless you’d like. And it’s nonetheless higher than not giving your legs any sort of coaching stimulus. In case you’re prepared so as to add biking to your leg-building plans, save this information as a reference for one of the best ways to pedal slightly nearer to thicker thighs.


  1. Schoenfeld B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their software to resistance coaching. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis24(10), 2857–2872.
  2. Atakan, M. M., Li, Y., Koşar, Ş. N., Turnagöl, H. H., & Yan, X. (2021). Proof-Based mostly Results of Excessive-Depth Interval Coaching on Train Capability and Well being: A Evaluate with Historic Perspective. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being18(13), 7201.
  3. Methenitis S. (2018). A Temporary Evaluate on Concurrent Coaching: From Laboratory to the Area. Sports activities (Basel, Switzerland)6(4), 127.

Featured Picture: Alfredo Lopez / Shutterstock

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