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What Muscles Do Cycling Work?

what muscles do cycling work

Cycling is a well-liked exercise that works several parts of the body. The main muscles used while cycling are the topic of the article. It examines the functions these muscles do during various cycling phases and talks about how using the right cycling tactics can efficiently engage and strengthen these muscle groups. It’s vital to understand the muscles used in cycling in order to improve performance and avoid injury.

Major Muscles Involved in Cycling

Several significant muscle groups are actively used when riding. The main muscles used in cycling are listed below:

  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps, which sit at the front of the thigh, are in charge of extending the knee and producing force during the downward pedal stroke.
  • Hamstrings: Lying at the rear of the leg, the hamstrings are essential for the upward pedal stroke and help flex the knee.
  • Gluteal muscles: The glutes, also referred to as the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are crucial for hip extension, which gives the pedaling motion strength and stability.
  • Calf muscles: The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are part of the calf group and help push the pedal down by supporting ankle plantar flexion.
  • Hip flexor muscles: The iliopsoas and rectus femoris hip flexors assist in lifting the leg and starting the downward pedal stroke.
  • Core muscles: During cycling, the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles all contribute to stability and aid in maintaining good posture.
  • Upper body muscles: The muscles of the shoulders, arms, and back are nevertheless used for balance, steering, and maintaining a relaxed upper body position, although not being as apparent as the lower body muscles.

Muscle Activation

Depending on factors including intensity, topography, and riding style, muscle activation during various cycling stages can vary. Here is a general description of how muscles are activated throughout different cycling phases.

Downward Pedal Stroke(Power Phase)

Several important muscle groups are activated during the downward pedal stroke, also referred to as the power phase of cycling, in order to produce force and move the bicycle ahead.

The quadriceps, gluteal muscles, calf muscles, and core muscles are the main muscles involved.

  • During the downward pedal stroke, the quadriceps muscles engage to extend the knee and provide power.
  • The muscles of the gluteus maximus and medius contract to give strength and stability.
  • The calves help to push the pedal down by assisting with ankle plantar flexion.
  • The muscles in the core support the torso and aid in the movement of force from the legs to the pedals.

Upward Pedal Stroke(Recovery Phase)

Specific muscle groups come into play during the upward pedal stroke, which is referred to as the cycling recovery phase, to preserve momentum and get ready for the following power phase. The main muscles at play are briefly described below:

  • Hamstrings: During the upward pedal stroke, the hamstrings, which are situated at the rear of the thigh, are quite important. They tighten to help in recovery by flexing the knee and pulling the pedal back up.
  • Hip flexor muscles: During the recovery phase, the iliopsoas and rectus femoris hip flexor muscles help lift the pedal by starting the upward movement of the leg.

Climbing and Sprinting

Cycling situations that call for more muscular activation and power include sprinting and climbing.

  • Quadriceps and gluteal muscles: These muscles collaborate to give the power required for running or climbing steep inclines.
  • Upper body muscles: For stability and control while climbing or sprinting, the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and back may also contract.

Cornering and stability

Cycling involves a crucial ability of cornering that combines technique, balance, and muscle activation. While cornering or turning, the core muscles are essential for maintaining stability and balance.

Post-Cycling Relaxation

Recovery and muscle renewal after cycling depends on relaxation. Here are some important things to think about, including applying a massage gun:

  • Stretching: Perform mild stretches that target the primary muscle groups used during riding, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors. This helps to loosen up tight muscles and increase flexibility.
  • Massage: To target particular muscle regions, think about employing a handheld massage gun. Apply mild pressure in a circular manner for several minutes using the massage gun on sore or tight spots. This may ease tension in the muscles and improve blood flow.
  • Hydration: To avoid dehydration and promote muscle recovery, replenish lost fluids by consuming plenty of water.
  • Nutrition: To refill your energy reserves and aid in muscle recovery, eat a post-workout meal or snack that is balanced and contains both carbohydrates and protein.
  • Rest: Give your body the time it needs to recharge. To encourage muscle growth and repair, get enough sleep.


Cycling Muscles Used: How to unlock great endurance strength and power Part 2

Emily Brook

Emily Brook

Hi, I'm Emily, a Health and Fitness Specialist with FivaliFitness. With years of experience in the fitness industry as a certified personal trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals achieve their health and fitness goals.

Whether you're new to fitness or an experienced athlete, our products and resources are designed to support and enhance your fitness journey. So, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me at any time!

The information provided in articles written by Fivali is intended for educational and reference purposes only. The content on this website ( is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We do not recommend self-diagnosis or self-treatment based on the information provided in our articles. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your health or well-being.
If you are experiencing any symptoms or discomfort, we strongly encourage you to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional. Only a licensed healthcare practitioner can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

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