Which Muscles Does an Exercise Bike Work?
As the nights start to draw in and puddles start to fill on-road cycle paths, our thoughts may turn to which types of exercise we can do at home. Some of you may already use a static (stationary) exercise bike. Others may be reluctant to buy one, might think you don’t have enough room or may not have considered the need. So, what might the benefits be, and can an exercise bike really give you a decent workout and help to build muscle?
Before we start, let’s be clear that different types of bikes are designed for different levels of workout, fitness and usage. So, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. However, there are key fundamental muscle groups used when you do a home (or road) bike ride.
Primarily, and as you can see from the diagram below, you are mainly using the bottom half of your body – your glutes, the top of the thighs and your calves. Depending on the type of bike you have and your posture, you also can be working your lower back and core. We would always recommend you to be aware of your posture and core when doing any workout.
For example, a spinning bike where you stand and ‘hover’ within a workout, allows you to use additional muscle groups, compared with a stationary bike where the workout is 100% seated. Having said that, the body is all inter-linked so one muscle group interacts with another, directly or indirectly. Hence the need to stretch after a workout and not to put too much pressure on another part of the body.
If you opt for an exercise bike to improve heart health, don’t forget that your heart is a brilliant muscle and you need to keep it working properly to keep blood pressure down and pumping correctly, particularly as you get older.
So, with all of this in mind, can an exercise bike home workout actually build muscle?
Do Exercise Bikes Build Muscle?
If you are starting to exercise at home on either a static or folding exercise bike, you need to consider your overall fitness and health goals, but “yes” in principle, although other factors need to be taken into account.
If building muscle is your main intention, then you also need to think about your weight, diet and any pre-existing health conditions that you may have that can influence your body’s ability to build muscle. The NHS website is great for general information about strength (and also body building, but you won’t be quite there yet!) and loads of detail is available online How to improve your strength and flexibility – NHS (www.nhs.uk). As to specific parts of the body, here is some more detail:
Does an Exercise Bike Tone Your Stomach?
Whilst a basic bike workout doesn’t directly engage your core and tone your stomach, your ability to lose body fat and engage stomach muscles becomes greater, coupled with a decent sleep pattern and corrected eating (and drinking) habits. Your posture may also improve, thereby engaging your core muscles in a more positive way.
As you become more aware of how you are seated on your exercise bike during your workout (and also see some results as you look down at your gut), you may automatically engage your core muscles more and help to increase muscle tone.
You should also bear in mind that muscle tone is also linked to genetics, your specific skin type and other elements such as whether you have regular massages, the skin products you use and other physical activity you engage in other than a bike workout.
As you improve your cardio fitness and increase your body strength, keep a record of your weight and what you eat and when. If you feel deflated when you stand on a set of scales, then use a tape measure or simply go by your clothes if you don’t want to be too prescriptive. The waistband never lies! So moving down the body, what about legs… does an exercise bike build leg muscle?
Does an Exercise Bike Build Leg Muscle?
So, the simple answer is “Yes” – working out on an exercise can and will build muscle in your legs but this is also dependent on your weight and the level of resistance you are using when pushing the pedals. The higher the intensity and also the more variation within your programme, the better for muscle tone, as well as fat loss and heart rate.
As per the points about core-building, the ability to build muscle is also dependent on the amount of protein you eat within a balanced or calorie-deficit diet and your physical and genetic makeup. Nothing will happen overnight, and you need to regularly and consistently use your machine to generate results. Once you start to build muscle and lose weight, the next step towards visible results is muscle tone.
Are Exercise Bikes Good for Toning Legs?
Well, we think so! You just have to look at a cyclist’s legs to see this is a truism although we don’t expect you to turn into Bradley Wiggins – Wikipedia overnight!
Exercise bikes are great for toning legs but you need to build muscle first and also think about your general levels of movement: walk up the stairs (if you are able); walk to the shops instead of driving (if you can). Keep your body moving.
Swim in the sea or bath in Epsom Bath Salts – Organic – Westlab (westlabsalts.co.uk). Salts and salt water can act as a natural form of lymphatic drainage and cold water helps with muscle tone. Do bear in mind though that for conditions such as cellulite, this differs to standard muscle tone.
So, all in all, we would recommend using an exercise bike for heart health, coupled with building strength, muscle and tone in the lower half of your body. Always remember to stretch and even incorporate some Yoga or Pilates into your regular workout programme. But most importantly, always enjoy your health and wellbeing journey, while you stare out the window at the Autumn rain. And be grateful. Always grateful for the gift of health.