What cycling does to your legs

Cycling is a popular cardio sport, which is great for working out your leg muscles, but exactly what effects does cycling have on your legs? Well in short, cycling targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves and works to strengthen your legs and muscle tone.

cyclist on a bike in the mountains

What effects does cycling have on your legs?

When you think of a cyclists’ legs, you may turn your mind to professional cyclists’ impressive thighs and carved out calves. Don’t worry though – you don’t need to be a professional to start seeing some increased muscle tone and definition through cycling. 

If you’re just starting out, you’re unlikely to gain huge leg muscles straight away, but what you will gain is toned thighs (hamstrings and quadriceps), bottom (gluteus maximus) and lower legs (calves and shins). Not only that, but you’ll also be strengthening your joints and bones, increasing muscle endurance and burning off calories. 

Here’s what cycling does to your legs and glutes: 

When you’re cycling, your glutes are working hard to move your legs. They are responsible for giving you the power to push your legs and feet down onto the pedals and are therefore in constant motion whilst you are pedalling. 

If you want to focus on strengthening and toning your glutes when you’re cycling, cycling in a hilly area can really help to up the intensity! Just like running or walking, cycling up hills forces your body and muscles to work harder. Rising up out of your saddle when pedalling uphill will make your glutes (and quads!) work extra hard to get you to the top. 

So, what about your legs? Your thigh muscles (mainly your quads) work in conjunction with your other leg muscles (hamstrings and calves) and your hips and knees to help your legs to push down on the pedals, as well as bringing the pedal back up. Just like your glutes, your leg muscles are working non-stop whenever you are pedalling.

How can you tone your legs faster when cycling?

If you really want to build the muscle up in your legs, you can target them in different ways whilst you’re cycling. You can do this by increasing resistance. When you’re riding a bike, resistance happens naturally anyway, but there are some little things you can do to increase it. The most obvious change you can make is adding uphill stretches to your workout, which as you know, will work your glutes just as hard as the muscles in your legs! 

You can also boost your leg strength and endurance by increasing resistance and using a low cadence (pedal speed). All you need to do is cycle in a higher gear at a lower speed. This will work on flat ground but, if you’re feeling up to an extra challenge, try it uphill! If you find this leaves you huffing and puffing, try this in intervals, switching between a low cadence and high gear (pedalling slowly) back to a high cadence and low gear (pedalling faster). This will build both your endurance and strength at the same time. 

So, in summary, if you’re thinking about toning up and boosting your fitness, cycling is a great way to target your legs and bottom as well as working on your endurance!