Does Cycling Build Leg Muscle?- Your Guide To Cycling Fitness

Do you want herculean leg muscles but don't want to hit the gym? Take up cycling as it works miracles for you! Both men and women can get strong and lean just by cycling. Let us explain how it works!

The stronger your legs, the better your cycling performance. With more muscular legs, you’ll be able to push better through the pedals and enhance your speed. This comes down to building your leg muscles.

Now, you could hit the gym for strength and endurance training, do some squats and heavy lifting, and build your leg muscles. But did you know cycling builds leg muscles too? Well, not as much as gym training would, but there are definitely some ways it helps. Let’s get into more details.

How Does Cycling Build Leg Muscles?

Leg Muscle Anatomy
Leg Muscle Anatomy

When you are cycling, you constantly work your legs and core primary muscles. As you push through the pedals, your quads and hams are in constant motion. They contract and relax simultaneously. Moreover, even your calf muscles get worked during cycling. With all that work on your muscles, they definitely get strengthened and become more toned at the same time as you lose a significant amount of body fat in the process.

However, just cycling will not do a lot to build your leg muscle mass unless you do it right. This means that while cycling builds leg muscles, you have to be particular in the way you ride to ensure that you’re benefiting the primary muscles of your legs. Take a look at this study, it shows how strength training improves your running and cycling performance in the long term.

So, what is it that you need to follow to build muscle around your leg from cycling? Read on to find out for yourself!

How Can You Build Your Leg Muscles While Riding a Bike?

Robert Forstemann
Robert Forstemann

Well, there are just some little things you need to do to build lean muscle, and you definitely do them inadvertently sometimes during your endurance rides. It’s time you started following those things consciously. Here’s everything you need to do.

Get Off Your Seat

Have you ever stood while pedaling? Well, if you have, you know that it gets a little harder to pedal that way, and you need to put in more effort and strength to move forward. Well, that’s what does the trick for building your leg muscles.

When you keep sitting in your seat, you’re quite comfortable and not really putting much effort into pedaling. The result is your leg muscles have less work to do, and they only get toned quite a bit. Getting off your seat will allow your calf muscles to build up which could turn out to be a great fitness achievement. This study shows the greater benefits of cycling and how calf muscles get stronger with cycling.

As soon as you get off the seat, you’re adding your body weight to the pedals, and that serves as increased resistance. The result is that you work your leg muscles, especially your calf muscle, harder and reduce more body fat to progress well toward muscle growth and strengthening.

Moreover, as difficult and challenging as it is, you’ll feel it is more adventurous and entertaining too, and it will be an amazing journey ahead.

Go Uphill

Uphill Mountain Bike
Uphill Mountain Bike

You always have to put in additional effort when cycling uphill as you’re riding against the natural gravitational pull. The gravity will pull you downwards as you try to climb. 

As a result, you’ll have to fight against this increased resistance by pushing harder through the pedals, and that would mean working more on your leg muscles, and contracting the quads and hams a lot more in comparison to what you do when riding on plain courses.

The more you work on your leg muscles through an aerobic exercise like uphill cycling, the stronger they become.

Track Your Cadence and Work Better on It

Cadence refers to your pedaling speed. You may not give much importance to it and would want to enhance it as much as you can so that you can ride faster and achieve better performance. However, managing your cadence is highly essential, especially when you want to build muscle in your leg through cycling.

Do you like to pedal at a steady state or want to practice a HIT (High-Intensity Workout) session? Interval in cadence actually helps you in the long term, stronger muscles are built with that kind of workout. Take a look here for a detailed guide.

First of all, you need to know what your cadence is, and then you can work on it. You can just gear down to pedal faster and increase your cadence. Once you’re comfortable with that, then you can gear up, enhance the resistance, and pedal at quite a slower speed than your normal cadence to work your legs better and build the leg muscles.

What Other Ways Can You Develop Leg Muscles?

Robert Forstemann Split Squat

Now, while cycling builds leg muscles, that would not be enough. If you want to increase your cycling performance, you need to have strong legs with well-built and well-toned muscles. This simply requires more workouts and bike strength training on your part.

So, while you follow the ways to build leg muscles through cycling, what else you could do is go for off-the-bike training. You can hit the gym for weight training and strength training. That will add up a lot to help build up your skinny leg muscles with cycling.

Does Cycling Everyday Cause Muscle Soreness?

Cycling every day is great, it is a healthy workout and also helps in building muscle, but when is the best time to take a rest? We engage in rigorous exercises, both on and off the bike, doing so over a long period of time can become quite exhausting, and it also leads to muscle soreness.

It is natural to experience muscle soreness after cycling, just don’t forget to look after it properly. In order to treat muscle soreness, we must first learn the reason behind it first.

While cycling, we use our leg muscles to push forward. With each and every pedal stroke, our leg muscles are activated, and our quadriceps (Located at the front of the thighs) contract. These contractions in the muscles produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. When the muscle contractions are repetitive and strong, they cause micro tears in the muscle fibers. All of this then results in muscle soreness which can turn into a real pain if not taken care of. In order to take a deep dive into muscle recovery after cycling, take a look here.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Muscle Soreness?

Recovering from muscle soreness isn’t complicated, all of it just depends on your fitness level. Naturally, the more you cycle, the better you will feel and the soreness will go away. If you are a competitive cyclist then the pain will go away in a day or two, just don’t give up cycling. Although if this is your first time cycling or you haven’t touched the cycle in a long time, the soreness can remain for more than 5 days. 

Stretching really helps with recovery, but you can also take up casual cycling for quick recovery. These easy cycling workouts will also flush out any lactic acid from your muscles which will help with recovery. There are also plenty of recovery tools that you can use, such as the SPRYNG. It has a powerful compression that flushes out lactic acid effectively and also reduces blood pooling. Don’t forget to rest well, eat hearty meals and take a break whenever necessary! 

Do Women Build Muscle Slower Than Men?

Women can’t build as much muscle as men or even quicker than them, how much do you think that is true? Let’s get this myth out of the way, if you take a look at the long-term results of strength training, then men and women have equal muscle gains.

We had to debunk this rumor or a horrendous take on the feminine physique, for far too long, women were known to be “Inferior” in the realm of strength training. If a man becomes 12% stronger post-training then women can also expect to become 12% stronger. The muscle gain rates can also be expected to be the same in the long run. Since men and women can become equally strong, do women have to follow the same exercise plans that work best for men? Not necessarily!

Why is this so? Let us tell you why!

  • Women Have Better Endurance Than Men When It Comes To Lifting Weights. Women Can Also Do More Reps Than Men.
  • Women Recover More Quickly As Compared To Men. The Reason For This Is Estrogen Protecting Muscle.
  • Women Have To Thrive On Heavier Load To Build Muscle. Men Can Even Build Muscle With Lower Weights.

Related: Will Cycling Make Your Legs Bigger?

Summing Up!

When you’re cycling, your legs need to be strong, and that simply comes down to building leg muscles. Now, while cycling builds leg muscles, everything has to be a combination of on-the-bike and off-the-bike training.

So, plan your training as per your specific goals and see how it works in helping you build your leg muscles and enhancing your cadence, speed, and overall cycling performance in addition to other health benefits.

Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Luke Ameen by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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Luke Ameen

Luke Ameen

For many years, I've journeyed the world as an ardent cyclist, feeling the pulse of the road beneath two wheels. Even though competitive mountain trails might not be my battleground now, my zeal for cycling remains undiminished, pushing me to chase new escapades every chance I get.

My heart beats for everything related to cycling. Over the years, I've immersed myself in extensive research and hands-on tests of cycling equipment and enhancements, aiming to guide fellow cyclists in amplifying their riding experience. My mission is clear: deliver trustworthy insights and reliable guidance that readers can lean on. My vision is to kindle the same fervor for cycling in others, whether they're seasoned veterans or just embarking on this journey. Rest assured, I'm here to equip you with the freshest updates, advice, and perspectives to enrich every ride.


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