What is the Effect of Cycling on Body Shape?

 It's one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise you can do, but what is the effect of cycling on...

 It's one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise you can do, but what is the effect of cycling on body shape? 

What is the effect of cycling on body shape?

Cycling is an excellent way to build physical endurance, burn calories, and improve cardiovascular fitness. Still, it's important to understand that cycling isn't strength training. If you want cycling to have a significant impact on your body shape, then you'll have to incorporate other forms of training into your workout regime, too.

Cycling alone won't give you the big thigh and quad muscles that you see on professional track cyclists like German Paralympic cyclist Robert' Quadzilla' Fosterman (who has 74cm thighs). Track cyclists rely on power to achieve speed over short distances. Their large quad and thigh muscles don't come from cycling but from intense strength training sessions off the bike and in the gym.

The Bicycling website writes that recreational riders or those taking two or three indoor cycling classes weekly 'don't have bigger thighs than non-riders'.

Women are often worried about developing large thighs from cycling, but the reality is that achieving that look requires more effort than just riding a couple of times a week.

Long-distance cyclists often have leaner bodies because their muscle mass supports endurance over speed. Unlike their track sprinting counterparts, they don't require that instant burst of speed and power.

It's not to say that cycling regularly doesn't impact body shape, but that change is also often dependent on several other factors, including gender, diet, and the intensity and type of riding a person does.

Cycling is a great way to burn calories. If you're maintaining a calorie deficit in your diet and looking to lose weight, this could represent a significant change in body shape. We've included a further section in this article about cycling and calorie burn.


Man riding on indoor bike

What muscles does cycling tone?

Cycling predominantly targets the lower body. The effort goes into rotating the pedals, which rotate either a wheel or a fixed flywheel. Cycling uses quads, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles. It also impacts the upper body, albeit to a lesser extent, by using the triceps, biceps and deltoids. Outdoor cyclists use their upper body strength to stay upright and stable in the saddle, especially over rough terrain. Using the core's stabilising muscles can also help turn on the abs.

The terrain and weather will impact what muscle groups outdoor cyclists use. One of the benefits of a stationary bike is that a rider can set the resistance to ensure an efficient and consistent workout. Riding over a flat surface outside (or using very little resistance indoors) makes the exercise easier but less efficient. It's better to attempt a hill climb outside or let your instructor ramp up resistance. 

If you want to develop larger leg muscles, you should supplement your rides with weight training. You can try squats, deadlifts, lunges and leg presses for bigger calves and quads and achieve more power when you ride.


The effect of cycling on female body shape

Women are often worried about developing large muscles from working out. If only it were that easy. Women have around 20% less testosterone than men and more body fat, so they have to work much harder to see changes in their body shape.

Testosterone is a crucial element in muscle growth. Women are at a disadvantage, and it's why it's easier for men to develop muscle definition. The Sport Coaching website lists an English study that found during the same period; it took women twice as long as men to lose weight.

Female athletes and professional track and racing cyclists have more prominent leg muscles because they integrate strength training into their routines. This does not happen accidentally and results from many months of heavy training. Women worried about getting 'bulky' can rest assured that while cycling will make them feel fitter and stronger and help support a weight loss regime, it will not turn them into bodybuilders. Adding strength training to an exercise routine is recommended.

Recreational riders and women attending indoor cycling classes may develop a leaner body shape—depending, of course, on calorie intake, ride intensity and time spent on the bike.

Cycling is a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness, so it's also important not to get so hung up on body shape but to appreciate that fitness is its own reward.


 Does Cycling Build Leg Muscle? 

Yes, cycling can build leg muscle because it targets hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves. This makes sense because the legs are doing most of the work. 

Building leg muscle away from the bike will also help support a robust cycling routine. The best way to do this is by strength training in the gym using squats and leg presses, but you can also make the most of your time on the bike by riding up hills or inclines and even standing up. If you've ever done an indoor cycling class, you'll know it can be a killer when the instructor dials up the resistance or tells you to stand up on the pedals. 

As we've already discussed above, the type of cycling you do can also affect how defined the muscles are in your leg. Sprinting on a bike can build bigger muscles because they need the power to maintain the speed. Endurance cycling is likely to build leaner muscle. 


Cycling and calorie burn

Both indoor and outdoor cycling are effective ways of burning calories. Maintaining a good speed on a bike requires a lot of energy, whether it's rotating a heavier flywheel, turning up resistance, riding up a hill or rocky terrain.

According to the Health Line website, there are a few differences between calorie burn for indoor and outdoor cyclists. Indoor cyclists can maintain speed more easily because there are no obstacles to avoid, as there often are with outdoor cycling. There are no weather or terrain changes. However, outdoor cyclists can enjoy the natural variations and undulating topography of their environment, making riding more challenging and exciting.

The Health Line website also states that a rider's weight plays a role. It refers to an article by Harvard University stating that a person riding moderately (12 to 13.9 miles per hour) weighing 125 pounds (approx. 8.9 stone) can expect to burn 210 calories in 30 minutes. Someone weighing 155 pounds (11.7 stone) could burn up to 260 calories.

Of course, this also depends on the intensity.


Is cycling good for weight loss on the stomach?

Whilst cycling is an excellent way to burn calories, it's important to remember that you can't spot-reduce fat. Cycling does not target stomach fat more than leg, hip or chin fat. To reduce fat on your stomach, you should ensure you're not consuming excess calories and exercising sufficiently.

Cycling does help boost metabolism, though, which is key to calorie burn and overall weight loss.


Is indoor cycling good for weight loss?

Indoor cycling is a great way to lose weight if a rider maintains a calorie deficit—fewer calories consumed than burned.

According to Insider, the average indoor cycling class burns around 350 – 600+ calories depending on the intensity. This may depend on the type of class you're taking, your current level of fitness and how much resistance you're using. It also depends on the number of calories consumed throughout the day.


Does cycling tone your bum?

Cycling doesn't do much for your glutes unless you're standing up from the saddle during hill climbs or in class. If you want to tone your bum, it's worth adding squats, deadlifts, and lunges to your routine. Bike Race Info has a great explanation of how to activate your glutes when you're cycling. You can also include several other exercises to help engage the glutes, including squats, lunges, box jumps and deadlifts.


Does cycling make your butt bigger?

Cycling won't make your butt bigger or smaller, but it can change its appearance by toning the muscles. This will make it look more shapely and attractive in tighter-fitting clothing.  Understandably, people want their glutes to look good, but it's important to remember that these muscles are key in supporting us throughout the day, so correctly engaging them is about more than just aesthetics. Weak glutes can cause poor gait, lower back and knee pain, and misalignment. 


Does cycling tone arms?

It may depend on the type of cycling you're doing. Road biking, for example, often requires the rider to lean forward in the saddle over the handlebars holding that position can help strengthen the arms. Balance is often crucial in outdoor cycling, too. Using the arms to maintain a steady position can help tone them.

You may find that if you're becoming leaner from cycling, the definition is already there but is now just easier to see.


Does Cycling Increase Testosterone?

Several research studies suggest intense prolonged endurance exercise can actually reduce testosterone in men. It's a contentious topic, with other researchers suggesting that it's more complicated than that and that other factors come into play.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that competitive cyclists had lower testosterone levels compared to non-athletic controls. The researchers suggested that the combination of endurance exercise and other factors, such as increased cortisol levels and pressure on the perineum, could contribute to this decrease. 

There are two things worth noting. Firstly, these are cyclists who are riding intensively for long periods and are less relevant to amateur or weekend cyclists. Secondly, testosterone levels did later increase once the rider had a period of rest. 

Studies have shown that resistance training can increase short and long-term testosterone. 

Cycling can help change body shape by burning calories and resulting in weight loss or by helping build muscle in the lower and upper body. However, for a dramatic change in body shape, cyclists will need to add strength training, especially if they're looking to increase power for speed over shorter distances.


If you're looking to change your body shape and fitness through indoor cycling, then we'd like to introduce you to the electricity-generating indoor smart bike for the home. Find out more about the RE:GEN. 


electricity generating indoor bike

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1 comment

Thank you for spreading such a nice information, very helpful.


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