close up bike on road

Will Cycling Give You Abs?

Cycling won't give you rock-hard abs but that doesn’t mean that your core won't benefit. 

And building a stronger core will make you a better cyclist, too. 

In cycling, you use your abs for stabilisation; your core keeps you steady and stable in the saddle. This is intensified when you’re tackling steep inclines or uneven and difficult terrain, so if you’re new to riding, you may notice soreness in your obliques that lasts a day or so. If you’re an outdoor cyclist, you’ll find that rougher terrains will not only make for a tougher ride but a deeper core workout, too. 

Cycling doesn't provide enough movement to work the abdominals out efficiently when you're riding but as Bike Radar points out, ‘as the intensity of a ride increases so does the activity of the abs’. The website goes on to say that ‘poor abdominals could cause excessive movement of the hips, knees and ankles while cycling’.

Your core is also where much of the power comes from that drives your ability to pedal hard. Professional cyclists use core-strengthening exercises because they understand how important it is for form. Sport Active writes that ‘Sir Bradley Wiggins used to do an hour of pilates a day to improve his core strength’. 

There has also been scientific research suggesting that cycling can help build core strength. GQ writes that scientists in the Département de Mécanique Appliquée at the Université de Franche-Comté found that riding hard uphill created ‘lateral sways’ leading to a more pronounced effect on the abs.  

GQ adds that the reasons behind this are two-fold: it’s harder to cycle uphill, so the workout is made more difficult but also that the pelvis has to work harder when there isn't a seat. Remove the saddle, and you will have a more efficient core workout. 

Form and posture are, of course, going to be key. Getting your bike professionally fitted to ensure that you are cycling efficiently will ensure you have a comfortable ride and reduce the risk of pain or injury.

You may need to make adjustments to the pedals, saddle or handlebar but a cycling specialist will be able to help you.  

Is Cycling Good for Weight Loss on the Stomach?

If you’ve got abs, then you’ll want to see them and that means reducing the amount of belly fat they’re hiding behind. Cycling doesn’t burn belly fat any faster than it burns fat anywhere else on the body, but riding a bike either indoors or outdoors is a highly effective way of exercising and losing weight. 

The amount of calories you’ll torch depends on several factors including gender, weight, and height. It also depends on the terrain you're riding over or, if you’re on a static or spin bike, the amount of resistance you’re adding to your workout. 

It’s easier to work out calorie burn when you’re using an indoor bike as the conditions you’re riding in are more consistent and you can pre-set the resistance. Ride hard and the average spin class can burn up to 600 calories in an hour. 

Energym fitness is releasing an electricity generating Zwift-compatible spin bike that allows users to create and store their own clean energy when they work out. It’ll be a different way of calculating energy burn during your workout. 

Energym is a Peloton alternative coming soon. 

Is Spinning Good for Abs?

Cycling indoors is good for your abs, too.  

You may not always get the same experience as if you were outside, alternating terrain or taking on hill climbs but you can use the bike’s resistance settings to create a harder workout and burn more calories. After all, you’re still using your core for stabilisation even though the saddle and bike are both static. 

Poor posture is particularly common for new riders. If you’re using a spin bike or a road bike with a turbo trainer, then leaning too far over the handlebars can cause fussiness in the lower back if you’re not used to it. Good posture will help you make the most of your core strength and good core strength will improve your posture on the bike—  it’s win-win. 

If you’re worried about posture, then attending a spinning class or asking for help at the gym can be useful. You’ll find plenty of tutorials on YouTube but you may find it difficult to ‘feel out’ what your body’s position is like without a full-length mirror or without someone there to advise you on how you’re sitting.

Posture is important on spinning bikes, too. You should alter the height of the saddle and handlebars to ensure you’re in a comfortable but optimal position. Furthermore by Equinox advise ‘aligning your handlebars level with your saddle or slightly higher is ideal’. They also suggest relaxing your belly, writing that you should notice your core muscles contracting and relaxing rapidly during a sprint. 

Indoor cycling has the advantage that it’s a year-round way of exercising but it’s important to get into a rhythm and to ensure you’re pushing yourself by making use of the digital resistance or by turning on your competitive edge and jumping onto live stream classes. You can also sign-up to incentive-based apps like GymCoin to get rewarded for your efforts. 

Cycling isn’t a core workout per se but that doesn’t mean it’s not good for the abdominals. It can be a great way to burn fat (when combined with a healthy diet and a regular exercise regime), improve your cardiovascular health and increase your all-round fitness. It's a great social activity, too, whether you’re joining a cycling club, hitting the trails or cycle lanes with friends, signing up to spin classes or downloading an app and competing against a global leaderboard.