When it comes to exercise routines for building strong muscles, most people think first about lifting weights. After all, those are the images in gyms across the country and in marketing materials and commercials on television. One exercise that does not come quickly to people’s minds for strengthening muscles all over the body is cycling, despite its rapid growth with the surge of e-bike across American cities in the last decade. But this is a mistake because the reality is that cycling is a great way not only to increase endurance as an aerobic exercise, it is also a great activity for developing muscles. This may cause some to ask themselves, does biking help abs? How does biking work abs to increase their strength?
While biking helps improve muscles throughout the body, cycling abs are an area of particular strength. This is largely because cycling works your core throughout the ride, so the abs are constantly working and gaining strength. Along with the abdomen, cycling also works the back muscles, and these two groups of muscles together support the spine, help to increase stability, and overall improve the comfort of riding a bicycle. Throughout this article, we will break down the core muscles that riding a bike help strengthen as well as walk you through how to develop your abs while cycling.
Bike Riding for Abs
People are always looking for the next best thing for strengthening their abs and getting a six-pack. So, it is only natural for them to ask, does biking work abs or does biking help abs? While the science is very clear about the fact that cycling abs are very much a part of establishing a bike riding routine, several muscles throughout your core will also benefit. Later in this article we will discuss the various exercises you can do while riding that will work your abs the most effectively, but let's first walk through the muscles that riding a bike has the greatest impact upon.
When most people think of having great abs, they are really referring to the rectus abdominis
. These are the vertical abdominal muscles that run down the front of the stomach that appear as a "six-pack" when excess fat around them is burned off. These are also the muscles that you feel when you do things like breathe and cough. For strengthening your abs, the rectus abdominis is a great place to start.
Different from the rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis is a thin layer of muscle that runs along the side and the back of the abs. While these are not muscles that people see the same way they do with the rectus abdominis, they are still vital to strong abs. For supporting the overall core, the transversus abdominis play an important role.
The gluteus maximus is a primary muscle on the exterior of the hip, much more commonly referred to as the buttocks. Both the largest and the heaviest muscle in the human body, the gluteus maximus plays a vital role in generating speed and power while cycling. In fact, many serious cyclists prioritize this muscle during their training.
The quadriceps, more commonly referred to as simply quads, is a family of muscles on the front of the thighs. Made up of four unique muscles, which is where the name comes from, the quadriceps are much like the gluteus maximus in that they help provide power to cyclists’ legs while riding.
While the quadriceps cover the front of the thigh, the hamstrings cover the back. Three individual muscles make up the hamstrings, which connect the hip muscles to the knee. Though very important for riding and running power, these muscles are also prone to injury and must be protected.
How to Develop Your Abs While Cycling
Understanding which muscles are predominantly used while cycling is half of the game, but understanding how to use cycling to your advantage is the important second part. That means when you hear people ask how does biking help abs, you will be able to quickly point them to a list of unique and useful exercises for building the best cycling abs possible. When putting together a strategy for developing your abs while cycling, keep the following four exercises in mind to generate the best results.
This exercise involves ensuring that you are contracting your ab muscles continuously for long periods, which will help to build strength in the long run. While riding, bend over further and contract your abs. Hold that position for a length of time before releasing. You can do this in as many intervals as you can handle.
Crunches on the Go
Rather than holding the contraction for a certain period, you can also try quick contractions and releases, so that you are in fact performing crunches while riding your bike. Just as if you were doing them on a mat at the gym, these crunches on the go will yield excellent results—but they're not easy!
Upright stretches are just what they sound like: while riding stand up and stiffen your back so that your abs are stretched out completely. Just like with continuous contractions, hold this position for a period and then release. You can do this repeatedly until your ride is over.
Stand Up, Sit Down
Take the upright stretches one step further by doing them repeatedly in short spurts. Much like you can turn continuous contractions into crunches, you can also turn upright stretches into quick stretches by standing up and sitting back down over and over.
The next time someone wonders things like the health benefits of riding a bike and does biking work abs, you will be the prime example of all the advantages of adopting an exercise routine. That is because if you fully understand the core muscles that cycling works and the various movements and activities you can do on the bike that help strengthen your core, your cycling abs will speak for themselves. Now that you know about how biking helps the different abdominal muscles, the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps, and the hamstrings, you can put useful exercise movements into practice to have the best cycling abs in town.