Does Road Cycling Build Leg Muscle? (Explained!)

Road cycling has become an increasingly popular form of exercise and transportation in recent years. Not only is it a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, but it’s also a low-impact way to get some serious leg work in. But does road cycling really build leg muscle?

does road cycling build leg muscle

Does Road Cycling Build Leg Muscle?

One of the primary benefits of cycling is the building of leg muscle. Cycling targets and strengthens the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

It’s a great form of exercise for improving overall lower body function and toning up the leg muscles.

However, to optimize leg muscle building, it’s important to combine cycling with weightlifting exercises. This will help to increase muscle size and power, as well as enhance cycling performance.

While cycling alone may not lead to the same degree of muscle growth as resistance training, it’s a great way to maintain and improve leg muscle mass.

The Proportion of Leg Muscles Increased through Cycling

Cycling primarily targets the lower body muscles, with the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves being the main focus.

However, it’s important to note that the adductor magnus and soleus also contribute to leg muscle building while cycling.

The proportion of muscle gain may vary depending on individual factors such as intensity, duration, and frequency of cycling.

While cycling alone may not result in significant muscle growth, incorporating resistance training exercises can enhance overall leg muscle development. Additionally, it’s essential to combine cycling with a healthy diet to optimize muscle growth and maintain a lean physique.

How Long Does It Take To Build Leg Muscle Cycling

Building leg muscles through cycling doesn’t happen overnight. According to realistic data, it takes anywhere from 12-24 months to build serious amounts of muscle, such as 20 lbs.

However, regular cycling alone won’t solely build big leg muscles, even though your cycling will benefit from stronger legs. Therefore, it’s essential to combine cycling with gym exercises to promote leg muscle growth.

It’s important to note that visible results may take about a month to manifest.

Cycling primarily builds muscle endurance while improving overall function in your lower body and strengthening leg muscles. With dedication and consistency in exercise, cycling can be an effective way of building muscle in your legs.

How to Ride Your Bike to Optimize Leg Muscle Building?

To optimize leg muscle building while road cycling, it’s essential to incorporate full pedal strokes. By pushing down with your quads and up with your hamstrings, as well as pulling back with your glutes, you’ll recruit more leg muscles and increase the potential for muscle growth.

Riding up hills is also an effective way to force your leg muscles to work harder and build more strength.

Additionally, incorporating on-the-bike strength training exercises, such as squat jumps, will help to improve acceleration and build leg muscle over time.

While cycling alone may not necessarily increase muscle mass, combining cycling with resistance training exercises can result in overall improvements in leg muscle strength and endurance.

Differences in Leg Muscles Used in Cycling vs Walking

While both cycling and walking work out similar muscle groups, there are some differences in the specific muscles used during each activity.

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which means that it works your muscles harder as you carry your body weight with each step. This can result in a greater burning of fat compared to cycling.

When cycling, the primary muscles used are your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, though your calves and core muscles also play a role in keeping your body stable on the bike. This makes cycling a great exercise for strengthening and toning your lower body muscles, but it may not be as effective at burning fat as walking.

Additionally, walking can help to strengthen bones and improve joint health, while cycling is a low-impact exercise that is easier on the joints.

To get the benefits of both activities, it may be a good idea to incorporate both cycling and walking into your fitness routine.

Does Cycling Build Legs More than Running?

Compared to running, cycling does not necessarily build more leg muscle.

However, cycling does target specific leg muscles, primarily the quadriceps and hamstrings. Running, on the other hand, uses more leg muscle groups, leading to a more balanced workout.

Professional cyclists may have more developed leg muscles compared to recreational riders, but non-cyclists can still benefit from cycling as a form of non-weight bearing exercise.

Importance of Combining Cycling with Gym Exercises

It is recommended to supplement cycling with gym exercises such as squats and lunges to further build leg muscles.

Squats, lunges, deadlifts, and calf raises are all great gym exercises that can target different muscle groups in your legs that may not be emphasized as much during cycling.

Additionally, incorporating weight training can help increase muscle mass and boost overall strength, which can translate to improved performance on the bike.

Comparison between Leg Muscles of Professional and Non-cyclists

While recreational riders may not develop hugely muscular legs, professional cyclists have much bulkier quads and hamstrings. This is because they ride a lot more, at a much higher intensity, than the average person.

Their training sessions are more focused on leg muscle development, and they also incorporate weighted leg exercises to maximise their potential.

That being said, someone who cycles regularly will still see an improvement in their leg muscles, even without training like a pro.

Cycling engages many different leg muscles, so over time, regular riding will lead to stronger and more toned legs.

Final Thoughts!

Road cycling can positively impact leg muscle development, but it may not result in significant gains in muscle size or overall strength. The primary benefit of cycling is building endurance in the legs, as it primarily targets the quads, glutes, knees, and calves. However, combining cycling with gym exercises, such as lower-body heavy strength training, can help to enhance muscle growth and endurance performance.


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