What Areas Does an Exercise Bike Target?

Tamsen Butler
Training on an exercise bike

Stationary exercise bikes are cardio machines, designed to give users a cardiovascular workout with emphasis on one important muscle: the heart. Several muscles get involved in the correct use of an exercise bike though, with some areas working harder than others.

Whole Body Exercise

Like any other cardio machine, a stationary exercise bike benefits the whole body as it works the cardiovascular system. Increase the effectiveness of the bike by adding some intervals to the workout, like alternating between 30 seconds of easy riding and 30 seconds of sprinting. Combined with proper dietary decisions, exercisers can see results throughout their body with the use of an exercise bike.

Lower Body Emphasis

The muscles of the lower body are hard at work during an exercise bike session. Varying intensity can make the session more challenging and work various muscles more than a flat ride will.

Quadriceps

These large muscles are located in the upper leg, above the knee. These muscles are responsible for pushing the pedals; since these muscles are so large, they are excellent calorie burners. The harder the push, the harder these muscles have to work.

Hamstrings

Not as large as the quads, these leg muscles located in the back of your leg below the glutes and above the knee are responsible for pulling the pedals and also work hard in a standing position on the bike.

Gastrocnemius and Soleus

Also known as "calf muscles," these two muscles help protect the knee and ankle. These muscles are involved with the entire pedaling process.

Glutes

There are three distinct glute muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles make up the rear end. Even while sitting in the saddle of the bike, these muscles work in tandem with the muscles mentioned above to keep the pedaling going. These muscles work harder when the load is heavier (higher resistance).

Core Muscles

The core muscles are responsible for any movement requiring balance. Though riding an actual bike requires far more balance than a stationary bike, core muscles are still at work to help stabilize the body during pedaling on a stationary bike. While bike work will not necessarily increase muscle mass among the core muscles, it may reduce overall body fat, making the core muscles more visible.

Upper Body

In most instances, the upper body is not greatly challenged while using a typical stationary exercise bike. Spin bikes, on the other hand, are designed to include ample standing work, allowing for moves like "hovers," which mimic push-ups and get the upper body involved in the workout.

Still, people wanting to build muscle within their upper body are better served heading away from the cardio machines at the gym and instead focusing on some body weight or strength work. The upper body may appear more toned from repeated stationary bike usage but again, this is more from the body shedding fat overall.

No Spot Work

The American Council of Exercise (ACE) states that spot-reducing is ineffective. Exercisers who are concerned with focusing on certain body parts in an attempt to get them leaner or more defined should consider incorporating strength or resistance work into their routine.

An Excellent Cardio Choice

Stationary exercise bikes are a good choice for aerobic exercise since the intensity can be varied and the machine is easy on the joints, making it appropriate for most ages and ability levels. With typical maximum user weight limits on these bikes of around 350 to 400 pounds, these machines can serve as appropriate entry-level exercises. Their versatility with resistance can also translate into a challenging workout for seasoned exercisers. Cardiovascular health sets the stage for future fitness, making these machines a good choice for just about anybody.

What Areas Does an Exercise Bike Target?