When you want to increase your leg size and strength, you might think your first go-to would be popular resistance or weight training. But did you know exercise bikes, employed in the right manner, can be just as effective?
Sceptical? Take a look at a Tour de France cyclist’s thighs – they’re like tree trunks! You need seriously strong leg muscles to explode to the front of the peloton or propel yourself up a mountain.
Don’t see yourself winning the Tour de France someday? Luckily you don’t need to become a professional cyclist to get a similar workout – your average, everyday exercise bike can do the job just fine. Here’s how:
- Go for high resistance. Pedalling against high resistance levels does wonders for building muscle mass in your hamstrings and quadriceps. You’ll also give your glutes, hip flexors, calves and shins a workout. The higher the resistance, the more your legs have to work and pretty soon you’ll see physical changes comparable to weightlifting. Try building the resistance to where you can no longer pedal faster than sixty revolutions per minute for the best results.
- HIIT it! Intersperse thirty-second sprints with sixty-second recovery periods to build even more muscle, more effectively (if you're just starting out, lower the sprint intervals and increase gradually as your fitness levels rise). You'll be pushing your legs to up the power levels and grow your cross-sectional muscle fibres into the bargain.
- Another way to build leg strength on upright exercise bikes is to pedal while ‘hovering’ your bottom about three centimetres above the bike seat – this will increase your quadriceps in no time.
The benefits of stationary cycling.
Making an exercise bike an integral part of your daily workout gives you greater cardiovascular, muscular endurance and strength building effects. Fixed bikes also help to burn fat in a way that’s low impact and easy on your joints.
The great thing about exercise bikes is that they're a form of exercise that's accessible to beginners and workout pros alike. You can ride at your own pace and build confidence as you go. Pretty much everyone can use a stationary bike, and there's not much to mastering the technique.
To reduce any strain on your knees, make sure you’ve adjusted your seat high enough to keep your knee fully extended with a slight bend at the bottom of your stroke. Your toes and knees should always face forward, and your torso should be relaxed – don't sway from side to side or lunge forward when you're pedalling.
Because stationary exercise bikes give you a quad dominant workout, you might also want to focus on other muscle groups to help strengthen your practice, like back and core muscles. And remember – if you spend your days at work sitting – your hip flexors will likely be overactive and tight, which the exercise bike’s seated workout might exacerbate. Mixing up your fitness regime with more multi-directional training can help combat this.
To take your workout up a notch – head outside on a regular bike and do your sprints and hill climbing in the great outdoors!