5 Ways Indoor Cycling Can Tone Your Trouble Spots

How to get fitter and develop greater muscle tone and definition in key areas.

Woman at spin class
Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

By now, hopefully, you’ve been disabused of the notion that you can selectively lose body fat in areas where you tend to hold onto too much of it. The reality is: You just can’t decide you want to drop pounds from, say, your hips or thighs and make it happen. It would be nice but weight loss doesn’t work that way. You need to focus on dropping pounds overall by modifying your diet; you can’t just spot reduce.

Having said that, exercising regularly can help you slim down and lose body fat (after all, you can burn 400 to 600 calories in a 45-minute indoor cycling class); plus, indoor cycling can help you tone and define certain areas as you strengthen specific muscle groups. It’s true that genetic factors have a considerable influence on how taut and defined your muscles are but how you use your muscles also plays a role. If you work with appropriate amounts of resistance on your bike, indoor cycling can help you develop nicely shaped legs and a lean, strong physique overall.

Here are five surprising trouble spots that can be shaped and toned with indoor cycling:

Your Back: When you hinge forward at the hips to cycle, the muscles in your lower back end up supporting your upper body and helping to stabilize your torso as you ride. Keep your spine straight as you lean forward and you’ll engage your back muscles optimally, helping to strengthen and tone them as you pedal.

The Backs of Your Arms: Maintain the proper hand position as you shift between seated and standing positions, and your arms will provide some support for your upper body. Shifting positions in and out of the saddle will help strengthen and tone your biceps and triceps, in particular (no weights required!).

Your Hips and Butt: Contrary to what many people think, the hips and core generate much of the power for indoor cycling. Doing exercises to strengthen your hips and glutes can help you boost your pace and comfort on the bike, and participating in indoor cycling regularly can help you tone and strengthen the muscles in your hips and butt. It’s a powerful two-way street!

Your Abs: If you hinge from the hips, maintain the proper posture, and avoid leaning on the handlebars when you cycle, you’ll engage the muscles in your core, which can help tone and strengthen your entire abdomen. And if you gently sway from side to side as you cycle, the upper body rhythm you generate will work the muscles along the sides of your abdomen. Over time, you’ll likely notice your abs have become more taut and defined.

Your Legs: As you pedal, the quadriceps (the large muscles in the front of the thighs) are working hard, especially on the down stroke. The muscles in the back of your thighs (the hamstrings) get a workout when your legs pull up during the up-stroke.

And the calves get a shape-defining workout on the down-stroke as well as the up-stroke. The upshot: Develop fluid pedal strokes, and you’ll end up with strong, lean, shapely legs from your hips to your ankles. No more jiggly upper thighs!  

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