When some folks need to construct muscle, they begin biking. No, we’re not speaking about utilizing efficiency enhancing medication — these construct an excellent little bit of muscle with a complete host of uncomfortable side effects. We’re speaking about really biking as in, using a motorbike.
Numerous types of biking are gaining recognition, both outdoor in the true world or on a stationary bike within the health club, so why not experiment with biking your approach to extra muscular legs?
Spin instructors have good legs and the muscle burn you are feeling from biking might be comparable, or much more intense, than some conventional strength-training leg workouts. So let’s breakdown this unconventional strategy to see how, or if, you’ll be able to pedal your manner towards thicker legs.
Does Biking Construct Muscle
Essentially, biking is a type of cardio. It taxes your endurance and it doesn’t have the standard advantages of energy coaching workout routines like squats and lunges. Biking additionally doesn’t have coordinated “lifting and decreasing” phases of motion (i.e. the concerned muscle mass don’t endure a contraction section towards resistance adopted by a muscle-lengthening section towards resistance).
Nevertheless, the pedaling required to cycle forces a number of concentric muscle contractions — working towards resistance — alongside many main leg muscle mass. There may be hip flexion, knee extension, and a few knee flexion happening with every stroke of the pedal, so it’s legitimate to marvel if muscle progress can happen. That is all a flowery manner of claiming that, when biking, your muscle mass nonetheless produce power to contract, essentially just like energy coaching.
Muscular Contractions and Pressure
Technically talking, all you want for muscle progress is mechanical pressure. (1) That is energetic power alongside muscle fibers till they attain involuntarily sluggish contraction speeds. It’s why the previous couple of reps of a set of squats are the toughest and, typically, the slowest shifting.
It’s additionally why coaching near, as much as, or beyond failure builds muscle. These last, extremely difficult reps are what triggers hypertrophy.
So when you don’t calculate coaching quantity or depend reps on a motorbike the identical as with a weight coaching train — no person jumps on a motorbike for “650 pedals” — mechanically talking, there is potential for biking to set off progress in case your muscle mass are sufficiently challenged.
We’ll speak extra about optimizing this later, however let’s go over some cardio myths first. Biking is, in any case, nonetheless primarily an endurance-based train which generally is a battle of curiosity for getting jacked.
Just like energy coaching, cardio might be carried out at varied intensities. For simplicity’s sakes, let’s give attention to low depth, steady-state cardio (LISS) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Whereas there are different cardio coaching strategies, evaluating these ends of the spectrum will make it easier to perceive the important thing variations.
You’ll be able to maintain comparatively decrease depth cardio for longer durations of time, therefore the “regular state” designation. Examples embody strolling, jogging, slowly swimming laps, informal biking, or something accomplished at a comparatively sustainable tempo.
Increased depth cardio is usually damaged up into intervals of labor alternated with durations of decrease depth cardio or full relaxation. (2) You’ll be able to’t maintain a near-maximum sprinting velocity for too lengthy, or else it wouldn’t actually be a dash.
The Proper Cardio for Muscle Progress
Whereas each strategies have cardiovascular parts like enhancing your resting coronary heart fee and VO2 max (the quantity of oxygen your physique makes use of throughout train), excessive depth interval coaching can probably stimulate some muscle progress. HIIT requires you to carry out for durations and intensities nearer to conventional energy coaching.
Due to this fact, if the purpose is utilizing biking to build muscle, you have to crank up the bike’s resistance. For those who’re biking for 20 minutes or extra, the resistance is probably going too low to attain a real muscle-building stimulus even when your legs “burn” loads. Equally, in the event you have been to curl three-pound dumbbells for 20 minutes with out stopping, positive that will really feel the burn, but it surely’s not environment friendly or efficient at constructing muscle.
For those who’ve heard tales about cardio dwindling your muscle away, there’s some fact to this, but it surely’s not what you suppose.
Cardio, whether or not LISS or HIIT, is offering your physique a stimulus to adapt to. Exterior of undereating and never exercising in any respect, your physique doesn’t “lose muscle.” Nevertheless, whereas cardio doesn’t eat away your treasured glutes and biceps, the stimulus that you’re imposing is a bit conflicted.
Give it some thought. Whenever you elevate heavy weights and attempt to get stronger, you’re telling your physique it ought to develop muscle to elevate heavier weights. However if you cycle or run, you’re telling your physique to get extra environment friendly at shifting longer distances, and one approach to be extra environment friendly is to forestall constructing vital muscular physique weight.
For this reason endurance athletes, like marathon runners, are usually slimmer and energy athletes, like powerlifters, are reliably extra muscular. Whenever you attempt to give attention to excelling in each throughout a coaching routine, there’s a compromise known as the interference impact. (3)
The interference impact doesn’t essentially trigger muscle loss, however it will possibly compromise the diversifications and optimistic outcomes made on each ends — muscle progress and constructing endurance — except you are taking care to design the plan with very focused programming.
So whereas we established that biking can construct muscle beneath sure situations, you gained’t construct as a lot as somebody who prioritizes their coaching and restoration towards standard leg exercises like squats and deadlifts. That is the precept of specificity — particular actions will set off particular diversifications in your physique.
For those who’re planning to hop on the spin bike simply since you get pleasure from it, and also you’re nonetheless hoping to construct some muscle, no worries. That’s a suitable trade-off and right here’s how you’d go about it.
The pedaling method is fairly easy. So long as you’re pedaling together with your foot secured, you can be coaching your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Since constructing muscle requires progressive overload — a persistently elevated problem from exercise to exercise — an in-gym stationary bike shall be higher than getting outdoor on a highway bike. This may allow you to extra simply monitor, monitor, and modify the vast majority of variables.
For those who insist on biking out within the wild, attempt to precisely monitor variables by deciding on the identical distance route with the identical elevation modifications, and monitoring your pedal output, together with cadence and whole time.
Switching routes continually is like switching between dumbbells, kettlebells, and cables each week. You’re continually altering issues, however precise progressive overload may not be occurring.
Subsequent is the location of your biking session. Schedule it on the finish of a leg exercise or on the training day after working your legs. This ensures that your legs are contemporary sufficient to give attention to conventional energy coaching, which can develop essentially the most muscle.
Doing all of your biking the day after will even enable your legs to be barely pre-fatigued, which will help you get comparatively extra stimulus with comparatively much less work. After a tough leg session, your legs gained’t want as excessive a level of biking depth to achieve fatigue.
In any case, by no means place your biking session proper earlier than your leg exercise. Your leg exercise will negatively affected and you’ll not find yourself triggering a lot muscle progress. Bear in mind, biking to construct muscle is already a compromised strategy. Don’t compromise it additional by ruining your common leg exercises.
It’s essential to cycle with depth. For biking to construct muscle, it can’t be preformed at a leisurely, steady-state tempo. It would should be intense sufficient to almost resemble a set of energy coaching.
Intervals of 20-60 seconds of labor towards a excessive resistance is an effective purpose. Purpose for eight to 10 units, which ought to be loads if you’re doing this hypertrophy-focused biking session a couple of times per week.
Purpose for a constant resistance setting and time for every set. On the finish of your exercise, examine to see how a lot distance you lined. To make sure muscle progress and supply progressive resistance every week, you have to enhance that distance in the identical timeframe utilizing the identical resistance.
Because the weeks go on, maintain pushing for extra whole distance with the identical resistance and time per set. When you get to a snug distance, enhance the resistance barely and begin throughout.
For those who’re biking out in nature, your finest strategy is to discover a hill and trip up for 10 units. Use the trip down as a part of your relaxation between every set. However you’ll nonetheless have to progressively overload this routine. This might imply biking uphill whereas carrying a weighted vest or backpack, or looking out to discover a steeper or longer hill to extend the problem.
Constructing muscle with cardio is, in some methods, just like constructing muscle with energy coaching. Certain, one technique is much more practical for this purpose, however the identical common ideas apply. Primarily, you apply mechanical pressure and you retain persistently apply extra so the physique adapts.
For those who can’t apply extra, which can inevitably occur, you have to plan a deload. That is extraordinarily necessary as a result of biking at excessive intensities might be fairly fatiguing, particularly when carried out along with your regular energy coaching exercises.
You would possibly run right into a plateau or a drop in efficiency inside a number of weeks relying in your total plan and your common conditioning. A plateau doesn’t imply you have to push more durable, it means you have to take a deload week the place whole coaching is considerably lighter and comparatively decrease resistance.
In energy coaching, this could imply utilizing lighter weights and/or doing fewer reps per set. On the bike, it means dialing again the resistance and taking some comparatively simpler rides. This enables any accrued fatigue to dissipate, so you’ll be able to comeback in per week or so to push for extra PRs and construct extra muscle within the long-term.
Skip Leg Day, Add Bike Day?
Some folks would possibly now be questioning if it’s OK to solely cycle to construct their decrease physique muscle mass. Technically, you could possibly, but it surely’s fairly inefficient, particularly in the event you’re extra superior in your total health. However, you’ll be able to actually do what you need and practice nonetheless you’d like. And it’s nonetheless higher than not giving your legs any kind of coaching stimulus. For those who’re prepared so as to add biking to your leg-building plans, save this information as a reference for the easiest way to pedal just a little nearer to thicker thighs.
- Schoenfeld B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their software to resistance coaching. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 24(10), 2857–2872. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3
- Atakan, M. M., Li, Y., Koşar, Ş. N., Turnagöl, H. H., & Yan, X. (2021). Proof-Based mostly Results of Excessive-Depth Interval Coaching on Train Capability and Well being: A Assessment with Historic Perspective. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being, 18(13), 7201. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18137201
- Methenitis S. (2018). A Transient Assessment on Concurrent Coaching: From Laboratory to the Area. Sports activities (Basel, Switzerland), 6(4), 127. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports6040127
Featured Picture: Alfredo Lopez / Shutterstock