The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way fitness enthusiasts achieve their goals. With huge numbers of gyms still closed, indoor cycling programs such as Zwift and Peloton have seen their popularity skyrocket.
However, is indoor cycling all that it’s cracked up to be? Or is it merely the latest fad in a world so famous for gimmicks and flavour-of-the-month tropes? We’ve analysed the effects of indoor cycling and its uses for your body extensively to help answer those questions and help you decide whether or not indoor cycling really is the next big thing.
Why Is Indoor Cycling Good For You?
All forms of cycling, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, make for brilliant forms of cardio.
However, the indoor variant gets your blood pumping at a serious rate due to the lack of obstacles, such as traffic or busy streets, when compared to bicycling.
Perhaps the most effective form of cardio come in the form of indoor bikes and air bikes. These machines require the whole body to work at full velocity to help power its pedals. There’s no wind or decline hills to help you (unlike outdoor cycling) so the user has to work extremely hard to generate speed.
Another advantage of indoor cycling is that it’s extremely popular. The majority of gyms will have an indoor bike or an air bike, so you can reap the cardiovascular benefits from cycling as much as you like. Indoor cycling is also extremely versatile and is effective both as a warm-up, a cool-down, and even a main workout.
Indoor Cycling Is Low-Impact Cardio
If you’re someone who has a history of knee and joint pain, you’ll be relieved to know that indoor cycling is extremely low-impact and is completely devoid of the harsh landings and impacts seen in other popular forms of cardio.
Indoor cycling is often used as a rehabilitation exercise for this very reason. Not only is it a highly effective form of cardio, but it’s also one of the safest forms of exercise around.
Indoor Cycling Is An Effective Conditioning Tool
Conditioning is key to fitness whether you’re a pro athlete or a complete fitness novice.
Conditioning both strengthens muscles and keeps fat at bay. It’s a huge component of overall fitness and is the area that will likely make the biggest difference to your quality of life. A well-conditioned person has a massively reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer.
Getting to a respectable level of conditioning may take time, sweat, and tears, but the hard work is worth it – and it can definitely be attained by doing high-intensity training on an indoor bike.
As an endurance exercise, cycling will also improve your long-term heart health. If you’re using a standard indoor bike, aim for long workouts and track your distance covered. Over time, you can consider going for longer distances to help get you ripped, slim, and well-conditioned.
Whether you’re a pro-bodybuilder looking to get ripped for a competition, or simply a person who wants to lose some weight, indoor cycling is an effective weapon to add to your arsenal.
Mental Health Benefits
The benefits of indoor cycling aren’t limited to just the physical realm, however.
The so-called ‘runner’s high’ that people associate with cardiovascular training can be easily achieved with indoor cycling, too. Rigorous exercise triggers the release of endorphins in the brain that contribute to reduced stress levels, an elevated mood, and a reduced risk of depression.
What Muscles Does Indoor Cycling Work?
So far, we’ve learned about the conditioning benefits of indoor cycling along with its profound mental health benefits.
Indoor cycling is also great for your general muscle tone too, and can definitely contribute to the progressive overload needed to cause muscle growth.
Indoor Cycling Effectively Works The Quadriceps
The quadriceps are the largest muscles in the human body and they play a vital role in our day to day lives.
They have the mammoth task of allowing our legs to support the weight of our bodies, and training them will benefit your athletic development in a way that no other muscle group will.
During indoor cycling, the quadriceps are responsible for pushing the pedals down and generating speed and power during a workout session. If you’re doing high intensity interval training (HIIT), then your quads have to work overtime to power through the short, sharp sessions of maximum output.
This results in a metabolic overdrive where muscle tissue is broken down and users feel ‘the burn’ in the targeted area. Calories get incinerated and muscle mass and tone is rebuilt stronger, bigger, and better as your body adapts to the new stimulus.
For optimal mass-growth, however, it’s vital to pair both cycling with a competent weight-training program.
The Hamstrings Are Also Worked to An Effect
However, the quadriceps aren’t the only area of the leg that indoor cycling targets.
The hamstrings (the back of your legs) also see their fair share of action as they’re heavily involved in moving the pedals and generating power.
Although the hamstrings are involved during indoor cycling, it remains a highly quad-dominant activity and hamstring exercises should be implemented into every cyclist’s program to help prevent muscle imbalances.
Indoor Cycling Gets the Glutes Working
If you’re looking to tone and strengthen your glutes, then indoor cycling is the exercise for you.
The constant spinning of the legs during a cycling session recruits all of the muscles in your lower body, toning them and ridding them off excess calories.
If you’re looking to build a better butt, consider pairing cycling with other glute-dominant exercises.
Indoor Cycling Also Recruits the Calves
The calves are known as the ‘forearms of the lower body’ due to their stubborn growth patterns.
If you’re looking for a holistic way to train your lower body, then indoor cycling is a great way to recruit all of the major muscle groups of the lower body – calves included.
The calves are responsible for helping your legs push down on the pedals and indoor cycling is a great way to train them for strength, endurance, and tone.
Does Indoor Cycling Work the Upper Body?
The muscles in the upper body such as the arms, shoulders, back, traps, and abs can be worked during indoor cycling, however it also depends on which indoor bike you’re using.
For example, a recumbent indoor bike will engage the lower abs considerably more than a standard, upright one. However, an upright bike will require arm engagement to help keep the body upright.
An air bike will work the upper body the most out of all indoor bikes. Their long, independent handles requires the whole body to work in unison to get it moving. A 30-second round at full intensity will work your body from head to toe and get your cardiovascular system working in overdrive.
Although your arms and shoulders won’t be overloaded from indoor cycling, they can still be used as a stabilising tool (especially if you’re upright) which can aid in their toning an endurance.
Will Indoor Cycling Give Me Abs?
Of course it will. However, this is not because of the ab engagement during cycling, it’s because of the calorie-shedding nature of the exercise itself.
All of us have a six-pack lying around somewhere, but the majority of people have a layer of fat covering what could be washboard abs.
An hour of cycling at a standard pace will burn approximately 500 calories an hour. If you’re cycling three or four times a week, this results in thousands of calories a week being burned by indoor cycling alone!
Although the act of indoor cycling itself can target the abs (a recumbent bike will target the lower abs significantly), it remains an exercise that is dominated by the lower half of the body. For the best ab results, leave indoor cycling until the end of your core workout.
Indoor Cycling Has a Lot of Crossover Benefits
If you reach a decent level of proficiency in indoor cycling, then you’re going to see significant improvement in your overall athletic performance.
Whether your sport is football, soccer, tennis, boxing, or amateur wrestling, the increased muscular endurance and cardiovascular ability you get from indoor cycling will have a great carry-over affect. You’ll be able to go for longer rounds, generate more power from your legs, and be better conditioned than your opponents thanks to the wonders of indoor cycling.
Indoor cycling works the quadriceps the most. As perhaps the most important muscles in your body, this is no small feat. There isn’t an athlete alive that wouldn’t benefit from stronger, leaner quads and indoor cycling presents a holistic option for those seeking improved lower body performance.
The cardiovascular system is another one of indoor cycling’s big winners, too. An improved level of physical condition is vital for general well-being and preventing your body from developing certain diseases. Indoor cycling is truly a miracle drug that everybody can do and that everybody should be exploiting.
If you’re looking for a way to take your fitness to the next level, then indoor cycling is for you.