You may know that you can get leaner on a bike – after all, just an hour of cycling can burn almost 500 calories. Hammer up a hill and you’re looking at an even higher caloric burn. What you may not know is cycling’s additional asset: the ability to sculpt a great butt. Little wonder cycling is such a good lower-body workout – it’s like doing a series of leg presses that you repeat over and over, says Todd Galati, MA, ACE certification
manager, who has more than 15 years experience as a competitive cyclist and coach. And even with a moderate level of resistance, that’s thousands of “mini leg presses.”
“The average person turns somewhere around 80 to 100 revolutions per minute (RPM),” says Mark Fasczewski, NSCA-CPT, USA Cycling level 1 coach and co-owner of Vantaggio Fitness and Nutrition. “That’s 6,000 revolutions per hour!”
While we often think of cycling as a quad burner – and burn the quads it does – your gluteus maximus, not to mention your entire body, is constantly working. Your glutes are the primary hip extensor (think of the angle of your quad to your torso at the top of a pedal stroke) that works to drive your leg downward from a flexed position – and the greater the angle of hip extension, the greater the glutes activation.
“Some people think of cycling as just a leg workout, but it’s really not. You have five points of contact: your two arms, your two legs and your butt are on that bike, and you’re adjusting your core, your arms are holding your stability, your legs are your pistons – so the whole body is working,” says Shannon Sovndal, MD, author of Cycling Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2009) and physician for the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team.
If you’re just starting out, Galati recommends:
Step 1: Start with steady-state cycling, about 70 to 100 RPMs, to develop your endurance and to develop a smooth, efficient pedal stroke. Always
include a warm-up and cooldown of five to 10 minutes.
Step 2: Once you’ve mastered your pedal stroke and worked up your endurance, begin to introduce intervals of speed and resistance (hill climbing). You can also gradually increase the length of your ride. But don’t increase any element in your cycle by more than 10 per cent per week.
Try alternating between two minutes of steady-state cardio and one minute of hill climbing. Start with two sets and work up to five. Once you’ve mastered that, increase the interval length to three minutes of steady-state and two minutes of hill climbing.
If you’re advanced, try adding in what Sovndal refers to as “speed sandwiches” – a technique in which you start pedalling in an easy gear, and then speed up for 45 seconds moving as fast as you can, and then go back to your easy pace. Your goal is to lead into the interval and out of it as smoothly as possible – if you’re bouncing, slow down and keep your core strong.