A popular piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, exercise bikes not only improve your heart rate and circulation but also tone your core and lower body. Also referred to as an indoor cycle, an exercise bike mimics the movements of riding a bicycle indoors, allowing you to work out in any weather. It also let you burn about the equivalent number of calories as you would during a traditional bike ride, which is about 292 calories per hour for a 160-lb. person.
Indoor Cycling History
The first recorded invention of the exercise bike occurred in the 18th century. Francis Lowndes created a machine called the Gymnasticon, which resembled a bicycle in terms of mechanics and allowed a person to exercise. Exercise bikes were made more popular in the late 1980s by Jonathan Goldberg. Goldberg was a competitive cyclist who was seeking a way to train indoors in the winter. Shortly after his innovations, indoor cycling became increasingly popular with the creation of a group exercise format called indoor cycling. Today, both individual exercise bikes and group indoor cycling classes are available in nearly every neighborhood gym.
While the major hip muscles, your glutes, are not one of the primary muscles used for cycling, it does assist in the movement needed for cycling, which helps it to grow in terms of muscle tone. Your hips also become more toned when you cycle simply because you are burning fat as you pump your legs. In addition, the additional muscle growth in your other leg muscles will help to burn calories quicker when you eat, helping you to metabolize food as fuel for muscle instead of fat storage.
When you cycle, the thigh muscles that work together to push the pedals are the hamstrings and quadriceps. The hamstrings, the muscles located on the back portion of your leg from your glutes to your knees, create the upward portion of the circular motion. By engaging the leg not only as you push down, but also as you pull up, you will develop better muscle tone and also reduce the pressure you would place on your knees from the repeated downward motion.
The quadriceps muscles are located on the front side of your legs from your knees to your hips. Quadriceps, also called quads, are the opposing muscle group to the hamstrings. You use your quadriceps when you push down on the pedals while using an exercise bike. The repeated down motion will engage your quadriceps, leading to more muscle tone over time. Because the quadriceps are such a dominant muscle in cycling, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America recommends regularly stretching the quads after any type of bicycle training.
The abdominals are the supporting muscle group during cycling. They are engaged isometrically during a cycling workout and not only aid in the circular motion of the legs but also protect the back from injury from repeated leaning forward. To ensure that you are correctly using your abdominals while cycling, pull your navel in toward your spine, and pull your stomach in tightly from your ribcage all the way down to your pubic bone. Retain this good form throughout the workout.