Regularly riding a stationary bicycle offers the same benefits as any cardiovascular exercise. It can help you lose or maintain weight, improve circulation, elevate energy levels and reduce risk for several conditions and diseases. It’s also a calorie-burner: a 150 pound person burns between 476 to 714 calories during an hour of moderate to intense effort on a stationary bike. The workout primarily targets your legs. By varying how you ride, however, you can target your glutes.
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Any cycling -- whether done on a stationary bike driven by a belt, a chain-driven indoor cycling bike or a traditional outdoor bike -- is going to provide you with a cardiovascular workout that targets your legs. Specific muscles carry the workload at specific points in the anatomy of a pedal stroke. From about 12 o’clock to about 6 o’clock on the wheel, you push through the stroke with the fronts of your legs. If your feet are attached to the pedals of the bike with toe cages and straps, the backs of your legs lift through the back half of the stroke, from about 6 o’clock to about 12 o’clock on the circle.
The group of four large muscles on the front of your thigh are your quadriceps, or quads. Your quads extend, or straighten, your knee through the push phase of the pedal stroke. The group of large muscles along the backs of your thighs are your hamstrings. They work in opposition to your quads, flexing your knee to lift through the back half of the stroke. Your quads and hamstrings are the powerhouse muscles of indoor and outdoor cycling. The pair of muscles that comprise your calf complex is also heavily utilized throughout the entire pedal stroke. Your calves are secondary to your quads and hamstrings, however, so they usually don’t fatigue as quickly.
As with your leg muscles, the muscles of your hip complex are also situated to work in opposition to one another. A stationary bicycle requires your legs to move in a very specific pattern that only utilizes the muscles along the front and back of your hips, which are your hip flexor muscles and your gluteal muscles. Your hip flexors, including your iliopsoas, lift your quads up and forward. In a seated position, your hip flexors are in a constant state of engagement. The three large muscles that comprise your glutes act to bring your hamstrings through the back half of the pedal stroke. However, in a seated position, your glutes are less engaged.
Targeting Your Glutes
To target your glutes on a stationary bike, you must add resistance and come out of the saddle. When you’re in a seated position, your glutes are stretched -- which is the opposite of contracted. Standing on the pedals and running with a minimal amount of resistance targets your quadriceps, whereas adding a heavier amount of resistance, to simulate a hill climb, targets your glutes. When your legs have more resistance to work with, your hamstrings and glutes have a heavier load to carry through the back half of the stroke. Riding out of the saddle allows your glutes to contract fully to better assist your hamstrings. To optimally target your glutes, use toe cgaes and straps.