Does Riding a Bike Tone Your Arms?

Extreme riding requires balance and technique, using your arms.
Image Credit: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Similar to many recreational activities, riding a bike tones certain muscles. Many prefer cycling on roads instead of running to tone their legs. Others take on the challenge of off-road riding that tones core muscles in their torso. Riding a bike requires using your arms. Aside from a casual ride on a beach cruiser, different riding styles condition and tone the muscles in your arms to various degrees.

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Physiology

When riding a bike, you support your upper body by gripping the handlebars. Gripping the bars and operating the brake levers for extended periods of time is similar to using spring clamps that tone the muscles in your forearms. Supporting your body weight for extended periods of time is similar to holding an isometric pushup pose that targets the muscles in your upper arms and shoulders.

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Road Bikes

Many road bikes and cyclocross bikes possess drop handlebars, with the grips and brake levers at a height that's even with, or below the height of the seat. This configuration requires you to lean forward when riding and support your upper-body weight with your arms. You might release your grip and sit upright to rest at times during long rides. But the muscles in your upper arms and forearms are exercised and toned when you grip the handlebars and apply the brakes.

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Mountain Bikes

Riding on off-road terrain calls for maintaining your balance and control by manipulating the handlebars and your body through a variety of movements. You steer through tight turns using your arms to push and pull either end of the handlebars with a firm grip. Many riders push the handlebars to one side and lean the bike into sweeping turns while leaning their body to alter their center of gravity. On bumpy terrain, your arms and a firm grip on the handlebars keeps the front wheel on track to prevent losing your balance.

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Extreme Riding

Few styles of riding target the muscles in your arms to the same degree as extreme riding. Maneuvering the front end of the bike to do bar-hops or a caboose targets and tones the muscles in your forearms, upper arms and shoulders. Taking jumps or departing the bike in midair and holding onto the seat to perform a boomerang targets and tones these same muscle groups.

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