Whether you're training for a competition or simply trying to get in shape, building leg muscles can be a challenge. You can spend hours on a bike without seeing results. This is because muscle building depends on the amount of resistance your legs experience during a biking workout. Resistance can come from your body weight, gravity, terrain and gear settings. By varying your workout with uphill challenges and adjusting your technique, you can optimize your bike workout to increase the muscles mass in your upper and lower legs, leading to a sleek and defined look.
Choosing Your Terrain
Varying the terrain of your workouts can increase the resistance and help you build muscles faster. For example, a hilly route with multiple uphill challenges will require your leg muscles to work harder to overcome the increased gravity. You must pedal your body weight and the weight of the bike against the incline. As a result, your hamstrings, quads, calves and gluteal muscles will all be engaged against your weight. Over time these muscles will experience growth, leading to the sharply defined muscular lower body of your dreams.
Riding uphill can require some changes in technique. To be more effective, stand up as you pedal. This will add more weight as you pedal and has the advantage of engaging different muscles than you typically use while pedaling in a seated position. When you're biking on flat terrain in a seated position, you'll use your quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings to propel yourself forward. As you stand on your pedals, raise your heels to engage your calf muscles. If you're clipped into the pedals, point your toes down to feel the burn in your calves. When you've practiced this consistently, you'll begin to see the results as your legs gain overall muscles mass.
Using the Gears to Your Advantage
A workout that involves a lot of climbs will usually have some downhills as well. To navigate this diverse terrain effectively, put your gears in motion. Shift to high gears when you're on flat terrain or down hills. This will increase the resistance you have to pedal against, so you're continually engaging your leg muscles. The more resistance your muscles have to work against, the more strain they will experience, leading them to break down, repair and grow for a lean and muscular look.
Pacing and Interval Training
Interval training involves pedaling at different speeds for set periods of time. For example, pedal at a high speed with great resistance for five minutes, then slow your pace and shift up to lessen the resistance and allow your body to recover before heading into another intense period of pedaling. Outside of interval training, you can also use your speed to help build muscle mass by pedaling slowly. When you slow down your pedaling, your legs are required to do more of the work because they won't be helped by momentum or the bike's mechanisms.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.