Even if you bike for fun, you'll still get some fitness benefits out of the deal. Obviously you'll get a cardio workout, a good one, too, if you push yourself. Biking also calls on more than just your leg muscles. Your core muscles, including your abs, are engaged when you bike and they actively help you balance, but cycling isn't at the top of the list of activities that strengthen your abs.
Incorporates the Abs
Whether you're using a stationary bike or cycling outdoors you need to have proper posture and that requires a strong midsection, namely your abs. In addition to helping you balance, your abs are connected to your quadriceps through your flexor muscles, so your abs get a workout when you bike, but it will be secondary to the workout your legs will get, knocking biking down a few pegs on the list of exercises that build your abs.
Importance of Core Strength
The way your weight is distributed and supported on a bike requires core strength. Your abs, obliques and lower back muscles are all in play when your legs are working, plus your abs and lower back have a codependent type of relationship so they both must be strong to support one another. Already having strength in these key areas before you hit the biking trail or the stationary bike at the gym provides support and balance and helps you avoid injuries too.
Strengthening your core for a better biking experience is just one more reason to work those abs...and back and hip flexors and so on... When working out, get a few sets in each week of exercise ball crunches, power bridges, hip extensions, planks -- don't forget the side planks -- and scissors kicks. Each will do its part to build muscles and strength for stability and control.
Warming Up and Stretching
Warming up and stretching isn't just for a workout in the gym. Preparing your body for the challenge to come is always important, even if you're just cycling for the fun of it. Warming up slowly and safely increases blood flow to your muscles allowing them to perform efficiently during the activity and limiting the chances of soreness and injury. Stretching should be part of your warm up. Dynamic stretches such as hamstring hand-walks, walking quad stretches and knee-to-chest lunges help with flexibility and range of motion which further cuts the chances of hurting your joints and muscles.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.