Uphill cycling adds strength to your legs.

How to Ride a Bike to Make Your Legs Muscular

by Lisa M. Wolfe

When you think of building muscular legs, you may think of unending squats, lunges and leg presses, as opposed to riding your bike. However, designing your cycling workout with the goal of muscular legs is not difficult, it just takes planning. Traditionally, cycling is a cardiovascular exercise, as you ride at a consistent pace to elevate your heart and breathing rates into an aerobic training zone. A change in terrain from flat to uphill takes your workout to one that improves your lower-body muscular power, strength and endurance.

Outdoor Cycling

Warm up by cycling on a flat road for five to 10 minutes at a low gear so you are not over-taxing your legs.

Locate a hill that is short, maybe 1/4 mile long, but steep.

Cycle uphill and remain seated. Use a medium gear that you can maintain a good pace as you ascend the hill. Do your seated climb for three-quarters of the hill. Keep your stomach pulled in tight to support your back.

Stand for the last quarter of the hill and shift into a higher gear. Push hard on the pedals and maintain your speed as you climb to the top of the hill. Breathe deeply as you climb.

Turn around and cycle down the hill. Pedal on a flat road for three to five minutes until your breathing recovers.

Repeat the hill five to 10 times to improve the muscles in your lower-body.

Cool down with a five to 10 minute pedal on a flat road to return adequate blood flow to your legs.

Indoor Cycling

Warm up with five to 10 minutes of steady-state, low-resistance pedaling on a stationary bike.

Increase the resistance on the flywheel and pedal for three to five minutes with your hands positioned farther forward, or on the middle handlebar.

Increase the resistance again and stand up as you slide your hands out to the farthest handlebar. Use a light grip on the bar. Keep your head and chest up as you breathe normally and simulate a climb for one to two minutes.

Return to the saddle. Decrease the resistance and increase the pace of your pedaling for three to five minutes of recovery.

Repeat the hill two to four times to build muscular strength in your legs.

Cool down with five minutes of low-resistance, slow-paced pedaling.


  • Begin with one or two hills and increase the number of climbs as your fitness and leg strength improve. Encourage your children to cycle with you and make it a game to see who can reach the top of the hill first.


  • Check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program. If you are pregnant, use a stationary bike to avoid any falls from balance concerns.

About the Author

A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images