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Can Cycling Replace Leg Day Workout? (6 Key Facts)

When it comes to leg workouts, many fitness enthusiasts swear by the effectiveness of a dedicated “leg day” at the gym.

However, with the rise in popularity of cycling as a form of exercise, a question arises:

Can cycling replace leg day?

In this article, we’ll explore the potential benefits and limitations of cycling as a substitute for a focused leg workout.

We’ll delve into the impact of cycling on leg muscles, discuss the cardiovascular benefits it offers, and weigh the pros and cons of incorporating cycling into your leg day routine.

So, if you’re curious about whether hopping on a bike can provide a comprehensive leg workout, read on to find out more.

Can Cycling Replace Leg Day?

While cycling provides many of the same benefits as leg day, cycling won’t develop your leg muscles as much as training legs. So, you should still do leg day if you want to maximize leg muscle hypertrophy.

group of cyclists

What Leg Muscles Does Cycling Work?

Cycling primarily targets the muscles of the lower body.

Here are the main leg muscles that are engaged during cycling:

  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps, located in the front of the thigh, are the primary muscles used during cycling. They are responsible for extending the knee as you push down on the pedals.
  • Hamstrings: Located on the back of the thigh, the hamstrings act as stabilizers during cycling. They help with knee flexion and play a crucial role in generating power during the upstroke phase of pedaling.
  • Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are engaged during cycling to stabilize the hips and provide power to the pedal stroke. They play a vital role in generating force and propelling the bike forward.
  • Calves: The calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus, are activated during the downstroke phase of pedaling. They help extend the ankle and provide additional power during the cycling motion.
  • Hip Flexors: The hip flexor muscles, such as the iliopsoas and rectus femoris, are engaged during cycling as they assist in lifting the legs and initiating the downstroke motion.

While these muscles are the primary focus during cycling, it’s important to note that cycling alone may not provide a comprehensive workout for all leg muscles.

Can Cycling Replace Squats? (Cycling vs Squats)

While cycling provides numerous benefits, it’s important to recognize that it may not fully replace squats in terms of strength and muscle development.

Squats are a weight-bearing exercise that requires you to lift your own body weight or additional weights. This resistance is crucial for building muscle mass and strength, which may not be achieved through cycling alone.

Also, squats engage a wider range of muscles, including the core and upper body to a certain extent, compared to cycling, which primarily focuses on the lower body. By neglecting these muscle groups, you may miss out on achieving a well-rounded physique and functional strength.

However, if your primary goal is cardiovascular fitness or you have joint issues that make squats uncomfortable, cycling can be an excellent substitute or complementary exercise. It offers a challenging workout for the lower body while minimizing impact on the joints.

Should You Train Legs If You Cycle?

If you want to build a more balanced physique, and have bigger leg muscles, then you should definitely train legs if you cycle.

Whereas you can do cycling instead of leg day if you’re not too fussed about having big leg muscles and do leg day for other reasons (burn lots of calories and improve your cardio health).

That said, you should always aim for a balanced physique, as if your legs are lagging behind your upper body, you’re more susceptible to injury.

Is Cycling A Good Leg Workout For Beginners?

Yes, cycling can be an excellent leg workout for beginners. Here’s why:

Low Impact

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, meaning it puts less stress on your joints compared to activities like running or jumping. This makes it a great option for beginners or individuals with joint sensitivities.

It allows you to work your leg muscles without excessive strain on your knees, ankles, and hips.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Cycling is an effective cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up and improves your overall cardiovascular fitness. It helps increase lung capacity, strengthens your heart, and improves blood circulation.

This is beneficial for your overall health and well-being.

Lower Body Muscle Engagement

Cycling targets the major muscle groups of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. These muscles are actively involved in pedaling and provide resistance to build strength and endurance.

Regular cycling can lead to improved muscle tone, increased power, and enhanced overall leg strength.

Customizable Intensity

One of the advantages of cycling is that you can adjust the intensity to suit your fitness level. Whether you’re cycling on flat terrain or tackling inclines, you have control over the resistance and speed.

Beginners can start with shorter rides at a comfortable pace and gradually increase the duration and intensity as their fitness improves.

Variety and Enjoyment

Cycling offers a wide range of options, including outdoor biking, indoor stationary biking, and group cycling classes. This variety helps keep your workouts interesting and enjoyable, which can be motivating for beginners. It also allows you to explore different routes or scenic areas, making your exercise experience more engaging.

However, it’s worth noting that while cycling primarily focuses on the lower body, it may not provide a complete strength training workout for all leg muscles.

To achieve a well-rounded leg workout, it’s beneficial to include other exercises such as squats, lunges, and leg presses, which target different muscle groups and provide a broader range of benefits.

Can You Do Peloton Instead Of Leg Day?

peloton bike

Again, this boils down to the benefits you want to see from leg day.

If you’re doing leg day to burn calories and improve your cardio fitness, then Peloton would be a suitable replacement.

Whereas if you’re doing leg day to get bigger and stronger legs, then Peloton may not do the trick.

Conclusion: Is Biking A Good Leg Workout?

In summary:

  • Depending on your goals, cycling can replace leg day.
  • If you want to burn a lot of calories, develop your lower abs, and improve your cardiovascular system, then cycling would make a good replacement to leg day.
  • If you want to build and develop your leg muscles, cycling wouldn’t be a sufficient replacement for leg day.

That’s all for this article, but can running replace leg day? Or perhaps you’re wondering why leg day is so hard?

Hope this helped!


Jay Singh

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Great article, you read my mind. I have a pinched nerve in my lower back which causes pain and numbness in my left leg so although I do Romanian deadlift without a issue I can't do squats, but I suppose its better then not doing nothing and I add my commute to work and back which is about a total of 1hr 3 times a week