If you’re an avid cyclist or just prefer the exercise bike over any other gym equipment, you might be wondering whether you can tone your abdominal muscles by pedaling.
Cycling is a type of intense workout that doesn’t only activate your hips and legs but also engages your core, which includes your abs, lower back, and the muscle groups around your trunk. So the direct answer to your question is yes!
But how can you focus the exercise on your abs? And which type of exercise bike does this the best? Keep reading for the information and tips you need to build abs that ‘pop’ like that of a fitness model.
Does Cycling on an Exercise Bike Give You Abs?
Yes and no. Riding on an exercise bike is an aerobic activity that helps burn calories and melt the layer of fat in the abdomen. So you can expect a thinner waistline and a more flat stomach after a couple of months of working out on a recumbent or stationary bike.
It also activates the abs in a way. According to a study published in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal, workouts that involve pulling the knees towards the shoulders – like cycling – activate the lower abs.
So although cycling is a lower-body workout, your upper body is also engaged as it transfers the force to your legs.
However, that only means they’ll become stronger, giving you a firmer core. Yet, you’ll have to do more than a regular sweaty session on the bike for your abs to pop out.
The abs is a long muscle that extends halfway from the ribs to your hips. Unlike fat, it can’t be targeted by aerobic exercises. For any muscle to bulk up and become more prominent, it must be put under stress like that of heavy weights.
Regular bike riding won’t help you apply the necessary pressure on this area to help it grow. Yet, some tips can help you engage them more in the activity, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Which Exercise Bike Type Is Best for Abs?
The best exercise bike for abs is the recumbent bike. Although it burns fewer calories than the stationary bike and requires less effort to operate, it activates the abs more than any other bike type.
When pedaling on a recumbent bike, you don’t just move your quads, hamstrings, and shins. Your core muscles also participate in the activity, including your upper and lower abs, glutes, obliques, and hip flexors.
That’s because, unlike other bike types, recumbent bikes sport a semi-reclined position, which helps derive the motion of your legs from your abdominal muscles. With your back slightly tilted backward, your abs contract, supported by your obliques, to power your leg motion. So with every pedaling cycle throughout your workout, your abs work.
How to Tone Your Abs on an Exercise Bike
Sure, recumbent bikes can help you strengthen your abs. But they won’t come out as defined six packs unless you follow the following tips.
Maintaining the correct posture while cycling won’t only make you avoid any risk of injury but also help you achieve those taut and defined abs.
If your back is hunched on the recumbent bike, it’ll take away from your abs work. Keeping your form straight allows your ab muscles to contract and relax regularly, which translates later into a lean and solid stomach.
To make sure you’re following the correct posture, your back and knees should be straight and pointing ahead. Your arms and hands should also be relaxed to keep the pressure on your abs.
Lastly, instead of leaning on your butt, ensure your sit bones are the ones making contact with the seat.
Tighten Your Abdominal Muscles
As per a study performed by the European Journal of Sports Science, focusing on a specific muscle while working out makes it work harder, which results in it getting bigger and stronger.
Another study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research seconds that finding, especially for ab muscles. So how can you apply that to cycling?
When you’re on the recumbent bike, keep your abs tight while your legs are moving the pedals. This is similar to doing crunches, but instead of on a flat surface or a crunch bench, you’re doing it on the bike.
You can do that in intervals by contracting or clenching your ab muscles for a minute, then releasing them for 30 seconds. Repeat this movement throughout your workout, and you’ll feel the burn in your stomach muscles after the session, signaling a good ab workout.
Pro Tip: It’s easy to forget to keep your abs tight through the exercise, so don’t get distracted, and make sure you’re paying extra attention to your core.
Keep Your Weight off Your Arms
Remember when we said that your form should be relaxed, including your arms? Well, that’s because if your arms are tense, that means they’re taking the pressure off your abs while working out, which defies what you’re trying to do here.
A great way to focus the pressure on your abs and maintain better balance is to switch hands every now and then on the handlebars. Start pedaling with both hands on the handlebars, then take off one hand and place it behind your back while cycling. After a couple of minutes, switch your hands, and so on.
Alternate Between Sitting and Standing
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the level of abdominal muscle engagement when doing sit-ups on a stable surface and on a Bosu ball. According to the research, the group which used the Bosu ball showed higher levels of abs activation.
Now that may seem irrelevant, but it isn’t really. You can apply the same concept to exercise bikes. When you stand on an exercise bike, your abs are forced to jump in the workout to keep your body stable and balanced.
But it’d be hard to keep a standing position all the time, so alternate between a sitting and standing position throughout the ride to keep your abs engaged without putting much strain on the rest of your muscles.
Remember, Abs Are Made in the Kitchen
Finally, it’s not only about working out. For your abs to see the light, you need to melt the visceral fat layer hiding them first. And although exercise bikes can help you burn a sufficient number of calories, you won’t be able to achieve that goal without lowering your calorie intake and switching to healthier diet alternatives.
That’s why your workout program should be about getting you to be somewhere in the 8-12% body fat range. After you shed this layer of fat, you’ll be able to detect the hard work you’ve thrown in in the form of a well-defined midsection.
A strong core means improved performance, better balance, and less susceptibility to injury.
Among the many benefits of pedaling regularly on a recumbent bike is that it helps melt belly fat and strengthen the abdominal muscles. With just a few simple tactics, you can turn this cardio workout into an ab-strengthening one by employing your core muscles.
Emma James, 29 years old professional fitness trainer with Bachelor’s degree in Physical Fitness Technician from Boston University.