What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work? Awesome Guide

If one has made up his mind to start utilizing mountain biking to gain some muscle, the very first thing they need to look up or think about is the surface of the ground. Climbing hills helps one to gain a lot more muscle than riding on a flat surface. In this post we will explore that What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work?

While riding on the flats, the rider may increase strength by riding in lower gear and as well as by increasing his power. This will help with travelling at a faster pace. All types of bike riding have proved to be excellent for strength training and will also help in losing weight.

How do muscles work during mountain biking?

Riding and hiking over hills to gain power is considered as the best method to increase endurance while simultaneously building muscle. Sports that require leaping and rapid motions can be strenuous on our body. To increase cardiac endurance and build lean muscle, these activities prove to be very beneficial for a person. Activities like running and basketball can start to strain one’s body.

They will wear down the joints with the passage of time causing a number of bone diseases. Mountain biking tends to be a wonderful alternative for you if you want to gain muscle without bearing the pain associated with high-impact hobbies.

Cycling Short
Cycling Short

Mountain biking plays a great role in keeping one fit as it helps in engaging different muscles in various ways. It is also considered to be one of the most beneficial core workouts for our body. Some parts of your muscles are at least required to be active at all times while cycling, and throughout the period of your entire ride, you will have worked on most of your major groups of muscles.

These significant groups of muscles from all over the body are used when one is biking over varying altitudes, improper terrain and ascents or descents. These muscles are connected to both upper body and lower body. Mountain biking requires a great deal of effort from the muscles of the calf, shoulder, hamstrings, buttock, arms and forearms, chest, quadriceps and especially the core muscles.

Muscles of Lower-Body during Mountain Biking:

The muscles of the quadriceps drive the pedal of the bike down towards the trail. Whereas, the muscles of the calf work against the quads to pull back the foot up to the bent position. Moreover, the muscles of the calf and hamstrings coordinate together to raise the leg upwards, although the muscles of the buttock which are coupled with the core and abdominal muscles bring the thigh to the front and keep the cyclist steady.

Muscles of Upper-Body during Mountain Biking:

The muscles of the biceps contribute to maintaining the balance of the cyclist by pulling and lifting on the bike’s handlebars. While the pectoral and triceps muscles help with steadiness, specifically on slopes and vibrating impulses from the earth. When it comes to braking, pedaling, gripping and shifting during mountain biking, the muscles of the forearms are considered as the most essential ones.

Muscles involved in Pedal Cycling:

The stroke of the pedal also involves a number of muscles during its functioning. The degree ranges of the muscles involved during the pedal stroke are more approximate and theoretical. Researchers generated the majority of the computations in laboratory settings. Pedaling cadence, hills, posture of the body on the bike, duration of the trip, height adjustments of the seat, changeable surface topography, weariness and mechanical concerns all play an integral part in the physical world. However, this serves as a decent starting point.

The four muscles above the knee on the front leg, known as Quadriceps, are highly responsible for providing pressure or power to the pedal of the cycle. The four muscles that build up the quadriceps are:

Difference between Single Track Mountain Bike Riding and Road Cycling:

Mountain biking as compared to road-based cycling requires more dynamic upper body motions to move the bicycle over and around obstructions to help the reduction of the trail shocks. When it comes to cycling on the road, lower body muscular groups are most commonly used. The muscles of upper body are mostly used when riding mountain biking trails and single track with challenging terrain, specifically when climbing and coming down of the slopes. Some of the major groups of muscles involved in this process are:

Rotator cuff muscles:

All the movements of arm and shoulder are made possible by the muscles of the rotator cuff. The joint of the shoulder is stabilized by mountain biking. They work as shock absorbers riding on mountain biking trails that are uneven and rugged. While pedaling the cycle, they aid in pulling the arm toward the rider’s torso.


When riding out of the saddle, the trapezius helps in lifting and holding the shoulder.


These muscles assist in lowering and raising the arm. These muscles contribute to standing while biking and aid in absorbing shocks while going down the uneven slopes.


For good balance and steadiness while biking down single and double tracks, one should use their triceps. They tend to decrease or cushion the rider’s shock and perform their job eccentrically.


When it comes to mountain biking, forearms play a very crucial part. They also play a pivotal role in balancing and stopping the bike, particularly during rapid and steep slopes.

Biceps brachii:

The biceps assist in pulling and lifting the handlebars of the bike and as well as stabilizing the rider.

Serratus anterior:

This muscle helps in bringing the blades of the shoulder forward and abducts it. It plays a major role in absorbing shocks.

Pectoralis muscles:

The shoulders of a person can be abducted with the aid of pectoralis muscles. It also plays a crucial part in assisting a rider with stability while going down the slope and along with that also guides where the rider must stand to endure the shocks from the uneven trails.

Perfect Pedal Stroke and Muscle Groups:

A saddle’s perfect position and height determines an ideal pedal stroke. The angle of knee flexion rises when riders ride with their seats too low or forward. This causes the quad muscles to compress a bit more. This proves that the quadriceps is more used while the massive muscles of butt, hamstring and calf are underutilized.

Role of Wheel Size in Muscle Activation:

According to research, wheels that are large in size have no effect on the muscular vibrations or activity. The study did find that the wheels of the size 26 had more involvement of bicep muscles. Researchers attributed it to the shorter wheelbase having to be hoisted over barriers.

29- Inch Wheel Mountain Bike
29- Inch Wheel Mountain Bike

Muscular Activity during upward pedaling:

According to the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, the activity of the muscles of both the lower and upper bodies was similar across all three degrees of steepness. Standing muscles tend to be more active than the saddle muscles.

Conclusion on What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work

In a nutshell, mountain biking tends to engage almost all of the muscles of the body, particularly in more varied and severe riding situations. The muscles of the lower body move the mountain bike forward, while the muscles of the upper body and core keep the body steady when going down the hill resulting in absorbing the shocks from the trail that could be uneven as well.

Mark Webster is bike enthusiast and researcher in bike industry from last 15 years. Mark had been working in different bike manufacturing companies for research and development of new models. Mark has mission to make bike design safest for bikers. The dream of Mark is to make bikes too mainstream that we can reduce global carbon emissions.

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