What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work?

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Mountain biking is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air while getting a workout at the same time. But what muscles does mountain biking work?

This can vary depending on the type of mountain biking you are doing, but there are some general exercises that will work most of your muscles.

In this blog post, we will discuss the different muscles that mountain biking works, as well as how to best train them!

What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work?

When mountain biking, the muscles of the buttock, quads, hamstrings, calf, chest, arms, shoulder, forearms, and core muscles are all heavily engaged.

Lower-Body Muscles Used When Mountain Biking

  • The quadriceps push the pedal downward toward the trail/path, while calf muscles work in opposition to the quads, bringing the leg back up to a bent position.
  • The hamstrings and calf work together to lift the leg, with the muscles of the buttock moving the thigh forward and keeping the rider stable along with the abdominals and core muscles.

Your rectus abdominis and other core muscles work together to keep you stable as you descend and climb.

Upper-Body Muscles Used When Mountain Biking

  • The biceps assist in keeping the bike steady and may be used to lift or pull on the handlebars.
  • The triceps and pectoral muscles, in particular, assist with stability, especially on downhills and from vibrational ground impulses.
  • The forearms are crucial for braking, gripping while mountain biking, and shifting.

The muscles of the forearms are highly involved when down hilling for lengthy and technical runs.

Muscles Used During Pedal Cycle

The pedal stroke is divided into two stages, the power or propulsive phase, and the recovery phase. Let’s take a look at which muscle groups are utilized in each of these phases.

The two phases of the pedal cycle are as follows:

1. 0 degrees (Top Dead Center) to 180 degrees (Bottom Dead Center), including 0° and 180°, are the Propulsive Phases.

  • Gluteus maximus: From 0° to 45°, the main glute contribution is minimal (virtually only used to extend the hip during this range)
  • Hamstring group: 135° to 180° is the ‘hammy’ contribution from the biceps femoris primary (in this pedaling range).
  • Gluteals and hamstrings work together: 45° to 125°
  • Vastus externus is the thigh muscle with the most powerful and largest part of the quadriceps (quad muscle). It extends the knee joint and moves the lower leg forward. It is extremely active from 105° to 315°.
  • The vastus medialis is one of three quads, all of which are active between 105° and 315°.
  • The soleus (calf muscle) is the most active, ranging from 30° to 145°.

2. Recovery Phase: 180° Of Crank Rotation Back To 360°

The iliopsoas muscle, which is a major mover of the hip joint, is responsible for flexing the thigh during the recuperative phase. The iliopsoas is the most powerful of the hip flexor muscles and is used more frequently while riding bikes.

3. Muscles Used During the Phases Of The Pedal Cycle

  • Tibialis anterior (shin muscle) – Activates between 270° and 90°.
  • The shin muscle raises the foot and is activated prior to the ‘dead point’ when ascending via pedaling.
  • Another quad muscle that is most active from 315° to 105° is the vastus medialis.
  • Vastus lateralis: is the largest and most powerful quad muscle. It is active from 105° to 315° degrees.
  • The gastrocnemius (calf muscle) is active from 35° to 260° of the pedal cycle.
  • The Rectus Femoris is a muscle that performs the job of flexing and extending the hip. It’s active during the first 60° of power phase and re-activated during the recovery phase at 180° when it contracts to help with hip flexion.

Muscles Used & Ranges of Muscle Activation

The muscles activated during the pedal stroke and the degree ranges are more theoretical in nature and offer a good starting point.

The majority of computations were created in laboratory-like surroundings. However, hills, cycling cadence, body position on the bike, length of journey, seat height variations, variable surface terrain, tiredness, and mechanical difficulties all play a role in the real world. But it’s still useful.

Some of the Most Frequently Experienced Mountain Biking Injuries

The most frequent injuries associated with mountain biking are abrasions, cuts, scuffs, and bruises, but some more severe ailments can occur:

  • Broken bones (particularly the clavicle or collarbone and the wrist), concussions, head injuries, and spinal injuries are all common bike accident causes.
  • Injuries to the forearm, hand, and wrist, including sprains and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Knee problems, such as Patellofemoral pain syndrome and Patellar tendonitis, are common.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB).
  • Achilles tendinitis.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Accidents and injuries are to be expected when mountain biking, but there are a few injury prevention methods that will assist you to ride your bike safely over difficult terrain.

  • Warm-up: It’s important to have a regular warm-up procedure that prepares the body for the physically demanding requirements of the activity. To prepare for more intensive exercise, warmup should be performed in a progressive manner, beginning with lighter exercises and progressing to heavier ones. Blood flow to the muscles will gradually increase as the body warms up.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning: Aerobic training will help prevent fatigue and overuse injuries.
  • Take some time to rest and stretch after your ride. This will assist to avoid tight muscles and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for the next 24 to 48 hours by allowing for immediate cooling down and stretching afterward.
  • Strength training: reduces the likelihood of injury by increasing muscular strength as well as that of the supporting joints and tendons.
  • Flexibility training: Stiff joints and muscles will eventually result in damaged joints and muscles, therefore improving the flexibility of the body will also help to prevent injury.
  • Agility training: is particularly beneficial to a mountain biker because it helps the body’s ability to rapidly adapt to a change in direction, motion, and velocity.
  • Wearing a Helmet Is Important: A good quality cycle helmet will protect you from any head injury and will help to reduce it.
  • Wear Appropriate Protective Gear: Polycarbonate eyeglasses provide excellent dust, wind, sand, insects, and stray branches protection. Elbow and knee pads protect you from catastrophic injuries if you fall. Cycling gloves offer insulation as well as prevent superficial hand injuries in cold weather.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty, to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes tiredness, nausea, and dizziness, all of which can lead to falls and spills.
  • Bike Set-up: Positioning on the bike is critical for comfort and to guarantee efficient and biomechanically appropriate pedaling. Make sure your bike is the right size and your saddle is properly adjusted.
  • Maintain Your Bike: The importance of keeping your bike in good working order cannot be overstated. If you want to travel safely along rough paths on a mountain bike, it must be in exceptional form.
  • While mountain biking, riding in a group is crucial for safety and ease of access if you are injured.


Mountain biking works the entire body and it doesn’t come without risk. Warm-up and take the necessary precautions to have fun and stay safe.