What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work?

Nothing causes your fitness progress to stagnate like a boring exercise routine. After all, it is tough to stay motivated as it is, so when your workout in the gym becomes a chore, it’s even harder. 

So, what can you do if you find yourself in such a position? Well, you should mix up your workout routine with a mountain bike ride. 

That way, you get to enjoy the beauty of nature while developing excellent muscle strength. 

Mountain biking consists of numerous styles, including dirt jumping, trail riding, and downhill and cross-country riding, etc. on multiple terrains. When you take your bicycle out in the mountains, expect to have your core strength and endurance truly tested. 

Getting to the matter at hand—what muscles does mountain biking work?—letʼs look at the different muscles that come into play when a mountain biker is working up a sweat in the mountains.

In essence, mountain biking works nearly all your muscles, including your stomach muscles, gluteus muscles, shoulders, arms, and other primary muscles of your legs. 


Benefits of Mountain Biking 

As I mentioned earlier, mountain biking involves cycling on treacherous, rough terrain at varying altitudes. It will have you ascending to great heights and then descending at the speed of light.

So, if youʼre someone who enjoys biking on cruise control, mountain biking is not for you.

There are so many muscles in the human body, so when people say cycling is a full-body exercise, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. Here are some of the main muscle groups that are extensively worked during mountain biking:

1. Quadriceps and glutes

Quadriceps are core muscles found on the front of your thighs. Meanwhile, your glutes make up your buttocks. 

Your quadriceps and gluteus muscles are particularly worked during uphill climbs on steep hills. So, if you want to plump up your booty (gluteus maximus), mountain biking is the way to go!

2. Hamstrings

Hamstrings are leg muscles found directly opposite the quadriceps. In other words, they are found on the back of your thighs. 

If you want a more intense workout, you can strengthen your hamstrings by pedaling while standing up.  

3. Calves

Your calves are also one of the key muscles mountain biking works extensively on trail rides. If you wish to elevate your fitness, work more muscles, and further strengthen your calf muscles, you should consider climbing steep hills while standing up. 

Cycling while standing up gives you more power too. Of course, you donʼt need to go all out to work your calves; they get a workout as long as you pedal.  

4. Abdomen

Mountain bikers often fail to notice their abdomen muscles being worked during long biking sessions as the focus is almost always on the leg muscles. The truth is, your abdomen, including your upper and lower abdominals, obliques, and lower back, is always being worked during cycling as your legs are always in motion. 

In other words, youʼd only need to work the main muscles of your lower body to work your abdomen.

5. Upper-body muscles

Parts of your upper body, including your arms, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and the muscles of your wrists, forearms, and hands are also worked quite heavily during mountain biking trips. 

After all, all these muscles are required to control your bicycle as you negotiate past tough obstacles. Plus, standard mountain bikes require you to lean forward on your bicycle, forcing your shoulder muscles and arms to support your upper body. 

Leaning forward like this completely works out your upper torso too.

As you can tell, mountain biking is a one-stop solution when it comes to a complete, intense full-body workout without ever getting bored or demotivated. Who knew that burning fat, losing weight, and getting in shape would be such a fun exercise?

Tips to help prevent biking injuries

Now that we’ve established the effectiveness of mountain biking as an excellent workout, it is time to focus on a few pointers thatʼll help you cycle to the very top without injuries.

  • Mountain biking should be treated as a form of exercise. And, as is the case when exercising, you should always warm up beforehand, with the right stretches, to increase blood flow to the muscles.  Also, remember to perform cool-down stretches to avoid injury and prevent stiff muscles and delayed-onset muscle soreness. To stretch your quads, get down on one knee and stretch your other leg out. Then swap to the other knee to stretch the opposite side.
  • Remember to stay hydrated during your mountain biking sessions. Without water, you’ll tire easily and experience nausea and disorientation and, thus, find it impossible to perform well. Dehydration also leads to muscle cramps. So, staying hydrated is paramount!
  • Take care to maintain your bicycle thoroughly. A badly maintained bicycle will put your safety at risk, especially during rides on treacherous terrain.
  • It’s also in your best interest to get your bike setup correct. Proper positioning on the bike is crucial for proficient, comfortable, and efficient cycling.  Take special care to ensure that your bike is a suitable size for you and that your saddle has been set up correctly.
  • It is also important to spend some time in the gym, i.e. if you wish to excel on the mountain biking trails. Focus on cardiovascular conditioning to improve stamina and prevent injuries. 

Committing to strength-training exercises will also bode well for you because it will help build up strength in the muscles that support your tendons and joints. Lastly, remember to do some agility and flexibility training as well.


It is important to start out small if youʼve just started mountain biking. Going all out on a ride from the beginning can have the opposite effect, doing you more harm than good and increasing the chance of burnout. 

Also, when your muscles are overexerted, you’re more likely to get injured which will leave you disillusioned with the sport. 

At the same time, take care not to stay stagnant in your comfort zone. Keep pushing yourself and try to bike for longer periods each session, and over time you’ll develop your strength. 

Luckily, cycling in the mountains isn’t as harsh on your body as other sports. So, if you’re excited to breathe in the fresh air and get more oxygen into your body, then consider what a great workout mountain biking offers. It’s time to get active on your mountain bike, pronto!