What ARE Those Muscles Burning During my RIDE?

What Muscles ARE Burning During that RIDE?

We all feel that burn after a great spin class. We sometimes even walk out of class feeling jelly-legged as we make it to our car and wake up in the morning with that awesome feeling of new muscle soreness. Not only are we getting our cardio in by moving our legs with such power, but we are also strengthening those muscles at the same time.


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What muscles DO we work so hard during class?

Our legs are made up of a bunch of muscles – but the main ones are the glutes, the quads, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, and the muscles of the lower leg (mainly the tib anterior, gastroc, and soleus).

The quads are actually four muscles in the front of the thigh (yeah, thus the name QUADriceps) that attach from the upper femur and pelvis down to the tibia via the patellar tendon. The quads mostly extend your knee (straighten your leg) but also help with flexing your hip.

The hamstrings (three muscles) run down the back of your leg from your pelvis to your lower leg. The hams primarily bend the knee but also help extend the hip.

The glutes, referring mostly to the gluteus maximus but there is also a minimus, extend your hip (and get you up those hills!). The hip flexors (mostly the psoas), flex the hip (well, that one was obvious).

In the lower leg, the gastrocnemius and soleus extend the ankle (plantarflex or point the foot downwards). This happens as you push the leg down.


ALL these muscles work together to create that perfect “full circle” pedal stroke you strive for during each ride. Check out the diagram below to see when you are working each muscle in a seated position. In a standing cycling position, you use even more quads and glutes (and a whole lot of CORE but we’ll save that topic for another post!).

Jenni Schwartz