One of the most common questions you will get as a fitness professional has always been “will cycling result in big bulky thighs?” The question is more common from women who are looking to build lean muscle tone as opposed to “big legs”.
To answer this question we begin with Les Mills Group Fitness Coach Tony Ball who has had more than his fair share of answering this question. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Tony is an internationally certified in a number of Les Mills programs including RPM.
RPM™ is the Les Mills indoor cycling workout where you ride through hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training.
Pic: Tony Ball with Trainingtips.com writer Suzana Talevski
Tony’s opening comment to my question automatically put thing in perspective.
“As opposed to what, not doing any exercise, eating donuts, and suddenly discovering you can’t fit in your jeans?”
“The simple answer to this question is ‘NO’,’’ says Ball.
But this isn’t just a general throwaway comment, Tony knows what he is talking about because he has been on both sides in the fight to fitness.
“I am a guy; I personally lost 23kg in weight and 27% bodyfat in my first few months of doing RPM, and have maintained my weight within 2-3kg for the last 4 years since. I have never been leaner in my life, even when I used to run when I was younger, and I attribute this mostly to RPM. I noticed changes in my legs, more toned, no soft flabby bits,” says Ball.
RPM is primarily about cardio training, with using resistance to keep the muscles engaged to burn more calories resulting in strength benefits.
“As a lady you don’t have the same testosterone as a man, the hormone that helps to add ‘bulk’ to muscle. You may find that your legs tone, as you start to lose body fat and your muscle starts to show, but to actually look like ‘Ursula’ from the Russian Olympic weight lifting team, it’s just not going to happen,” says Ball.
Ball says by using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), it can get a bigger effort, in a short amount of time, and the smart use of resistance in RPM, has been shown to burn calories for 4-6 hours after a class.
“In fact studies have shown that ladies who cycle tend to lose fat from their guts and lower bodies, so it can actually make your thighs look thinner.
To ‘bulk’ these muscles, you would have to lift heavy weights, in the gym doing multiple sets and reps.
Other things to consider, while exercising; are your nutrition, how much sleep you get, hydration and your reason for getting in shape.”
Melbourne cycle instructor Nicolette Ceppellini agrees that cycling is not an instant route to getting the bulky legs many women fear.
“If you are reducing fat while adding muscle, you will achieve leaner, more shapely legs,” she says.
“If you are training but not eating right that’s what will make you bulky as you’ll have excess fat covering your developing muscles.”
Pic: Cycle Instructor Nicoletta Ceppellini
Ceppellini says rather than giving you bulky thighs resistance will improve strength and longer periods in the saddle will also improve endurance.
“It’s fun and a good thing to do for any fitness level- as the resistance level is up to each individual. Stay safe, set up correctly and use resistance.”
So there you have it guys. Myth debunked. Now get on your bikes!!!!
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