Aesthetics aside, building strong, powerful glutes is a solid goal for cyclists. These large muscles of the posterior chain not only help you stand, sit, lift, and climb, but they also stabilize your pelvis and can help prevent back pain. But does cycling build glutes?

Unfortunately, the answer is: It depends. Although you use your glutes to sit on your bike, cycling—depending on where and how you ride—doesn’t always build these important muscles.

In fact, you could probably ride across Kansas (the pancake-flat part anyway) while your butt muscles mostly snooze, explains kinesiologist Stuart McGill, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and author of Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.

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“Typical cycling challenges the thighs—the quads and the hamstrings—but not really the gluteals,” he says. There are exceptions. “Sprinters use the glutes for acceleration. Hill climbers will use them when they’re out of the saddle. Otherwise, you will see most cyclists with hypertrophied [enlarged] legs, but the same could not be said for their glutes.”

Weak, underdeveloped glutes can be a problem if you have a history of back pain and can compromise your hip mobility and set the stage for hip impingement (if you’ve ever gotten off your bike and couldn’t stand up straight without some effort, you know how that feels). “Strong glutes can prevent those issues,” says McGill. But here’s the good news: You can build yours on and off the bike with a few simple exercises.

How to use this list: The exercises below are demonstrated by Amanda Butler, certified personal trainer, so you can learn the perfect form.

Aim to do these moves three days a week. Perform one to three sets of 10 to 20 reps, depending on your fitness level. You can also perform the off-bike moves before a ride as part of your warmup to activate the glutes. You will need a looped resistance band. An exercise mat is optional. The last move is a bonus drill you can perform on the bike.

1. Banded Glute Bridge

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Why it works: Cyclists sometimes have what McGill calls “mental glute amnesia.” Because of the chronic repetitive patterns of cycling, they “forget” to fire their glutes and tend to trigger their hamstrings to do all the work. McGill recommends firing up the quads when you do glute bridges to reduce the hamstring load.

How to do it: Place a resistance band around legs, just above the knees. Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on floor, and arms resting at sides. Push knees out slightly so that there is tension on the band. Squeeze glutes and hamstrings to lift hips up off floor, keeping core engaged throughout so body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Lower hips. Repeat.

2. Banded Squat

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Why it works: Placing an exercise band just below or above the knees to perform bodyweight squats adds an extra challenge. Pressing outward to maintain tension on the band will activate your glutes and hips.

How: Place a resistance band around both legs, just above or below knees. Stand with feet just wider than hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly, hands clasped in front of chest. Keeping weight in heels, send butt and hips back and down as if sitting in a chair and lower down as far as possible, pressing legs outward against the band. Drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat.

Climbing Drill

For a bonus on-the-bike move, head to the hills and climb in and out of the saddle to really get your rear in gear. Find an 8- to 10-minute climb and do a series of three hill repeats on it, alternating between standing and sitting so you spend about half the hill charging out of the saddle. If you don’t have that long of a climb near you, you can use a shorter one and increase the number of repeats accordingly.

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​Selene Yeager
“The Fit Chick”
Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, Pn1 certified nutrition coach, pro licensed off road racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.