glute exercise cyclist

The Best Glute Exercises for Cyclists

By Chris Carmichael,
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

Weak gluteal muscles cause a bunch of problems for cyclists, including lower power output, knee and hip pain, and overworked quadriceps. Thankfully, there are great and simple exercises that get your glutes fired up and ready to rock.

Why Cyclists have weak glutes

You would think that a lower-body dominated exercise like cycling would be great for gluteus maximum, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. After all, this muscle group is primarily active in hip extension, a major component of the pedal stroke. They are also largely responsible for hip abduction, adduction, and rotation. This is where cyclists get in trouble.

Your highly repetitive pedal stroke involves a lot of hip extension and flexion, but not a lot of abduction (moving leg away from the midline), adduction (moving leg toward the midline), or rotation (turning the leg inward or outward). Cyclists who sit a lot during the day and train only (or almost only) on the bike have less robust neuromuscular connections responsible for these movements – as well as stabilization to resist these movements. You may not need more muscle mass; you may just need greater coordination from your nervous system to better use what you have.

Weak Glutes and Bike Fit

Weak gluteal muscles can cause or be caused by poor bike fit decisions. Cyclists who have weak glutes often gravitate to a position characterized by a posterior pelvic tilt (pelvis tucked under them), lower saddle height, and more forward fore/aft position. This is more quadriceps-dominated position that can feel more powerful when you have weak or ineffective glutes, but it overworks the quadriceps and hamstrings. Cyclists who simultaneously try to maintain a relatively low or aero handlebar position also often end up with greater stress on your lumbar spine.

Saddle choice can also impact the way you use – or don’t use – your glutes. A saddle that is too narrow for your sit bones encourages a posterior pelvic tilt as you search for support and try to relieve pressure on soft tissues.

Weak Glutes and Cycling Knee Pain

When the muscles that externally rotate a cyclist’s hips are weak, your knee can collapse toward your bike frame instead of maintaining it normal, more vertical track. Note, not all deviations from a perfectly vertical knee track are bad or need to be fixed. However, if you’re developing medial knee pain and your knee is tracking in toward the frame in a way it didn’t before, there may be a reason to address fit and/or glute activation.


Best Glute Exercises for Cyclists

The good news is that relatively simple exercises can have a very big impact on the effectiveness of your glutes. While heavy lifts like squats are great for developing powerful glute muscles, the more important adaptation you’re looking for initially is improved neuromuscular coordination rather than the capacity to produce maximum force.

Glute Bridge

Video Demo

Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder width apart, soles flat on the floor. Press your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until you form a straight diagonal line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold at the top for a few seconds and lower back down. Repeat 10 times.

Tip: Don’t raise your hips so high that you hyperextend your spine.

Advanced version: Single-Leg Glute Bridge. Perform the exact same movement with one leg extended straight. At the top of the movement your extended leg will form a straight diagonal line from your heel to your shoulder. Repeat for 10 reps on each side.

Speed Skaters

Video Demo

Start in an athletic stance with knees flexed, feet shoulder-width apart, neutral spine, and head looking forward. Start the movement by placing the majority of your body weight on your left leg, bending into a half squat. Sweep your right foot to the left behind your body, so your right foot is actually further left than your left foot. Sweep your right foot back to the right and then step from your left leg to your right. Immediately bend into a half squat with your right leg as your left leg sweeps behind your body. Continue until you complete 10 reps to each side.

Advanced version: Drive harder with your supporting leg to jump from foot to foot instead of stepping.

Free Cycling Training Assessment Quiz

Take our free 2-minute quiz to discover how effective your training is and get recommendations for how you can improve.

Monster Walk with Band

Video Demo (band around knees)
Video Demo (band at feet)

Stand with a resistance band around your ankles so there is slight tension when your feet are hip width apart. Lower into a mini-squat position like you’re partway between standing and sitting in a chair, with your chest high, spine neutral, and gaze forward. Step laterally to one side about until your feet are shoulder width or slightly more than shoulder width apart. Bring your stance leg toward the step leg to prepare for the next step. Complete 10 steps in one direction first, then reverse to step the other direction.

Standing Glute Kickbacks with Band

Video Demo (kick a little further and a bit slower than in video)

Stand with a resistance band around your ankles. Shift your weight onto one leg, bend that leg slightly and lift the opposite leg an inch or so back and out to put tension on the band. Kick your leg diagonally back and out while keeping your knee straight. Return to the starting position, maintaining tension on the band, and repeat 10 times. Switch legs and repeat.

Step Up

Video Demo

The step up is the most basic of three movements that achieve similar objectives. You can also perform lunges and Bulgarian split squats, but each of those have greater balance challenges.

To start a step up, place your entire right foot onto a bench or step. A lower step will be easier and a good starting point. As you progress you can use a taller step. Press through your right heel as you extend your hip and knee to stand atop the step, bringing your left foot to meet your left. Return to the starting position by reversing the motion to step down. Complete 10 step ups with each leg.

Tip: Think about raising your shoulders and chest up as you perform the step up. This can keep you from leaning too far forward to generate momentum prior to the step. Focus on driving with your leg and glutes to step up.

Glute Exercises on the Bike

Ideally, gluteal exercises are just part of a more comprehensive program that includes lower body, upper body, and core work. You can also target your glutes while on the bike. Seated pedaling at your normal endurance pace has resulted in the glute strength (or lack thereof) you have now. To address glutes on the bike, get out of the saddle. When you are accelerating hard out of the saddle, like a sprint or uphill surge, you are calling on your glutes for power. Similarly, you can recruit glutes by low cadence, high resistance pedaling out of the saddle.

Strong glutes are a powerful weapon for cyclists, but many riders have underdeveloped and underutilized glutes. Because the aforementioned exercises are not very stressful or fatiguing, try adding them to your pre-ride warmup to prime your glutes for action on the bike.


FREE Mini-Course: Learn How to Maximize Your Limited Training Time

Learn step-by-step how to overcome limited training time and get faster. Walk away with a personalized plan to increase your performance.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments 20

  1. Pingback: Can cycling help grow the glutes? - BootyFitX

  2. Pingback: Training to Increase 5-minute Power for Cycling - CTS

  3. Pingback: Top 5 Reasons Cyclists Don’t Reach Fitness Goals - CTS

  4. The very first exercise the video and description tell me to do different things – is it soles flat on the floor (as per the description) or heels only on the floor (as per the video) – you should be better than this – very inconsistent.

  5. Best exercise I have found for the glutes is the deadlift.

    This has the advantage of being a dynamic full body exercise so it does not just help with the glutes but the full posterior chain.

    This is especially important for cyclists and absolutely critical if you spend your time off bike hunched over a desk.

    1. I always tweak something dead lifting so it’s not a beginner exercise. Glutes are too weak to start with deadlifts.

    2. Yesh, deadlift… That was the reason I killed my knees in the first place. Program with bands is much more reasonable to start with.

    3. I agree with previous replies that deadlifts are tricky. But they are fantastic at connecting lower body and core. And they’re great at putting weighted stress on leg bones, which can weaken if we focus too much on low impact stuff like biking. Start with super low weights and work on perfect form. It’s worth hiring a knowledgeable trainer to really dial in your form (and I’m not a trainer, nothing in it for me to recommend them). Also, don’t feel the need to go crazy with weight if your primary focus is cycling. My PT says he sees lots of back problems from people doing deadlift wrong and/or with too much weight.

  6. All great exercises to activate and strengthen glutes. The speed skater exercise (as shown in the linked video) would be improved by slower movements with: 1) wider step with focus of landing on heel, and: 2) “stick/hold the landing for a count of 1”-2”.

  7. Excellent article and exercises. You can throw runners into the mix for all of these exercises as well. In fact, most of the general public could benefit from Glute Medius strengthening.

    Thanks for posting Chris.

  8. Thanks for the information, I’m having trouble with my gluteus on my left side I’m 62 years young , will incorporate your stretching exercises into my band exercises thanks again very helpful information.

  9. I like the article, but I am clueless on how to make the glutes work while riding. On a 40 mile ride my quads and calves are exhausted but I don’t feel anything in my glutes. If I can figure out how to move more work to my glutes I can hit 60 miles.


    1. I have the same issue. In the article it mentions an improper bike fit, along with a seat that is too narrow, can be a reason for why we are quad dominant on the bike and not using our glutes. So Im in the process of looking to get a bike fit.

  10. Biking is really good for health and heart. The best part is that once you start
    cycling you will love it and you will not require any more exercises to keep yourself fit and fine.
    Cycling helps to keep your earth greener and gives you a pollution free air to breathe.

  11. An associated rampant problem more common in men, especially older men, is tight/shortened abductors and weak adductors resulting in knee flare especially at the top of the pedal stroke. As a bike fitter I see this constantly. Most men need to work on these areas as they age or they will condemned to a wide-kneed inefficient pedal stroke.

    1. Hi Todd – this was a very interesting comment as I’m an older man and I’ve noticed this knee flare at the top of my pedal stroke. Thank you for the tip on looking at strengthening my abductors and adductors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *