What Muscles Do Under Desk Bikes Work?

What Muscles Do Under Desk Bikes Work?

Have you ever wondered, "What muscles do under desk bikes work?" If so, you're not alone. As more people transition to a sedentary lifestyle due to work or other constraints, the need for convenient and effective exercise equipment  has become increasingly important. 'Under desk bikes', or 'desk ellipticals', have emerged as a popular solution. These pedal exercisers are compact, user-friendly, and can seamlessly integrate into your daily routine.

But the question remains, “Do these desk exercise bikes actually provide a significant workout?” And if so, which muscles are they targeting? In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the specifics and reveal exactly what muscles under desk bikes work.

What are Under Desk Bikes?

Under desk bikes, also known as desk ellipticals or desk cycles, are compact exercise machines designed to fit under your desk. Although they resemble the pedal portion of a stationary bike, there are several differences between an under desk bike vs stationary bike that you should be aware of. One of the most important is that under desk bikes are designed to be operated while sitting. This allows you to engage in low-impact, cardiovascular exercise while working, studying, or watching TV.

Under desk bikes come in various types, from basic models with adjustable resistance levels to more advanced options with digital displays, tracking capabilities, and even integrated desk surfaces. Regardless of the model, the primary function remains the same: to keep your legs moving while your upper body continues with sedentary tasks.

Here's how under desk bikes work:

  • Design: Under desk bikes are typically small and lightweight devices that can easily fit under a desk or table. They consist of a set of pedals and sometimes handlebars, along with a mechanism to adjust the resistance level.
  • Pedaling Motion: The user sits on a chair and places the under desk bike beneath their desk or table. They then place their feet on the pedals. By pedaling the pedals in a circular motion, similar to riding a bicycle, the user engages their leg muscles and cardiovascular system.
  • Resistance: Under desk bikes often come with adjustable resistance settings. This allows the user to control the intensity of their workout. Increasing the resistance makes pedaling more challenging, providing a better cardiovascular workout and engaging leg muscles more effectively.
  • Quiet Operation: Many under desk bikes are designed to operate quietly, allowing the user to pedal without causing disturbances in a shared workspace.
  • Monitoring: Some under desk bikes come equipped with digital displays that provide information such as the time spent pedaling, distance covered, calories burned, and sometimes even heart rate monitoring.

Benefits of Under Desk Bikes

  • Increased Activity: Under desk bikes offer a way to incorporate physical activity into a sedentary work routine, helping to counteract the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Pedaling the bike gets your heart rate up, improving cardiovascular health and circulation1
  • Leg Strength: Regular pedaling helps strengthen the muscles in your legs, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles1
  • Calorie Burning: While not as intense as full-body workouts, using an under-desk exerciser can still contribute to burning calories and maintaining a healthy weight1
  • Reduced Sedentary Time: Using an under desk bike can break up long periods of sitting, reducing the risk of health issues associated with prolonged sitting, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems1
  • Improved Focus: Some users find that light pedaling helps increase focus and concentration, potentially leading to enhanced productivity1

As you can see, there are several under desk elliptical benefits making them suitable for a wide range of individuals, including office workers, students, and anyone who spends a lot of time sitting. They provide a simple and convenient way to stay active and promote overall health, even during busy workdays.

Now, let's take a look at what muscles under desk bikes work.

#1 Quadriceps

How Under Desk Bikes Target the Quadriceps

The primary muscles targeted by under desk bikes are the quadriceps. These large muscles at the front of your thighs are responsible for extending your knee and play a crucial role in walking, running, and jumping1

When you pedal an under desk bike, your quadriceps contract to straighten your leg in the downstroke. This repetitive motion over time works to strengthen and tone your quadriceps, potentially enhancing your overall leg strength and stability.

#2 Hamstrings

The Impact of Under Desk Bikes on Hamstrings

Your hamstrings, located at the back of your thighs, also get a workout from under desk bikes. These muscles act to bend your knee and extend your hip, playing a pivotal role in movements like running and jumping.

When using an under desk bike, your hamstrings work in concert with your quadriceps to complete the pedaling motion. They contract to pull your leg up in the upstroke of each pedal revolution. Therefore, regular use of an under desk bike can help to strengthen your hamstrings, improving overall leg muscle balance and reducing the risk of injury.

#3 Gluteal Muscles

Effect of Under Desk Bikes on Gluteal Muscles

Your gluteal muscles, or glutes, include three muscles in the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles are responsible for moving your hips and thighs and maintaining balance when you're standing or walking2.

While under desk bikes primarily target your lower legs, your glutes also get a minor workout. As you pedal, your glutes contract to assist in the upward phase of the pedal stroke. Over time, this can contribute to improved strength and tone in your gluteal muscles2.

#4 Abdominal Muscles

Activating Your Core with Under Desk Bikes

While it may not seem obvious, under desk bikes can also engage your abdominal muscles or 'abs'. These muscles play a key role in maintaining good posture and stabilizing your body1

While pedaling, maintaining an upright and stable posture engages your core, which includes your abs. Although not as intense as a targeted abdominal workout, this subtle activation can contribute to improved core strength and stability over time1

It is important to note that if improving your posture is your main goal, a treadmill may be a better option. Discover the differences between an under desk elliptical vs treadmill to see which under desk exerciser would be best for you. 

#5 Calf Muscles

Calf Muscle Engagement with Under Desk Bikes

Your calf muscles, located at the back of your lower leg, are also engaged when using an under desk bike. These muscles play a vital role in activities like walking, running, and climbing stairs3.

During the pedaling motion, your calf muscles contract to aid in the downward phase of the stroke and control your foot's movement. This can help to tone and strengthen your calf muscles, potentially enhancing your performance in various physical activities3.

#6 Hip Flexors

How Under Desk Bikes Benefit the Hip Flexors

Your hip flexors, a group of muscles near the top of your thighs, are also engaged when using an under desk bike. These muscles are essential for hip movement, including lifting your knees and bending at the waist [5].

When you're pedaling, your hip flexors work to lift your knees during the upward phase of the stroke. This repetitive motion can help to strengthen your hip flexors, potentially improving your mobility and balance [5].

Discover Under Desk Bikes from Lifepro Today

Under desk bikes offer a convenient and effective way to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine. They are versatile, user-friendly, and can provide a significant workout for various muscle groups. Remember, the best exercise is the one that you can commit to and enjoy. Therefore, if you're seeking a low-impact, accessible form of exercise that you can do even while working, an under desk bike could be an excellent choice for you.

Start your fitness journey with Lifepro's range of pedal bike exercisers today. With adjustable resistance levels, compact design, and smooth operation, you can seamlessly integrate physical activity into your daily routine and work towards a healthier, more active lifestyle.


  1. 15 Under Desk Bike Benefits (I Tried One For A Week) – Bicycle 2 Work. https://bicycle2work.com/under-desk-bike-benefits/ 
  2. Which muscles are used in cycling? | Tanita.eu. Tanita Europe BV. https://tanita.eu/blog/muscles-used-in-cycling
  3. Calf Muscle: Anatomy, Function and Common Conditions. Cleveland Clinic. Published August 5, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21662-calf-muscle
  4. Torbeyns T, de Geus B, Bailey S, Decroix L, Van Cutsem J, De Pauw K, Meeusen R. Bike Desks in the Classroom: Energy Expenditure, Physical Health, Cognitive Performance, Brain Functioning, and Academic Performance. J Phys Act Health. 2017 Jun;14(6):429-439. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2016-0224. Epub 2017 Feb 7. PMID: 28169561.
  5. Wadsworth DJS, Weinrauch P. THE ROLE of a BIKE FIT in CYCLISTS with HIP PAIN. A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2019;14(3):468-486. doi:https://doi.org/10.26603/ijspt20190468


Joel Gottehrer

Joel Gottehrer is the Co-Founder of Lifepro Fitness and has dedicated his life to helping people transform theirs. With over 12 years of experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and owner of two personal training studios, Joel has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping transform lives. After suffering from physical injuries, Joel and his business partner, Abraham Brach, came together with a common goal to alleviate the pain caused by their injuries.

They continued to find themselves disappointed with the results stemming from various products promising to relieve their pain, and with that – Lifepro Fitness was born. Joel's mission is to have a positive impact on millions of lives with the Lifepro brand. Whether it's finding new and innovative ways to help people recover from injuries or developing products to improve overall wellness, Joel is always looking for ways to push the boundaries. Thanks to his commitment to help people live their lives free of pain, Lifepro has been able to do this for thousands of people since its founding in 2017.

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