Arm bikes are a helpful way to stay active when leg workouts are not an option. You even work a few muscles to a certain extent.
The main muscles you work with an arm bike include your front deltoids (main shoulder muscle), triceps (back upper arm), pectoralis muscles (chest muscles), biceps (front upper arm), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and forearm muscles.
Something important to note is that for many people a “normal” arm bike session will not be challenging enough to grow and strengthen these muscles.
If that is your goal, exercises like bench presses, bent-over rows, front raises, and tricep extensions will be a lot more effective.
Individuals who are not used to putting their arms under a lot of pressure could really turn up the arm bike resistance so that they can only do up to 25 or even 50 rotations in a row.
In an “unusual” workout like that, the arm bike could lead to muscle growth but the exercise options above are still generally more effective.
Arm bikes muscles worked
Even if you are not interested in growing your muscles, it can be interesting to find out what body parts arm bikes engage the most.
The main muscles worked while moving the pedals of an arm bike are your deltoids (main shoulder muscle), triceps (back upper arm), pectoralis muscles (chest muscles), biceps (front upper arm), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and forearm muscles.
Your deltoids, more specifically the front parts, are mainly responsible for raising your upper arms. During the same push movement, your triceps will also help by stretching your arms.
If you keep your upper arms somewhat outward instead of right by your sides, you will also work your pectoralis muscles a nice amount to move your upper arms.
On the other hand, a variety of muscles are responsible for the pulling movement.
First of all, there is your latissimus dorsi which is responsible for pulling your upper arms down. At the same time, your biceps are working to fold your arms. This contributes to the pulling power.
If you also move your shoulder blades back and forth, scapular muscles like your trapezius (upper back) will have to work to some extent too.
Throughout the entire rotation, a variety of muscles around your wrists keep your hands at the angle you implement.
If you do build any muscle with arm bike workouts, it will likely be the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles that you grow and strengthen.
Does arm cycling on an arm bike build muscle?
You likely want to know if the muscle engagement while using an arm bike is enough to build muscle in your personal situation.
To do this, you have to work your muscles with enough resistance and repetitions. What is enough depends on your body.
As a rough guideline, if you can do less than 50 rotations before your muscles fatigue, arm cycling on an arm bike can actually help you build muscle.
One of the benefits of arm bikes is that you can typically turn up the resistance to a point where this is the case.
At the same time, it is important to note that you typically use arm bikes with resistance where you can do more rotations.
In that case, you will likely not grow the muscles you work. However, engaging these can still offer benefits like improving endurance, slowing down degradation, and making the muscles healthier.
In short, you could potentially find arm bikes challenging enough to build muscle so you could say they can help you tone your arms.
Even so, if this is your main goal, you likely want to turn to resistance training workouts.
How to work your muscles harder with arm bikes
As mentioned, you will need to make your arm bike workouts challenging enough to see results. Even if you don’t actually want muscle growth, making your sessions harder can help improve endurance more.
The main way to do this is by getting an arm bike with adjustable resistance and increasing this setting. This makes the rotations more challenging to complete and requires your muscles to work harder.
In theory, you could wear wrist weights to make parts of the rotation just a bit more challenging.
However, this will generally not be that effective compared to the extra time and attention involved in putting the wrist weights on.