Biking in Wisconsin

This time of year biking can be beautiful in Wisconsin. Learn how biking around Wisconsin can help knee and hip health: A Wisconsin PT’s Perspective. Biking provides many health benefits and is a great workout that most can take part in. Not only is it low impact on your body, causing less strain and injury compared to other activities, but it can also help prevent knee and hip pain. 

 A nice feature of biking is the intensity of the workout is modifiable. It can be a casual ride all the way to an intense workout. Riding a bike is good for increasing stamina and strength, and is an overall good aerobic activity that gets your lungs and heart pumping. Cycling works the entire body, using primarily your leg muscles, but also works your arms and core. 

The Knees Role in Biking 

The main powerhouse of the knee is the quadriceps muscles. These muscles are located on the front of your leg, above the knee. The quadriceps muscle is composed of 4 muscle groups which all work to extend the knee and stabilize the knee cap. With cycling, the quadriceps muscle plays a large role in creating power to propel the pedals and keep you moving forward. Building strong musculature around the knee with the quadriceps helps to prevent knee injuries, by reducing strain felt through the knee joint and reducing unequal pulling of the kneecap. 

The hamstrings also play a knee role in biking. Their role comes in the recovery phase of pedaling, where the pedal is being pulled back around to get ready to be pushed. The hamstring muscle is made of 3 components, semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris muscles. The function of the hamstrings at the knee is to help in bending the knee. With cycling, the hamstrings are pulling your pedal around and helping to get you ready to produce power in the next push. Cycling helps to strengthen the hamstrings. Strong hamstrings help to protect the knee joint and reduce injury.

The Hips Role in Biking

The hip muscles power biking as well. The glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus) all help during the push or power phase of biking. The three gluteus muscles work in unison with the hips to rotate the hips with motion in the body. In addition, the rectus femoris (quad muscle above) crosses the hip joint and helps pull the pedal back to the top. Cycling builds strength in these muscles and helps to reduce strain through the low back and hip joints. Working these hip muscles also improves balance, as the hips play a large role in balance. Stronger hips lead to less joint pain and less loss of balance and potential falls. 

Smooth and Easy Biking

The body requires unison when moving for movement to be smooth and pain-free. The muscles on the front of your body have to move in rhythm with the muscles on the bac of your body to create smooth, pain-free motion. Strong hips, which come from biking help to keep the knees in better alignment, reducing strain on the joints and ligaments. Having strong hips also improve balance, reduce the risk for falls, and reduce low back pain. Building strength in the muscles surrounding your knees reduces strain through the joint and allows them to provide shock absorption to the joint. These all lead to reduced hip and knee pain, allowing you to continue to stay active and on your bike. 

All of the above mentioned actions will help get you biking around Wisconsin and can help knee and hip health. So what should you do next if you feel like your hips and knees may need a booster before hopping on your bike?

Exercises for the Bike

Start with these 4 exercises and make an appointment to work with a PT to get your muscles stronger and ready to ride.

Lunges – This exercise works the main movers in biking, quadriceps, hamstring, and glutes. Perform 2 sets of 10 on each side.

Biking Around Wisconsin Can Help Knee and Hip Health: A Wisconsin PT’s Perspective- Lunge

Straight Leg Hold – This works the rectus femoris (quadricep) which powers the push and stretches the hamstring at the same time. Raise the leg and hold for 5 seconds, repeating up to 10 repetitions.

Biking Around Wisconsin Can Help Knee and Hip Health: A Wisconsin PT’s Perspective -SL hold


Split squat – a great exercise to work the quadriceps and glute max simultaneously. Only go as far as you can comfortably go with no strain. Repeat 10 times each side. 

Biking Around Wisconsin Can Help Knee and Hip Health: A Wisconsin PT’s Perspective  - split squat

Sidelying hip abduction – strong hips reduce strain through the knees. Make sure to keep your body in alignment, hip slightly behind you. Repeat 10 repetitions each side. 

Biking Around Wisconsin Can Help Knee and Hip Health: A Wisconsin PT’s Perspective hip abduction
Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.