Ask the Expert: Cues for Quad Dominance

“Is there a way to cue a rider—in layman’s terms—who thinks they are quad dominant with how they ride, etc.—so that they are not just using or mostly using their quads? I know proper riding posture is important…but want to be sure I have the right cues/explanation.”

– Christine Ward Quinn

This is a great question and the answer is yes…and no. For most cyclists, and especially people taking indoor cycling classes, the quadriceps will be the dominant muscle group for powering the bike. Why? Using the quads does not require any focused training or mental effort. Using additional muscles such as the gluteals (mainly the gluteus maximus), hip flexors, and hamstrings requires proper form and position to allow the muscles to activate, awareness to know the muscles are activating, and conditioning to keep them from fatiguing quickly.
I’m not stating this to discourage you or your riders from trying, but rather to set the proper expectation and experience. It takes a disciplined focused effort, multiple times per week, over many months of training to develop the effective use of all the muscle groups mentioned. This does not mean we should not emphasize the form necessary for the best results.

The Simple Answer


  1. Hi Tom;

    Could you send me a PDF of this article with the bike diagrams that I could post for my riders on our bulletin board? Thanks, Christine Quinn

  2. Great article as usual Tom. Thanks!

  3. so good…I have been looking for info on this.thanks Tom

  4. Oh, how I love being able to incorporate new cueing so I don’t sound like a broken record. “Fall like a tree after being cut down.” Simple and elegant. Nice article, Tom.

    1. Author

      Thank you Colleen! I certainly like to keep things simple. Elegance is yet another story 🙂

      1. I loved this article and the new cueing was great in class today. Thanks Tom

  5. Whatever their setup, I encourage people to adopt a slight posterior pelvic tlilt and do 90 seconds of work or so, then shift to an anterior tilt and do the same amount of work. I then ask them to report what they felt. Everyone, no matter how body-unaware they are, can detect the difference in muscle recruitment and the ‘ease’ of working with proper form.

    1. Author

      Excellent approach Christine!

  6. Thank you Tom! This is so helpful!

    I can’t wait to share this with my rider who asked and many more riders in the future…this article will stay in my info folder by my bike! Much appreciated!

    The only — additional information I share when this question comes up is about pedal stroke — telling riders to avoid pedaling with toes or heels pointed down but rather pedal from the ball of the foot….would you agree?

    1. Author

      I could not agree more. Thank you Christine!

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