I got myself a new bike and i have been told by many to reduce the seat height or bend more to cycle such that the thighs touch your stomach or atleast closer to stomach as you cycle. They say it will reduce the flab quickly and better workout.

Is this true?

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    That advice is utter nonsense and will do nothing but ruin your knees. Spot reducing is impossible. Flab is reduced by losing fat and adding muscle, and the only way to do that is by burning more calories than you consume. Getting your bicycle fit properly and riding it, along with eating a balanced diet, will accomplish that. Jul 16, 2013 at 13:46
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    The only bit of that advice that might be correct is that using a posture that makes more use of the stomach muscles (which bending forward more may or may not do) will tend to increase muscle tone there and "pull in" the stomach. This does not in any way affect the amount of fat in that area, however. Jul 16, 2013 at 14:52
  • who on earth told you this?!?
    – Drew
    Aug 5, 2013 at 3:45

4 Answers 4


I think that this is a bad advice you've heard (by many?).

For pedaling seated, the seat has only one position; the proper one. See How do I determine the correct position for my bicycle seat? for info on how to set it correctly.

Regarding the flab thing, as far as I know touching your stomach with your thighs (or any other part of your body) will not contribute to a better workout or a six pack. For that I guess you'll need lots of proper training and a consistently proper diet.

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    In short, riding with the saddle too low will wreck your knees. I'd talk to someone with experience in physical training to de-flab.
    – WTHarper
    Jul 16, 2013 at 13:14

As others have said, what you're specifically suggesting sounds bad. Your seat will have a correct height, dependent on the geometry of your frame and the length of your legs. Period. Get it wrong and your knees will complain.

But I can add something regarding fighting flab. I was around 105kg back in 2008, I've been about 75kg for the last couple of years. I have lost that weight purely through cycling.

As you might expect my legs have become extremely muscular. As regards my upper body though, I've not become amazingly muscular because I don't really work those muscles, however I have benefitted just by losing weight "all round" (for example, I still look down and see a gut, but t-shirt sizes used to start with X, now I'm a S/M, so something good has happened).

I guess what I am trying to say is this: set your bike up properly such that it is comfortable to ride, and keep putting the miles in. You will lose weight, but it will take time. To accelerate this, I can think of two things, (i) more miles (especially as your body becomes more able to cope), and (ii) your diet.

If you're specifically wanting to tone your upper body, I'd suggest doing some supplementary exercise, but cycling should give you all the lower-body and cardio you'll need.

Lastly, good luck. Obviously it is very much in your own hands, but know that it is possible to get rid of that flab.

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    In addition to "more miles", I'd put "intervals", "sprints" and/or "hill climbs". Putting in a really hard effort now and then can make a bigger difference than miles alone.
    – freiheit
    Jul 16, 2013 at 17:14
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    @freiheit. Agreed. The more "into" it you become, its probably worth getting some kind of training guide, just to have to hand. This would be useful for guiding you when to take things easy as well as when to push yourself.
    – PeteH
    Jul 16, 2013 at 18:10

To ignore what may be a bad idea in terms of bicycle posture and address what seems to be central to your question, which is the reduction of flab, you need to know this about flab: You cannot spot-reduce. With the exception of liposuction.

Your DNA determines where your fat ends up. You know how some ladies have normal upper bodies but have very large behinds? Yeah, you do. It's not because they're only active with their upper-half.

If you have flab and then develop very strong abdomen muscles, you will have an awesome six-pack covered by flab. If you want the six-pack to show through, you have to lose the fat. Muscle tissue does not transform itself into fat tissue nor vice-versa.

The only way to reduce flab in one area of the body is to lose fat period. @Carey Gregory already answered this as a comment but here it is as an answer.

I'd recommend the excellent Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Adiposity explained.


Losing flab is a matter of eating less calories than you use on a daily basis. There is some debate about the 3500 calories = 1 lb of fat equation, but many studies have shown that it isn't Paleo, South Beach or (insert diet fad X here), but simple calorie reduction over time.

If you want to seriously lose the weight, then I would find a calorie calculator to get your basal metabolism, which will tell you how many calories you need to breathe in and out all day. Then add in the calories for all your activities, work, yard work, housework, play, etc. Then start using a food tracker such as myfitnesspal, and let the scale be your guide.

Bouncing your knees off your stomach won't do a thing for flab except give you a sore stomach.

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    as another metric, 1000 calories equals about 1 hour of riding, for me at least. Obviously this is ballpark, and we're all different, but it gives an idea
    – PeteH
    Jul 16, 2013 at 14:42
  • The nice thing is, that if you have a powermeter, that the power you put out in an hour correlates almost exactly to calories burned. 1000 watts an hour is beast level, well done! :D
    – JohnP
    Jul 16, 2013 at 17:32
  • @JohnP - Uh, how do you calculate watts per hour? Jul 16, 2013 at 22:13
  • Generally I plug my powermeter into Golden cheetah. :) I mistyped watts instead of calories, as when I ride at ~20 mph for an hour, I'm burning in the range of 700 calories for that time frame, so 1000 cals/hour is 30% higher effort than that.
    – JohnP
    Jul 17, 2013 at 14:42
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    Just to clarify, my "calories burned" is calculated (I get an "average power" calculated too, generally around 225W). But the only physical sensors I have are HRM, speed and cadence. So the accuracy of these numbers is open to question. Worth pointing out that a "real" powermeter would represent a significant investment in your cycling hardware.
    – PeteH
    Jul 18, 2013 at 16:18

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