Whether you are gym-shy and have a range of equipment to stay in shape at home or are simply looking for the best cardiovascular machine to improve your stamina and muscle tone when you have time, you may want to consider a recumbent exercise bike.

Not to be confused with a recumbent bicycle, which is similar in design but allows you to get around, an indoor recumbent exercise bike is stationary and is gentle on your joints. If you have only been reading up on upright bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills, this article will add a new contender to the list.

The Benefits of a Recumbent Exercise Bike Compared to an Upright

With an upright bike you sit above the frame, like a regular bicycle, whereas with a recumbent bike you sit ‘into’ the frame, often with your back against a padded rest and your feet forward. This makes it an excellent option for people with lower back and hip issues (including rheumatoid arthritis), or those who are still in the rehabilitation process of improving their fitness and mobility following an injury or surgery.

The seat is also larger which can limit saddle soreness usually associated with upright bikes. The fact that you’re sitting in a more relaxed, secure position means you are less likely to experience an injury too, which in turn makes it perfect for people with certain neurological conditions.

What Muscles do a Recumbent Exercise Bike Activate?

One advantage of an upright exercise bike that may be overlooked is that you use more stabilizing muscles to remain upright which includes the abdominals, biceps, triceps and shoulders. This can of course lead to more muscle soreness and fatigue.

However, the recumbent exercise is especially great for building the strength and endurance of the lower body. Primary muscles worked by those who train on a recumbent exercise include the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and tibilais anterior muscles. Of course, don’t forget the most important muscle of all – the heart.

7 Tips to Get the Most from Your Recumbent Exercise Bike

Stretching – Unless you’re simply using a recumbent exercise bike to warm up gently, it’s recommended to perform some dynamic stretches prior to starting your session. These stretches involve moving your body through ranges of motion rather than static stretching. Failing to do so with cold muscles can cause injury. Gentle warm-ups could include walking lunges, knee highs, leg swings, calf raises, and trunk rotations.

Seat Adjustment – It’s important to adjust your seat so that your extended leg has a slight bend at the knee (approximately 10-15 degrees), and your other leg at the bottom of the pedal movement has a bend of around 90 degrees.

Warm Up – Prior to starting a more intense or goal-orientated training session, pedal for 5-10 minutes at a low resistance to warm up your muscles. This will help to prevent injury and improve your performance.

Maintain Proper Form – It’s vital that you maintain correct form while using a recumbent exercise bike. Don’t lean forward, but rather push your back against the back rest (that’s what it’s there for). You can hold onto the handles or use the arm rests, but don’t allow them to change your form either. Failing to maintain form can lead to injury and/or muscle imbalances.

Choosing Steady State Cardio – Generally, those who prefer to perform steady state cardio for long periods of time (i.e. 45 to 60 minutes) may pedal quicker and longer at a lower resistance. This is recommended for those who want to primarily improve their cardiovascular health and increase their endurance.

Choosing Interval Training – Interval training has proven to be more effective at weight loss and can also assist in building muscle (particularly due to an increase in human growth hormone). Interval training usually involves short bursts of quick cycling, followed by short periods of light cycling. Many choose to use higher resistance for interval training, particularly for the short bursts of activity. Interval training is favored by many as sessions usually don’t last more than 30 minutes at a time.

Take it Easy at First – Lastly and perhaps most importantly, take it easy when you are first starting out with a recumbent exercise bike. You may think that because you’ve used an upright bike or other form of cardiovascular exercise equipment that you can hit it hard right away. All equipment affects the body differently despite similarities, so slowly build up each session. The last thing you want is a pulled muscle which can put you on the side line for days, weeks or even months.

If you’re ready to try a recumbent exercise bike, it can be difficult to make a choice with so many exercise machines on the market. Many people consider the best recumbent exercise bikes to be made by Schwinn which includes the Schwinn 270, Airdyne 6, and Airdyne 7 models. Stop by our store so we can answer any questions you might have!