Recumbent Bikes Vs. Spin Bikes: Which One Is Best For You?

By: Alex Bristol

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Whether you’re looking to get into exercise cycling or workout out at home, choosing the right fitness equipment will massively up your intense workout game, but which is better, spin or recumbent bikes?

Well, it is all down to what you’re looking to workout.

Many people don’t realize the steps they need to take when completing their exercise session to get better results, which is why educating yourself on the equipment you’re using is key for a good workout.

You may find yourself being faced with recumbent bikes, upright bikes, and spin bikes. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, but working out the right one for you will transform your indoor cycling experience.

But no need to panic; I’m here to help.

To make things easier for you, I have broken down all the benefits of these stationary bikes, the calories burned, what kind of muscles each exercise bike works, and which one is right for you.

We will find the one that will allow you to push that extra mile, that extra minute, those extra calories, and build your muscle as you go.

Let’s break it all down!

Which is better, a spin bike or a recumbent bike?

It’s not as easy as saying which one is better, so we will break it down into categories: Sprint Capabilities, Calorie Burning Benefits, Variability, Muscles Worked, Price, Riding Position, and Programmability.

Sprint Capabilities:

If you’re a beginner sprinting may not be part of your workout routine as of yet, but as you progress, build your cardiovascular health and muscle, high-intensity interval training may become part of your everyday workout routine.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) has been said to lead to maximum results, burn more calories, and allow people to reach their goals in every workout.

Spin Bikes:

Spin bikes are made for interval training; they mimic the feel of a road bike, they allow you to reach top speeds and go as intense as you’d like to go in your workout.

Spinning classes focus on alternating high and low periods, and these bikes are designed to take you from 0-60 in seconds.

Sprint training on spin bikes takes your results to a whole new level, and they are more prominent in spin bikes as they are built for this type of riding.

Recumbent bikes:

You can still perform sprint training on a recumbent bike, but it may not be as intense as using a spin bike. This is because you can never get to the top speed because of the position you’re in; if you go too fast, this bike will tend to ‘bounce.’

It is possible to raise the intensity on a recumbent bike, but it is more tricky.

Muscles Worked:

If you’re looking for more of a full-body workout, then a spin bike is definitely more beneficial than a recumbent bike. This is because spin bikes use upper body muscles rather than leg muscles that recumbent bikes utilize.

Here are the core muscles each bike works:

Spin bikes:

  • Core: Your body works out your core on a spin bike as it needs to stabilize and support your body throughout your workout, plus you tend to have periods of standing and sitting during a spin program. Recumbent bikes don’t tend to work the core as they have a backrest to support their back.
  • Upper body: You also tend to use your upper body to support yourself on the bike; you lean forward and grip onto the handlebars to remain stable.
  • Back: While cycling on a spin bike, you need to maintain a strong and stable spine, strengthening your back muscles.
  • Glutes: When working on spin bikes, you will feel your glutes working with every pump, especially through stand-up sprints, incline, or increased resistance.
  • Quadriceps: Your quads are the main muscle utilized in spin workouts; it is the main muscle used when you pedal and climb hills; this will lead to strong, toned legs.
  • Hamstrings: Cycling, in general, will help to strengthen your hamstrings; every pedal stabilizes your joints and builds muscles.
  • Lower leg: Spin cycling will work your calves with every pedal stride; it also helps protect your ankles and feet while cycling and everyday activities.

Recumbent Bikes:

Now recumbent bikes mainly focus on your leg muscles as you’re sitting down on a sit, in a reclined position and don’t require abdominal muscles and core muscles to keep your body upright:

  • Quadriceps: Your quads are the main muscle utilized in all cycling training; it is the main muscle used when you pedal; the longer you pedal, the harder you will work your quads.
  • Hamstrings: When your lower leg goes from a straight position to a bent position while using any exercise bikes, this is when you activate your hamstrings.
  • Glutes: These muscles come into play every time your thigh moves behind your body. It is an extension as every time your leg extends; your glutes engage as you push down on the pedals.
  • Lower leg: In a recumbent stationary bike, you will work your lower parts of your legs; you will mainly work your calve muscles, called plantar flexion.

Which exercise bike burns more calories?

In terms of calories burned, spinning exercise bikes burn more calories and fat than recumbent exercise bikes. A spin bike can take fat burning up a notch because of these reasons:

  • Sprint training is the best way to burn fat around; it is important to add sprint training to your workout if you want to gain your fat-burning goals. A spin bike offers more HIIT training than a recumbent exercise would.
  • A spin bike also allows you to stand while you cycle, whereas you need to remain seated in a recumbent. This adds a whole new element to your training as you are not only working out more muscle groups in your upper body, but it is a brilliant form of cardio.
  • By standing up while you’re riding, it uses more energy you’re using, beginners may not be able to stand upright away, but combining spin with outdoor training, there is a chance to build and burn more calories in every workout.

Is a recumbent bike good for belly fat?

Using a recumbent will burn calories and allow you to lose weight all over your body, not just your stomach. Using a combination of cardio exercises (such as using a recumbent bike) and abdominal strengthening muscles will strengthen your stomach muscles.


So what about variability? Well, the variability between a recumbent bike and a spin bike is that spin exercise bikes give you the ability to stand while you cycle while a recumbent stationary bike does not.

Both allow you to increase your speed and your resistance to the flywheel, so there isn’t much difference in variability.

The main advantage of a spin bike vs. a recumbent bike is the ability to stand and sit during more intense workouts. This does open a new door to your workouts and the variety of the programs you do, though.


In terms of programs, there are some key differences and some key similarities:

Recumbent bikes:

A recumbent stationary bike almost always comes with features like a console on the bike, which gives you a range of different program options to choose from. These could range from manual moe, fat burn mode, interval mode, or some workouts designed by that specific brand.

You can even design workouts for your option you can choose from, which is an excellent option. It can help add variety to your workout program and prevent you from getting bored while you workout; this also helps keep you motivated and achieve optimal results.

Spin bikes:

On the other hand, spin bikes don’t usually come with a console, so programming workouts is completely up to you. You will need to work out what you want to do and adjust the speed and tension accordingly.

But with spin bikes, it’s as easy as searching up a video on YouTube to find a workout that takes your fancy and then start cycling away. Those that aren’t experienced in training may see this as a drawback, but it is easier than you may think.

Differences in the Flywheel:

The key difference between spinning and recumbent bikes is their flywheel.

Spin Bikes:

Spin bikes have heavier flywheels, weighing up to 40 pounds in weight models like Sunny Pro and Marcy Club Revolution. This requires a good amount of energy and effort to spin and allows for more intense resistance.

The flywheel is also dependent on your cycle motions, which means that once you stop pedaling, the wheel will stop moving, spin bikes will burn more calories due to this within the same amount of time.

Recumbent bikes:

Recumbent bikes do tend to have a lighter flywheel and often offer a lower impact ride. A recumbent stationary bike may be better for beginners as heavier flywheels are quite challenging for newer riders and may cause injury.

Riding Position:

In terms of riding position, there are is a massive difference between both models:

Spin Bikes:

Spin bikes allow for multi-positioning exercising so that you can train on or off the seat. Spin bikes will train the lower body and the upper body as you need to stabilize your core while standing.

Cycling while you stand has major benefits because it will engage every muscle in your body; this is brilliant for improving fitness, fat-blasting, and promoting weight loss.

Recumbent bikes:

If you’re looking for comfort, then a recumbent bike may be a better option; this is because the seat is much wider, plus the seat comes with a backrest. Recumbent bikes are ergonomically shaped, allowing uses to sit back and pedal away.

Recumbent models are a brilliant way to work the lower body, lose weight, and be better suited for elderly or obese people as it takes your weight off your knees and reduces the chance of injury in your joints and knees.


If you’re slightly concerned about the price, it is definitely worth going for a spinning bike, they are usually much cheaper, and they will last as long as a recumbent one too.

Both models are designed to last for several decades with the right care; it is important to evaluate your individual needs, budget, and fitness levels before buying one first.

So is a spin bike better than an exercise bike?

In terms of calorie burning and intense fitness, a spin bike may be a better option than a recumbent bike. It also allows you to sit or stand while you cycle and follow your own program; this is brilliant for HIIT and will get you the best results.

It also allows for a full-body workout rather than one related to the lower body.

In terms of low-impact training and comfort, a recumbent is much better as it supports your back and relieves pressure on your knees and joints to prevent injury.

But can you still get a good workout on a recumbent bike?

Absolutely a recumbent stationary bike is brilliant for beginners and will burn almost as many calories. And promote weight loss in your whole body as a spin bike would, but you won’t need to work intensively.

To determine which bike is better is down to personal preference, fitness levels, and goals. Still, if you’re looking for a more intensive fitness bike, then a spin bike is your best option, but for casual workouts, a recumbent bike may be better.