Recumbent Bikes Vs. Upright bikes: Which Gives A Better Workout?

Last Updated on March 29, 2021
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
Topics we've covered

Recumbent bikes vs. upright bikes: which gives the better workout?

Looking to enter the world of exercise bikes and are you being faced with a wide array of recumbent bike and upright bikes with no idea where to begin, let alone which gives the better workout?

Good news, I’m here to break it down.

You may be asking yourself which one is right for me? Which one will make me lose weight the fastest? Which one is best on your joints? I’m here to answer all your questions so you can boss your next exercise workout!

There are some key differences to consider between the two, such as targeted muscles, comfort, calories burnt, and much more, which is why it is important to consider all of them before purchasing an exercise bike.

But no need to panic; this is what I’m here for.

To make things easier for you, I have devised a step-by-step guide of all the benefits and which one will give a better workout for the workout you’re looking to do.

Without further ado, let’s jump in, gang!

What are the key differences between a recumbent bike vs upright bike:

Recumbent Bike:

  • Recumbent bikes have a reclined body position with a backrest. Riders are in a much more comfortable and natural reclined position, this helps reduce body fatigue and relieve muscle soreness in the upper body as well as back support.
  • The seat is much more comfortable, it is also often just as comfortable as an office chair, comfortable for longer periods
  • The pedals are positioned at the front of the body.
  • The body is well-positioned in the bike frame

Upright bike:

  • The rider’s body sit above the frame as a traditional bicycle would
  • The rider should be sitting slightly hunched over the frame, with a slight bend in the neck and back which can cause muscle fatigue and soreness after some time.
  • The seat is much smaller and much more like a traditional bicycle. This can cause aches and pains in the glutes after prolonged use. This is also known as saddle soreness.

 

Benefits of a Recumbent Bike:

Recumbent bikes provide back support and are more gentle on your lower back, this is because of the way you are sitting on the bike.

Instead of being hunched over the handlebars like on an upright bike a recumbent bike promotes spinal alignment and improves spinal posture by being in a comfortable seated position.

Recumbent bikes are also much more gentle on your joints and muscles, your lower back is supported by a backrest, your knees and ankles are also protected from injurious impacts too.

There’s also much more comfortable as the seat is much larger on a recumbent bike than an upright bike, making it much more comfortable for riders.

Safer for riders as you don’t need to stand up on the pedals, this eliminates injury that occurs when using an upright bike.

It is a low-impact workout that focuses on strengthening muscles in your lower body, it is brilliant for those with neurological conditions. It also reduces the risk of pain and allows you to gradually build and strengthen your muscles.

You can even read a book while doing exercise.

If you suffer from back pain, or arthritis then a recumbent bike may be a better option for you. They still burn calories and burn as many as an upright bicycle would.

Benefits of an Upright bike:

Now an upright bike mimics the same feel of outdoor riding and provides a more consistent workout, this is because you are doing an upright exercise and have a similar body position to when you’re riding a road bike.

Upright bikes work similar muscles to outdoor riding providing a whole body workout. They work more muscles than a recumbent bike as a recumbent mainly works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and leg muscles.

Since you are sitting and keeping your body upright and supported without a backrest it supports and builds your core and abdominal muscles. Upright bikes are also brilliant for improving cardiovascular fitness and improving fitness levels, building muscles, and weight loss.

It is a great cardiovascular exercise that can be low impact or high impact based on preference. An upright bike are also brilliant for upper body arm workouts since you are engaging your biceps, triceps, and shoulders by riding in an upright position.

Upright bikes also take up less space than other equipment making them brilliant for training at home.

Which will Burn More Calories Recumbent Bike Vs Upright Bike ?

The main reason we turn towards a stationary bike or exercise bikes is to burn more calories and help aid with weight loss.

So which one is better and which one will burn calories more? A recumbent bike vs upright bike? Can you get a good workout on a recumbent bike?

Both a recumbent bike and an upright bike will provide calorie and weight loss potential but it is all down to what you’re putting into your workout, the harder you work the more progress you will make and the closer you will get to your fitness goals.

You should decide which one is best for you based on the above benefit features for each bike, it is all down to personal preference and how hard you’re willing to work to achieve your fitness goals.

Determine which one would you feel most comfortable on? Which one allows you to put in the most effort, a low-impact exercise may not make the difference you’re hoping for.

The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to push your boundaries and get the most out of your exercise. This is important for HIIT training because the harder you push the more calories you will burn.

Remember the faster you burn calories the faster you will lose weight.

Injury Risk:

Now let’s talk about injuries, if you’ve caused yourself an injury then that is a key indication that your bike isn’t the right match for you. So which exercise bike is likely to keep you going for longer?

Recumbent bikes take off the edge as the seat is much more comfortable, upright bikes are more likely to cause saddle sores as the seat is more like a road bike and causes constant downward pressure on your buttocks.

The upright bike also makes you feel like all your body weight is coming down on the center of gravity on your two tailbones, in a recumbent bike you’re leaning against a backrest, and your weight is transferred, the weight is coming down on your fleshy parts of buttocks rather than the tailbone.

This doesn’t necessarily cause injury but it definitely causes more discomfort while you exercise.

Upright bikes are definitely a higher risk option as they place more stress on your quad muscles with the movement patterns, plus causing strain on your knees. There is also no lower body support or back support, so you need to keep your body upright which may cause lower back pain to be higher.

If you are prone to injury then I would recommend getting a recumbent bike vs an upright bike as it will gently build muscles and reduce the chance of injury. If you have suffered from an injury in the past and looking to overcome it then you should bear this in mind.

Muscles Worked:

The primary muscles worked on a recumbent vs upright bike are very similar, they both use lower body muscles and work to strengthen your joints. Cycling in general is a great form of cardio and the more you pedal the more benefits you’ll notice.

So can you build muscle on a recumbent bike?

The main difference between an upright bike and a recumbent exercise bike is that you don’t have back support, so you have to support your body with your core and work your abdominal muscles.

You also lean over the handlebars whereas with recumbent exercise bikes you’re sitting back in a seat and just using your feet to push the pedals.

With upright exercise bikes you are also using your upper body for stabilization to grip the handlebars, and therefore working more muscles. But in terms of getting a good body workout, they both burn as many calories.

 

Summary of A Recumbent vs Upright Bike

All in all, no matter if you choose a recumbent bike or upright bike there are benefits and drawbacks of each. Both engage your leg muscles, and both are an excellent form of cardio but it all depends on which you will feel most comfortable to sit on.

If you suffer from poor balance or weak joints it may be better to get a recumbent bike this is because you won’t need to balance your core and it puts less stress on your joints while cycling.

Whatever you decide remember you only get out as much as you put in, let’s boss our cycle workouts together!

Get cycling my friends!

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