With plenty of options to choose, you may wonder what exercise bike to get and what’s better, a recumbent exercise bike or an upright bike?
In the article below, we shall compare the two, and as always, we shall provide you with an objective overview of each bike, without getting too technical.
What is Upright Bike?
Upright bikes are the cornerstone for stationary bikes. They’ve been popular for so long, and there're even more reasons to love them now.
Upright bikes resemble traditional bikes.
And as their name suggests, these bikes will put you in an upright position, assuming the same stance and doing similar movements like those of a traditional bike.
Highly versatile, the upright bikes will allow you to assume a plethora of riding positions, for the ultimate comfort.
And since you’ll be in an upright position, upright bike engages more muscles.
What is Recumbent Bikes?
If you love getting comfortable during your workout session, regardless of how long or short, you’ll love using a recumbent bike.
The setup of the recumbent bike includes a chair-like seat, which has incredible support for your back.
Unlike an upright bike where your hands grab onto the handlebar, your hands are free on the recumbent bike.
And given the pedals are positioned in front of the seat, you'll have to recline a bit to reach them, and this will let you seat as if you're lounging.
However, don’t think just because you’re comfortable you won’t get any good workout. No. Recumbent bikes can equally elevate your heart rate and offer similar workout intensity to that of an upright bike. The only difference is that you’ll be doing it in a more comfy position.
Similarities between a Recumbent and an Upright cycles
For starters, both of these bikes are stationary bikes, meaning they're ideal for indoor uses.
Like all exercise bikes, the recumbent bikes and upright bikes usually offer a low-impact cardio exercise. While the intensity and results might vary, the bottom line is that they’re both cardio machines.
In particular, both of these machines will engage the lower core muscles to the fullest, since they both depend on the energy from your legs.
Differences Between a Recumbent and an Upright Bike
Reclined body position
Straight body position
Pedals positioned in front of the body
Pedals positioned under the body
Low Center of Gravity; Stable
High center of Gravity: Less stable
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the differences between these two cycling machines;
Muscle Groups-Which Do they Work?
We had earlier mentioned that both of these bikes focus primarily on working the lower body. In particular, they work on your quads, glutes, flexors, and hamstrings.
Upright bikes, like traditional bikes, offer no support to your upper torso. The result is they cause more “pain” but ultimately, engage your upper body muscles more.
In addition to offering a killer workout for your legs, upright bikes play a crucial role in your upper. This includes;
- Promoting a stiffer posture
- Toning your abs
- Strengthening your core muscles
- Boosting your lower back
Upright bikes have the edge over the recumbent bikes s they're more flexible, allowing to stand on the pedal and even lean forward.
The upright bikes are ideal for the full-body workouts.
Hamstrings and Glutes
The recumbent bikes, on the other hand, usually take the load of your upper body, and instead, target the lower body.
A 2014 study, indicates that recumbent bikes are more effective at targeting the hamstring than the upright bikes.
This is because recumbent bikes usually stretch your legs horizontally, as opposed to vertically, as we’ve seen in upright bikes.
The horizontal push, which is manifested through the push of legs sideways, will require the gluteus maximus to work harder.
Watch this Video on Muscles targeted by Recumbent bikes.
- Both bikes will rip your lower body
- Recumbent bikes are ideal for those to look to work out on their hamstrings and glutes
- Upright bikes are suitable for those looking to get a full-body workout.
Pain Vs. Pampering – What Bike Better For Pain?
Exercises, regardless of how low impact they usually come with some form of pain, also known as "good pain."
The good pain is opposed to the bad pain, which originates from exerting too much pressure, poor exercise posture, or too little rest in between the breaks.
The pedals on an upright bike are positioned below the body. This will force your muscles groups to work against gravity.
The up and down motion exerts a lot of pressure on your joints, and this can result to stress on the joints.
The recumbent bikes, on the other hand, have the pedals in front of you rather than below. This is to mean that your legs are more or less in a parallel dimension to the gravitational force.
This is to mean the recumbent bike will allow the engagement of muscles in your legs, but without causing too much stress on the joints.
This makes the recumbent bikes an ideal option for those suffering from joint-related conditions such as arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- The recumbent bike will stress the muscles but with negligible pressure on the joints
- Upright bikes will stress both the muscles and the joints
As we had mentioned earlier, recumbent bikes have a comfy seat that comes along with a backrest.
Some of the seats are even padded to offer extra cushioning for your back.
The padded backrest is a God-sent function, especially for those suffering from back pain or lower back muscles.
They’re ideal for those with conditions such as spinal disc damage or herniated disc.
On the other hand, the upright posture of the upright bikes, allows you to lean forward and take a huge amount of pressure off your spinal cord.
The upright stance can help in reducing the back cramps and is recommended for those with spinal cord conditions or degenerative spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis.
Pain and injuries, notwithstanding, the recumbent bike is the winner here.
These bikes will allow you to customize your seating position, offer a comfy and padded seat, and allow you to distribute your weight evenly across your back.
Weight Loss – Which Bike is Better For Weight Loss?
Recumbent bikes generally burn fewer calories than the upright bikes.
The differential grows if you take advantage of the recumbent machine’s lulling, gentle posture to watch TV, read, or otherwise loaf while pedaling-you’ll only achieve light exercise intensity.
On the upside, however, the comforts on the recumbent bike might incline you to extend your workout sessions, which means you might burn more or the same calories as an upright bike.
- If you're on a weight-loss mission, an upright bike should be a more inspired choice.
- If you prefer short bursts of High-Intensity Training (HIIT), an upright bike is ideal
- If you prefer working out for long and comfortable, the recumbent bike is an ideal option
Ease Of Use - What's Easier To Use?
Regarding ease of use, the recumbent bikes are easy to use.
For starters, they’re near to the ground level, meaning mounting and dismounting is a piece of cake.
The step-thru frame on the recumbent bikes also means there's less likelihood of tripping when hopping over the bike.
The low stance of recumbent bike lowers the center of gravity, meaning they're quite stable, and if you’re new to cycling, you’re less likely to fall off.
Finally, it’s easier to multi-task with the recumbent bikes since your hands are free, leaving them free to perform other tasks.
Upright bikes are generally smaller and compact than the recumbent bikes, thus ideal where space is of the essence.
There’re far more foldable upright bikes than recumbent bikes.
Recumbent bikes are bulkier and tend to have many moving parts. They also have sturdier frames and use more steel for stability and to support more weight.
The upright bikes, on the other hand, are light, but less sturdy.
If you've limited space, and maybe looking for a portable exercise bike, you would be better with an upright bike.
5 Reasons to Choose an Upright Bike - Advantages
- Full-body workout
- Better weight loss
- Less strain on my spine
5 Reasons to Choose a Recumbent Bike - Benefits
- Glutes and hamstring workouts
- Less stress on joints
- Easier to use
Now, you have it.
We’ve already covered a lot of ground comparing between the two.
Which do you think is better?
Thanks for the informative post. I think I might have to buy both the recumbent and an upright bike. I am more comfortable working out on the upright bike for the intense workouts that I like to do. But my parents might benefit more from a recumbent bike due to the age factor.