North America is the leading market for exercise bikes, with over $232 million in sales. A stationary bike is among the most popular exercise equipment for both gym-goers and home workouts, burning calories and strengthening your heart
Thus, an effective aerobic exercise that doesn’t put lots of stress on your joints. Two types of stationary bikes are the upright bike and recumbent bike.
Upright and recumbent bikes are effective for working out. However, recumbent bikes target only the muscles below your waist. They are more comfortable and ideal for those who are just starting or have lower back pains. On the other hand, upright bikes provide a holistic body workout, giving you a consistent workout for the lower and upper body.
This article sheds some light on the two types of stationary bikes. The areas covered include the differences, pros and cons, and features. More importantly, we help you decide the best one for you, depending on your needs.
Upright vs. Recumbent Bikes: What’s the Difference?
This type of exercise bike gets its name from the riding position. It is the first upright exercise bike that was patented in 1796 in London.
The early versions were a bit crude and consisted of wooden cranks and treadles. It wasn’t until 1968 that electronics were added to track the progress during the workout.
An upright exercise bike looks a lot like a normal bicycle. The body of the rider sits on the bike with a slight hunch on the neck and back. The pedals of an upright bike are positioned directly beneath the seat.
This means you can stand up to pedal if you get tired of sitting. Generally, standard bikes are more compact and take up less space.
Upright Bike Benefits & Key Features
- Smaller seat: Upright stationary bikes have a trademark narrow saddle. The smaller seats allow the rider to cycle as fast as possible without interference/. However, it also leads to aches and pains on the rider’s bottom. You can always buy extra padding to help you be more comfortable during exercise.
- Upright riding position: Upright bikes are designed to be ridden in the conventional bike riding position. The body has to be hunched while holding the handles. This tends to cause soreness, especially for people with lower back problems. Give your back a break by riding while standing or letting go of the handles.
- Pedals located below the seat: In most upright bike designs, the pedals are located below the saddle. This configuration allows the rider to use their pedal as fast as possible. It also makes it possible to ride while standing. You can use your body weight to pedal through the last cycles when you are getting tired.
- They are smaller: These bikes are a lot smaller than their recumbent counterpart. This is possible since the pedals, saddle, and flywheel are on the same side. Usually, the handles are also attached to the same block. The smaller size means you don’t need a lot of space to set up and exercise.
Recumbent bikes are a lot more recent compared to standard bikes. The first version of a recumbent exercise bike was invented in 1839. However, most designs at the time featured three wheels, tricycles. It wasn’t until the 1970s when these laid-back bike designs made their way to the fitness industry.
Recumbent Bike Benefits & Key Features
- Larger seats: These bikes are designed to be comfortable. The large padded seats eliminate any soreness during exercise. This allows you to exercise for as long as possible with little or minimum fatigue. The seat is more like a chair and comes complete with a backrest to support your back.
- More robust: Unlike upright bikes, recumbent bikes are typically larger. This is in part due to the design. The distance between the handles and the pedals is significantly larger. The large design is intentional since these bikes are made to support a larger weight than standard bikes.
- Reclined riding position: These bikes get their names from the position of the rider. They are designed to be ridden in a laid-back position. The large seats fully support the rider’s weight and align the back. This eliminates any potential injuries to the spine or lower back. Some designs even come with armrests for more comfort.
- Pedals are in front: The pedals on a recumbent bike are opposite the seat. Usually, they are directly below the handles. This kind of setup isolates specific thigh muscles. While riding like this is more comfortable, it limits how fast you can cycle. Fortunately, you can make up for the speed by riding for longer.
Upright vs. Recumbent Bike: Which Bike Burns More Calories?
Both bikes can help you burn calories and fats. However, you must be consistent to get the results you want. You can gradually increase the intensity levels by adjusting the resistance of the bike. The higher the intensity, the more calories you burn.
Generally, the upright bike burns more calories because it works the whole body. A recumbent bike is less physically demanding because the rider is in a seated position. Consequently, it takes longer to get your heart racing.
However, the number of calories you burn during exercise depends on the exercise’s intensity and duration.
So, it is possible to burn the same amount of calories on a recumbent bike by working for longer periods. It shouldn’t be a problem since they are very comfortable.
Alternatively, you can burn more calories by pushing the pedal faster. You can lose weight from either provided you spin for at least 30 minutes.
The YouTube video below shares essential information on how to effectively workout on an exercise bike.
Which Muscle Groups Are Worked in Upright and Recumbent Bikes?
Although both bikes are effective for cardio exercises, they have different physical demands on the rider. Generally, both bikes help work out the legs, quads, and buttocks.
More importantly, they work the most important muscle in the body: the heart. Here is a breakdown of specific muscles worked by each bike.
Muscle Groups Worked by Upright Bikes
Cycling in an upright position works out more muscle groups than when seated. In addition to the lower legs, upright bikes also help tone the lower abdomen.
These bikes are like a road bike, where the pedals are below your center of gravity and you can lean over the handlebars like you are riding in the road.
If you ride completely upright, the exercise also benefits your arms. This is because your arms support part of your body weight while pedalling.
Maintaining an upright posture strengthens your core. It works the abdominal muscles, better known as abs. A stronger core protects your spine by keeping it in the right shape.
Upright bikes also work the back muscles. In particular, it engages the quadratus lumborum, which also protects the spine.
Muscle Groups Worked by Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bikes are designed to be more relaxed and laid back. Riding in a seated position is more comfortable for people with back issues. However, sitting means you have to fully rely on your leg power to pedal.
You can not use your body weight to your advantage. As a result, this cardio equipment work out some thigh muscles that an upright bike doesn’t.
Riding while seated works the quads and the hamstrings. Quadriceps and hamstrings, found on the front and back of your thighs, help in walking, running, or squatting.
Other muscle groups worked by the recumbent bike are the glutes and calves. Stronger calves help you run faster and jump higher.
Upright vs. Recumbent: Which Is Better for Knee Rehab?
Both the upright and recumbent bikes can help you recover from a knee injury. Cycling is a no-impact, non-weight-bearing form of exercise. The pedalling is also a controlled motion, which ensures you don’t aggravate the injury.
For best results, one has to start slow and gradually increase the exercise’s speed, resistance, and duration.
These bikes are better for knee rehabilitations since it places the least strain on the affected area. The suitability depends on the severity of the injuries.
Similarly, recumbent bikes are better for people recovering from a back injury. This is because the back is kept straight and supported during the exercise.
Which Exercise Bike Is the Best for You?
Your choice of bike depends on your fitness level and goals. People with joint and back pains should go for recumbent options. Similarly, if you struggle with balance, the recumbent bike is a safer option.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a complete workout, upright is the way to go. It is a great alternative to cycling during bad weather.
The best bike for you to check all the necessary boxes. It should come with all the basic features, such as variable resistance, monitor, and comfortable padded seats. The bike should be sturdy and able to support all your weight.
I recommend getting the HARISON Magnetic Recumbent Exercise Bike from Amazon.com, which has an impressive weight cap of 350 lbs (158.75kgs).
If you prefer an upright bike, I recommend one of the quietest bikes out there, the JOBUR Magnetic Exercise Bikes, available on Amazon. The magnetic resistance allows you to exercise freely and quietly without disturbing other people. Consult your physician if you have any underlying health conditions.
Final Thought: Upright Bike Vs Recumbent Bike
- Upright Bikes: Upright bikes are the best option if you are looking for a complete workout. They are also smaller, making them easier to use even if you live in a small space. However, this is not recommended for those with back problems.
- Recumbent Bikes: These bikes are bigger and more stable, and designed to be comfortable and safe. Its design allows everyone to exercise without aggravating pre-existing problems, such as back pains and back injuries. It is also the best option for seniors.
In both cases, your level of commitment will determine how fast you achieve your fitness goals.