Hopping on a bike and working up your legs is undoubtedly one of the healthiest and most beneficial exercises you can think of. Even if you don’t do any other reps (which you must do), doing only cycling is good enough when you do it the right way.

However, before collecting any exercise gear, you must be aware of its pros and cons, right? That’s the reason we are going to compare two main types of stationary bikes i.e., recumbent and upright.

What are the differences between these two? Which one is better? Which is more comfortable? Which one helps you lose weight quickly? And many more questions will be answered shortly. If you are about to buy a stationary exercise cycle, read through this to find which one you should opt for.

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Why do you need a bike?

A stationary exercise bike nullifies your excuses for not heading to the gym, and helps you get a toned body while staying at home and building your own home gym.

But, just like all other workout gears, they come in various forms, giving you the freedom to choose. Recumbent and upright are the two most common types you might have seen in your community gym. The main differences between these two are shape and style; let’s explore further:

Recumbent bike overview

It has a reclined position with lowered pedals and a comfortable seat. Sitting on it feels like a lounge chair except for the pedals that sit right in front of you. They also have lowered seats that add comfort and provide additional support while you pedal. If you need moderate-level exercise, this type would suit you the best.We at GymArtist, after reviewing various models, like the Marcy recumbent exercise bike the most.

Here’s how it looks:

Recumbent bike

And here you can see it in action:

Maintaining a good body position during workouts is vital because if your posture is not adequate, the whole workout feels wane. That’s why the recumbent cycles were introduced; they protect your posture and are excellent for leg exercises while safeguarding your posture. Moreover, it is a long-term investment as you can use it, regardless of your age, as you grow old. According to the American Chiropractic Association, around one-half of the working population has back pains, which shows the need for comfortable workouts. Hence, to prevent posture problems and stiffness, this type is ideal.

Pros

  • Low injury risk
  • Ease of use
  • Wide seat
  • Balanced design
  • Gentle on the joints

Cons

  • No upper body workout engagement

Upright bike overview

Just like its name, it has a high seat and asks you to hunch over it while pedaling. Just like the regular cycle, this one has pedals underneath the seat which focuses the pressure on your muscles. They engage both upper and lower body muscles and tone you real quick. However, the only concerning factor is its shape. Since its seat is high and small, you won’t have any back support.

 

Upright bike

People with back pains and spinal problems don’t feel comfortable on the upright models. Athletes, on the other hand, always prefer it thanks to its resemblance to regular cycles and the force it requires. It would also make the cycling experience much like outdoor biking at the comfort of your home and boost your metabolism as a result.

Pros

  • Full body workout
  • High impact exercise
  • Compact
  • Ideal for gaining muscle power

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide back support

Upright vs. Recumbent, comparison table

Recumbent Upright
  • Lesser gravity impact
  • Lower body engagement
  • Wide seat, higher pedals
  • Cannot stand while pedaling
  • Leisure cycling
  • Good for joint/muscle pains relief
  • Higher gravity impact
  • Full body engagement
  • Small seat, lower pedals
  • Can stand while pedaling
  • Intensive cycling
  • Not suitable for pains relief

Recumbent vs. Semi-recumbent, what’s the difference?

When you explore the two types reviewed above, you’ll see a third alternative that looks like a combination of recumbent and upright models; that’s what we call semi-recumbent.

Just like a regular recumbent cycle, this one also has a soft backrest, a broad seat, and a large frame. However, when you sit on a semi-recumbent one, your legs will be positioned at a lower position, which helps engaging more muscles on your upper body.

The advantage of the semi-recumbent bike is that it provides comfort while engaging more body parts in comparison to the recumbent type. If you need backrest but still want to work harder on the legs, it would suit you perfectly.

Semi-recumbent models are slightly lifted from the ground and mostly come in foldable designs, which means they are more suitable for narrow spaces as well as are easier to store.

So, to maintain your posture while working on all major muscle groups, that’s the model to choose. It is suitable for all age groups and body types so that everyone can experience this comfortable low-impact exercise at home.

Semi-recumbent exercise bike

Recumbent cross trainer bike

Since recumbent bicycles were launched for workout maniacs’ comfort, there is a new substitute for the design that lets you involve your full body even in a seated position. A recumbent cross trainer bike lets you sit on a comfy padded seat, rotate the pedals, and move the handlebars back-and-forth; all at the same time.

This multi-tasking makes the cross-trainer bikes a wise investment. To target your legs, arms, and upper body simultaneously, get a cross-trainer right away.

Spin bike vs. Recumbent bike

Those who want outdoor cycling inside their home gym must try a spin bike. Spin bikes have reinforced pedals and move exactly like regular bicycles, i.e. your whole body force is required to move their pedals. The main advantage of spin bikes is that they allow you to add more weights on the pedals with time and increase your legs’ stamina. In addition, you can stand on a spin bike and involve your calves and thighs in the workout alike, unlike recumbent designs that don’t allow you to try different exercise postures.

Spin bike

Which one is better in terms of performance?

Stationary bikes are ideal low-impact cardio equipment for those who want to engage their whole body muscles and burn calories fast enough to see the results. But, due to the difference in their designs, upright and recumbent ones perform differently. You cannot expect both to be comfortable and functional at the same time; there has to be a difference, right?

That’s precisely what we’ll explore now because, in the end, it’s all about which one serves its purpose better.

Speed

There is a stigma that the upright models’ speed capabilities is higher than that of recumbent ones, and you can quickly get in shape with by using the upright model. However, in reality, there isn’t much difference between their speeds. The speed you’ll be pedalling at depends solely on your legs’ strength and your stamina.

In addition, both types come with friction levels controls that can be selected through the screen that sits in front of you. Beginners choose lower friction levels and climb the ladder with time when their strength increases.

But saying that one is faster than the other is not true; both designs are perfect for amateur and pro bikers alike. Differences in speed might be due to the brand you’ll choose, but that’s why we’re here for , to help you choose wisely 🙂

Weight loss

How fast your calories burn, and you lose that excessive fat varies according to your dedication and interest. If you carelessly pedal without thinking about your body’s movement, it won’t benefit you much. By the way, the same is true for each of the other products we’ve reviewed on our extensive home gym equipment post.

Both type are equally good for weight loss and give you a fair chance to tone up. However, a 30 minutes session on an upright cycle will feel more exhausting than that on a recumbent model, thanks to their posture differences. This means that an extensive sweating session would be an indication of a good workout and therefor, an upright one is your deal.

Muscle engagement

This is where the real difference begins. An upright cycle will engage more muscles than a recumbent one, and eventually, be more beneficial for your entire body.

Upright models engage your lower and upper body muscles alike, and don’t leave any group unattended. When you are hunching over a small seat with the pedals right beneath you, there will be constant pressure on your upper body. Your wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, legs, and spine will all be in a working position when you ride an upright cycle, and by the end, you’ll feel exhausted.

On the other hand, there is little to no upper body engagement on recumbent ones. Due to their designs and broader seats, only your legs will be working, leaving the rest of the body relaxed. If you want to tone your thighs and calves, a recumbent model would work for you.

Posture

This is where the recumbent models win with a good margin. It is similar to any other chair where your back is well-supported. Some models are even slightly reclined for added comfort. These broad and padded seats keep your spine protected while you intensively pedal. Before your body is warmed up, the chances of muscle stretching and minor dislocation rise. This model can be the answer to protect your muscles and prevent unnecessarily curving that can hurt your spine.

On the contrary, upright models don’t provide any support/protection to your posture and pressure your entire body. As the handles of these models are distant, you’ll also have to bend over while pedaling, which gets uncomfortable after some time. That’s the reason gym trainers don’t recommend older people to ride upright bikes as the chances of them getting bad postures are high in these types of cycles.

Fatigue

Due to the lowered pedals and distant handles, your wrist and shoulder muscles will feel soreness on upright models. Chances of shoulder stretching and ankle spraining are higher in upright models because your body has less support and which means you need to continuously watch out for stability.

Higher gravity impact will exert pressure on your feet as well, and after some time, your toes might get sore. That’s the reason upright cycle sessions can be less comfortable and although they are very  good for weight loss, the increased injury risk should be taken in consideration.

On the other hand, recumbent models don’t require you to balance yourself. These low-profile cycles are great for leisure workout sessions as you can watch/read something while keeping your legs busy.

Summary

Time for a verdict, huh? Well, none of these cycles is lesser than the other, and all are useful for cardio workouts. The main dissimilarity, however, is in their level of comfort.

If you rather spend an hour or so on the bike daily while reading/watching a good entertainment piece, go for the recumbent type. But, if you are looking for more aggressive training sessions, get an upright cycle, and utilize your free time to the fullest. A good 30-40 minutes session on your upright bike will suffice as it will target all your muscle groups at once.

So at this point you should ask yourself whether you can bear slight discomfort for improved results or if you want a relaxed chair-like machine to burn those calories, and then decide!

FAQs

Which bike is best for lower back pain?

Hands down, the recumbent one. These bikes are specially designed to protect you from lumbar pain and lower-back dislocations. If you have any injury history or frequent back pain, you should opt for this type of cycle to stay fit and comfortable.

Which bike burns more calories?

Both are equal in terms of calories burn. The number of calories you burn while cycling depends on the time you’re doing it and the consistency you show. If you are cycling five days a week at a steady pace, you’ll soon see the results, regardless of the cycle type.

But, if you go hard on yourself for only 10 minutes two days a week and spend the rest idling around, there won’t be much difference, no matter how top-notch your bike is. So, don’t let your money go down the drain, reap advantages of these pretty bikes.

I have extra-thick calves, which one should I opt for?

An upright bike for sure. These bikes put immense pressure on your lower legs, and as you increase the pedaling speed, all leg muscles get benefited from the exercise. Standing above your upright bike’s seat and pedaling on a steady pace is good for your calves and thighs alike.

How much time should I give to cycling per day?

40-60 minutes minimum, depending on your schedule. It is advisable to gradually upgrade and give your body some time to adapt to the routine. If you cycle for 1 hour or more on the very first day, you might not have any motivation left for the next day. But, keeping your cycling schedule relaxed and growing it step-by-step would be extremely beneficial for your body and exercise regime in the long run.

So, in the presence of these exotic stationary bikes, what’s stopping you from making your home a make-shift gym, huh? Interested in any model that we haven’t covered? Please leave your comment below and we’ll be happy to explore it for you!