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April 24, 2021
While stationary bikes are great for steady-state cardio, burning calories, and building powerful legs, the benefits go far beyond that. There are so many reasons why you should consider getting yourself a stationary bike. In this article, we are going to discuss all of the benefits of exercise bikes, as well as the different types of bikes and which is best for home use. It may all seem simple, but in the modern day, indoor cycling is extremely advanced in tech and the workouts are endless.
You are about to learn everything you need to know about stationary bikes and the benefits that come with them...
Stationary bikes come in many varieties, but they can be grouped into four main categories:
We will quickly go over each and then tell you which one(s) is best for home use.
The upright stationary bike is what you probably envision when you hear “stationary bike”. However, not all upright stationary bikes are the same. Generally speaking, you can categorize upright stationary bikes as either exercise bikes or spin bikes.
Both upright exercise bikes and spin bikes will have you sitting upright, hence the name. But there are some key differences in design.
A spin bike will have handles that are roughly leveled with your hips.
An exercise bike has handles that sit considerably higher, so you will actually be sitting more upright.
You have more adjustability with the seat on a spin bike as well. This allows you to adjust the seat to your height perfectly, which is important for form and reducing the risk of injury. People who have spin bikes often do intense workouts, so this is important.
Spin bikes put you in a position that resembles actual road cycling.
Spin bikes also have reinforced pedals that hook your feet in securely, as spinning involves a lot of “getting out of the saddle” (pedaling while standing up).
You can’t stand up when using an upright exercise bike because it doesn’t have the reinforced pedals. The ability to properly secure your feet in and stand up is a very important feature of spin bikes as it allows you to take your indoor cycling to the highest level of intensity.
What's more, spin bikes have a heavier flywheel mechanism that takes more momentum to get going and keep going. It feels more realistic and natural, like actually cycling outdoors.
Overall, if you want to take indoor cycling serious, a spin bike is far and away the best option. However, if you just want a low-intensity cardio at home, an exercise bike is fine. Upright exercise bikes are more affordable, beginner friendly, the saddle is more comfy, many have a small screen for riding metrics, and some can even fold up to save on space.
At SET FOR SET, when we train, we train hard. So, we’d no doubt go for a spin bike.
Interactive Stationary Bikes
Interactive stationary bikes have an interactive screen at the front and center. The screen can display roads and routes to make you feel like you are outside or pre-recorded online spinning classes that you can follow along to. They will also display important metrics, like output in watts, RPM (revolutions per minute), pedaling time, resistance level, and trip distance (odometer). This is great for keeping track of progress.
Upright spin bikes or exercise bikes with interactive screens will be considerably more expensive than spin bikes without. Most brands have options for both upright stationary bikes with and without interactive screens.
Spin Bike Price (with and without interactive screen):
~$200 to $2,000 (interactive spin bikes will generally be $1500+)
A lot of non-interactive spin bikes will have tablet holders so you can watch an online spinning class from your tablet. If you like this idea, look for a spin bike with a tablet holder.
Exercise Bike Price:
~$150 to $700 (you can expect to pay $300+ for exercise bikes that have a screen to display riding metrics).
Recumbent bikes have a laid-back design. They have a large seat that is set back from the pedals. The pedals are at about the same level as the seat. Recumbent bikes don't have handlebars in the front, but they do have handles near the side of the seat.
Recumbent bikes are made for low intensity, low impact cardio. Recumbent bike exercises are good for elderly and people who are overweight. Although they’d be fine for anyone who wants to just do some simple, comfortable cardio.
For those looking to purchase one of these, don't miss our post 11 Best Recumbent Bikes!
Note: Recumbent bikes will also have a screen for heart-rate, speed, distance, RPMs, and calories burned.
Recumbent Stationary Bike Price:
~$180 to $800
Dual action stationary bikes, aka assault bikes, have handles that move, so you are doing both upper and lower body work. The resistance is caused by a fan and air. Assault bike workouts are TOUGH.
Dual Action Stationary Bike Price:
~$180 to $600
When comparing the recumbent bike vs upright bike, you've got a few options to consider. If you want a stationary bike that best replicates outdoor cycling and gives you the ability to do intense workouts, go for a spin bike - with an interactive screen or not.
An interactive screen is not necessary, but it can surely optimize your workouts and it just makes things a little more interesting in terms of the ability to feel like you are on the road or in a class. They will, of course, be more expensive than spin bikes without interactive screens.
If you want a more affordable, lower intensity option and you don’t care about the ability to get out of the saddle, an upright exercise bike is a fine choice.
For people who are considerably overweight and out of shape, a recumbent bike or a dual action bike is a good option.
If you already have a road bike, you can easily convert it to a stationary bike, and have both the option to hit the road or do an indoor cycling workout.
This is made possible with rear wheel trainers - rollers, smart trainers or turbo trainers.
Rollers consist of a set of three cylindrical drums bolted onto a rectangular frame. Your rear wheel sits on the rollers and you actually ride on top of the rollers, which means balance and skill is required. They are the most engaging and difficult of the three. Many pro riders use rollers in the winter just to work on smooth pedaling technique.
Smart trainers and turbo trainers are a set up that requires you to remove the back wheel, and the stand clamps to the rear of the bike, allowing you to cycle in place. A dial can be adjusted to increase resistance. The only difference between turbo trainers and smart trainers is that smart trainers can interact with softwares. You can use them to connect to apps like Zwift that allow you to recreate rides and even race others all over the world right from the comfort of your home.
There are also simple trainer stands that don’t require you to remove your rear wheel.
All in all, if you have a road bike already, we recommend getting a turbo trainer or a smart trainer as the workouts are great. If you can afford the smart trainer, definitely do that. Connecting your bike to your TV or computer and recreating races and racing others is super fun and will have you on the bike every day! The smart trainer even changes resistance automatically according to the route!
**This article contains affiliate links where we will receive a small commission if you order (at no additional cost to you). There are tons of stationary bike and rear wheel trainer options on the market. So, do your due diligence**
The following benefits apply to indoor cycling in general, no matter the type of stationary bike you have. However, if you have a spin bike or a rear wheel trainer, these benefits are only amplified.
We are going to start with the health benefits, then discuss some advantages that exercise bikes have over other forms of cardio and equipment.
Cardio, as the name implies, is beneficial for your cardiovascular system (your heart and blood vessels). By doing cardio on a regular basis, you will strengthen your heart and blood vessels.
Spinning is one of the best forms of cardio there is, so long as you push yourself. If you put time in on your exercise bike, it will have a fantastic impact on your heart health.
Here’s how it works. Your heart pumps around 4 quarts of blood each minute when resting, but when doing aerobic exercise like spinning, it increases to 20 quarts or more per minute (if cycling at a reasonable intensity). This is because your muscles need to be supplied with blood and oxygen for energy.
This simple process improves your hearts ability to pump blood. It will also unblock fatty deposits that build up overtime, which will boost blood flow to the small vessels.
With that, your muscles will be supplied with more oxygen, which gives you greater aerobic capacity.
What's more, better circulation isn't just good for your workouts, it also helps prevent cardiovascular diseases like strokes and heart attacks. Moreover, with a strong, well-trained heart, you can pump a large volume of blood to your arteries with each contraction, which actually lowers your blood pressure (high blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks).
According to the CDC, 18.2 million adults over the age of 20 have a heart disease!
The best part is, your heart, which is a cardiac muscle (or muscular organ), can improve and strengthen quickly. By doing cardio just 3 times a week for 30-45 mins a day, you will see your resting heart rate is considerably lower after 3-4 weeks. This is a sign that your cardiovascular health is improving.
Over time, your heart will beat less rapidly, not get stressed, and you will have a greater cardio-respiratory capacity, which means you will not get out of breath as easily. This is obviously vital for athletes, but it’s also important for non-athletes - no more getting out of breath from things like walking up stairs, doing chores around the house, or having sex!
All in all, if you don’t take cardiovascular health seriously, you should start doing so now. Even people who look very fit can have poor cardiovascular health because they never do cardio. Cardio is a huge aspect of being truly fit (and one many people skip because “running is boring”). So, treat your heart like you would your pecs, quads, or glutes. Give it the attention it deserves with 30-40 minutes of cardio on your exercise bike a few times a week. If you’ve been holding off from cardio because you hate running, we think you are going to love spinning.
HIIT VS STEADY STATE CARDIO
One of the greatest things about spinning is how well you can control the workout intensity. Spinning is great for LISS, which is steady state cardio (keeping the same pace for 30-40 minutes), but it is also great for HIIT (high intensity interval training).
HIIT involves alternating from high intensity to low intensity, in intervals . For example, you could do 20 sets of 20 second bursts followed by 10 seconds rest. That’s a 10 minute workout only, but it is still highly effective for your cardiovascular health as well as your VO2 Max.
V02 Max is your bodies ability to absorb oxygen during exercise, which is super important for aerobic fitness and the best indicator for cardiorespiratory fitness. If you have a high V02 Max, your stamina will be incredible (and your heart will be super healthy).
Overall, research shows that the best cardio programs include both HIIT and easier steady state cardio. An exercise bike at home or the office is perfect for both. It can be hard to get yourself outside for a run, let alone sprints. But when you have an exercise bike staring at you every morning, we guarantee you will want to just get on it and get it done.
Plus, when doing steady state cardio, you can throw on the TV and watch your favorite show or the news from the comfort of your home!
By the way, HIIT will have you burning calories long after the workout is over thanks to the afterburn effect.
Stationary cycling is the perfect combination of cardio and lower body strength training. What does this mean? Well, a whole lot of calorie burn, and with calorie burn comes fat loss if your diet is on point.
Now, if you are wondering how stationary bikes can be considered strength training, then you’ve definitely never gotten on one and did 30 minutes at a higher resistance, because if you have, you’d know it definitely puts your lower body through the wringer.
Stationary bikes will strength your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps, as well as your core, back and glutes. Add in some upper body movements like you see in spinning classes (i.e. bike handlebar push ups) and you can really make it total body resistance training.
Resistance training and aerobic fitness combined is the perfect recipe for burning fat and toning muscles.
Now, in terms of how many calories you will burn, and how much fat loss can occur, it all depends on what kind of stationary bike workouts you are doing and what your diet looks like.
On average, for low intensity steady state stationary cycling, you can burn around 207 calories in an hour, and if you are at medium intensity you can burn around 415 calories per hour. High intensity is around 620 calories AND very high intensity can be as much as 738 calories per hour.
Needless to say, keeping a high intensity for an hour is no easy feat. You’ll have to be an advanced cyclist for this.
That’s why we love HIIT. It’s a little easier on the mind knowing that you get low intensity, low resistance periods between high intensity high resistance intervals.
But, don’t get us wrong, it’s not going to be a walk in the park either.
We won’t get into how to do HIIT workouts with stationary bikes just yet...
HIIT really makes the time fly compared to steady state. MOREOVER, it makes the calories burn FAST.
Indoor cycling HIIT workouts can easily burn 600 calories in 30-40 minutes (and you need to consider that the first 10-15 minutes and last 5-10 minutes are warm up and cool down on the bike so you won’t be doing the intervals in that time - the actual HIIT last for 10-20 minutes.
As for diet, no matter how many calories you burn while cycling, you won’t get toned and drop your body fat percentage without the right diet. To lose body fat and get ripped, you need to eat at a deficit.
If you eat at a slight deficit and do 40-60 mins on the stationary bike 3 times a week, you can expect to lose around 2 pounds a week conservatively.
Note: We love doing fasted cardio in the morning. Jump out of bed, have a coffee and get on your stationary bike for 30-60 mins every other morning and you will see your body get lean and sexy in no time.
Exercise bikes are not just about cardio and burning calories. When you start to increase the resistance level, your legs, core, and back muscles are going to be firing off like crazy. Even your arms are going to get tired from holding onto the handlebars (that’s not even considering adding in some handlebar push ups during the workout).
Just remember the days when you were a kid, riding around on your bike and you hit a steep road. Sometimes it was so hard that you’d have to get off the bike and push it up.
The kids who rode up got stronger!
You can treat your workout like you would the road, increase the resistance every couple of minutes like you are about to go up a hill before more flat road ahead.
If you want to build muscular strength, perform resistance sets like you would when working out with weights. Switch to high resistance every minute or two.
And while stationary bikes are great for leg development, we still recommend training legs with strength and hypertrophy training (whether that’s bodyweight or with free weights, that’s up to you).
On top of strength training, spinning is great for muscular endurance too. Being able to fight against the high resistance for extended periods of time is going to train your leg muscles for endurance like no other.
Note: Muscular endurance and aerobic endurance are different. Aerobic endurance is about oxygen supply, muscular endurance is the ability to repeatedly exert force for extended periods of time. With cycling, you get both!
As for muscle hypertrophy, cycling on a high resistance level (relative to your strength) and doing HIIT is definitely going to involve a lot of muscle fiber recruitment of the lower body muscles, which means you will build muscle. Just look at any cyclist legs, they have super impressive thighs and calves.
That said, your legs aren’t going to get huge like they would with squats, but they are going to get bigger and lean.
The two main muscles worked when cycling are your quads and hamstrings. When indoor cycling (or spinning, whatever you wanna call it), you have two strokes, push and pull. You push the pedals down, working your quads and calves, and pull the pedals back, working your hamstrings.
If you come up from the saddle, it's not only your legs that are going to be working like crazy, your core will be too!
Another great thing about stationary bikes for strength and hypertrophy is that you can have a form of progressive overload thanks to the ability to change resistance levels. Each week or every couple weeks you can increase the resistance, thus maximizing muscle fiber recruitment. Of course, you can also increase the intensity, which is need for progressive overload.
So, your exercise bike workouts should not be getting easier anytime soon. You can always keep improving. It’s a lot harder to do this with running because you can only go faster --- adding resistance with weighted vests is possible, but it only adds to the impact on your knees and ankles, which leads us to our next point...
Unlike running, which can be hard on your joints (especially the knees), indoor cycling is low impact. Low impact mean it’s easy on the joints. So, you get much of the same benefits of running and sprinting (if you do spinning sprints) but without the pressure on your joints.
Note: If you are the type of indoor cyclist who likes to get up off the saddle, then you will of course be adding a little more impact on your joints, but it is still less than running. The added benefit of that is you are increasing the difficulty, so you increase the strength and stability aspect of spinning.
Another thing to note is that because indoor cycling is easier on the knees and ankles, you can go for longer without feeling uncomfortable, which can lead to more calories burnt.
All that said, while using an exercise bike is less likely to cause joint issues than running, it is still possible. No cardio is as low impact on the joints as swimming!
Indoor cycling is also great for joint mobility and health for your ankle, knees and hips. Spinning moves your joints through a greater range of motion than running, which helps maintain good mobility and it helps to reduce inflammation. If you start to increase the resistance, you also strengthen joint stabilizer complexes too. This will make your ankles, knees and even hips more injury resilient.
Expect a nice surge of endorphins and serotonin after a good spinning session. This brings on a sense of well-bring. You gotta love those happy hormones.
Runners are not the only ones who get that “high”. You can definitely achieve the same with an exercise bike.
With that, you also get energy. A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, showed that cycling increased energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent. This is because of the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is linked to energy.
After every spinning workout, you will feel like your mood is more stable and you’ll have a nice release of stress and anxiety. It’s the perfect way to start the day - a cycling high.
Like all exercise and cardio, there are many other health benefits that come from indoor cycling, such as:
Besides health benefits, there are a few notable reasons why exercise bikes are great for most people and why everyone should have one in their home.
One of the great things about an exercise bike is that you can do it rain, sleet or snow! You don’t have to abide by the weather. A stationary bike is always ready to go (or better yet, to stay).
There’s no need to go anywhere to get a great workout in. People often spend as much time getting to the gym and back home as the workout itself. We are, of course, not saying that you shouldn't go to the gym, we are just saying that exercise bikes are more convenient if you are always short on time. Plus, you can do things like watch the news or your favorite show and watch your little ones, all while getting a great workout in.
Also, in regards to running and outdoor cycling, stationary bikes are far safer. Outdoor workouts, especially on a bike, involve risks, such as poor road conditions and haphazard drivers. If you are in a big city, you also don’t have to deal with traffic, which can slow down your workout and make it less effective.
All in all, indoor cycling is convenient and safe. Throw on some music or your favorite TV show and crush a workout from the comfort of your home, morning, afternoon or night.
While stationary bikes are obviously not as cheap as a pair of shoes for running outdoor, the price is actually not that far off for some exercise bikes.
There are very expensive exercise bikes on the market with a bunch of fun and convenient features, but you can find a simply, perfectly acceptable exercise bike for as low as a hundred (or couple hundred of) dollars.
Compared to treadmills, rowing machines, weigh training equipment and cycling classes, getting your own stationary bike is super affordable. Plus, it will last you a very, very long time. You can compare treadmills to stationary bikes in our article: Treadmill vs Stationary Bike - Which Should You Choose?
Note: If you are a member of a gym already, use their stationary bike to see how you like it. Do a couple workouts over the next week and if its something you enjoy, it’s definitely worth getting one for you house, especially if you are looking to cut weight. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and being able to conveniently get a cardio workout in from the comfort of your home.
Indoor cycling doesn’t have to be boring like running is for most people. There are various kinds of workouts that you can do on a stationary bike, each with various structures.
Of course, you have steady state cycling, where you pick a resistance and pedal away for 30-60 minutes, but you can also do HIIT and strength workouts.
With HIIT, there are so many ways to create a stationary bike workout.
Same with strength workouts. Get a pair of light dumbbells ready to go (place them in the middle of your handlebars) and you can throw curls, extensions, presses and rows in the mix.
Here are a few stationary bike workouts that will show you indoor cycling never has to get boring.
51 Minute Interval Workout:
You can do the sprints standing or seated.
12 Minute HIIT:
You can do the sprints standing or seated.
Descending Ladder HIIT:
Hills and Speed Intervals:
These are just a few of endless workout ideas for exercise bikes. You can always keep indoor cycling workouts fun, fresh and exhausting! If things are getting boring or too easy, you are being creative. Luckily, you don’t need to think much since indoor cycling is extremely popular these days and you can find hundreds of workouts online.
Both indoor cycling and treadmill runs, and outdoor cycling and outdoor runs have their advantages and are two of the best ways to improve your cardiovascular health and aerobic capacity.
Steady state running can burn more calories than steady state cycling, but it’s harder on the joints than cycling, so you can go longer and do cycling more often. What’s more, if you are talking HIIT, its a lot easier to implement with stationary bikes than treadmills. The resistance can change instantly, unlike a treadmill which take a few moments to slow down in speed (plus you need to press buttons, which throws off your stride).
As for building muscle, stationary bikes, like spin bikes, will definitely build muscle in your lower body better.
All in all, do both if you can! That’s the best of both worlds. However, if you can only choose one, a stationary bike for your home makes way more sense than a treadmill. It’s more affordable, space-friendly, and convenient to move around. Plus, if you want to run, you can just go outside when the weather permits or you feel like it.
Assuming you are going for a spin bike or an exercise bike (or a rear wheel trainer), here are some good tips for beginners...
We hope that all this information and the benefits will entice you to get a stationary bike (or rear wheel trainer) and RIDE. Once you get into it, it is super addicting, especially if you get the interactive screen or rear wheel trainer. Your mind, body, and health are going to reap the rewards big time. This is key to longevity.
Have questions? Feel free to reach out.
Here are out favorite options for spin bikes, exercise bikes and rear wheel trainers on Amazon...
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