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September 09, 2022
Similar to washing dishes and taking out the trash, not many like to do it. But just like you wouldn't continue piling dishes around an already packed sink (we hope you'd wash them at some point), cardio is still one of those things that need to get done.
Interestingly, though, most people don’t have an issue with cardio. They have a problem with what they believe cardio to be. Yes, running hill sprints until you puke or taking an intense boot camp class are two forms of cardio. But, so is walking your dog or riding an exercise bike.
What’s more, you don’t have to beat yourself into the ground to get an effective workout. In fact, low-intensity cardio is highly beneficial.
And one of the best modes of low-intensity (and high-intensity, too) cardio is a recumbent exercise bike. If you have been curious about the sit-down stationary bike and wondered about its effectiveness, you came to the right place.
In this article, we will cover:
A recumbent bike is a bike that places the rider in a laid-back, reclined position. Most people find recumbent bikes more comfortable than traditional upright bikes due to the larger seat, back support, and handles. Additionally, since the pedals are in front instead of directly beneath the rider, a recumbent bike is low-impact on the joints.
Most recumbent bikes use a form of magnetic resistance to adjust the difficulty of pedaling. Magnetic resistance is excellent because there is no direct friction, so the parts are less likely to wear and tear. It's also a pretty smooth ride.
When purchasing a recumbent bike, tons of bells and whistles help your buying decision. There are different seat designs, pulse monitors, workout programs, multiple levels of resistance, Bluetooth connection, LCD touch screens, and more.
We've got a great round-up of the best recumbent bikes to help get you started.
Don’t mistake comfort for ineffectiveness. It’s a common misconception that recumbent bikes are not as effective as other cardiovascular machines. But, they provide a suitable workout for beginners and experienced exercisers alike and as an added benefit, they make for great low-impact workouts.
We know regular cardiovascular exercise is great for the heart, lungs, and muscles, but can you get a good workout on a recumbent bike?
Research shows exercising on a recumbent bike improves VO2, respiratory exchange ratio, blood lactate, energy expenditure, and muscle swelling1. V02 max and respiratory exchange ratio are widely considered accurate measurements of cardiovascular fitness.
Before even answering the question, it must be pointed out that fat loss is all about calories in vs. calories out. For fat loss, you need to consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain weight.
Creating a calorie deficit is best accomplished through diet. So if that's the goal, consider counting calories, following the Metabolic Confusion Diet, or participating in a cutting workout and diet plan. With that said, adding cardio can be the icing on the cake once nutrition is taken care of.
The amount of calories you burn during a workout depends mainly on the intensity of the activity and the individual's starting body weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you expend during exercise.
This would make it seem that high-intensity cardio would be best for fat loss. While it is true that you burn more calories per minute the harder you train, you can only work at a high intensity for a short period before fatigue slows you down. On the other hand, although you burn fewer calories per minute with low to moderate intensity cardio, otherwise referred to as LISS, it can be maintained for a longer duration.
Plus, exercising at a lower intensity is less taxing on the body. Research shows you can burn between 200 and 300 calories every thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on a stationary bike2.
At the end of the day, there are benefits to exercising at various intensities. It doesn't have to be one or the other.
The most common comparison is between a recumbent bike and a standard upright bike. Due to the seat size and position, a recumbent bike's most significant advantage is comfort. That comfort may come in handy when you're torching calories following a HIIT workout on your bike.
After all, who wants to deal with a sore butt while pedaling as fast as they can? As a bonus, you also won't have the urge to lean forward when pedaling on the recumbent bike.
Not worried about comfort? You should be. If an exercise is more comfortable, you are more likely to use the equipment and spend more time on it. The biggest downside to an upright bike is how uncomfortable it is. All of your weight is on a small seat. A common issue bike riders have is saddle sores, which is chaffing where the skin comes in contact with the seat.
Another benefit a recumbent bike has is the ability to read while performing cardio. Two common New Year resolutions are to read and exercise more. Well, the recumbent bike can help you take care of both.
That said, upright bikes have the advantage of being more similar to regular outdoor cycles. If you are a cyclist looking for an exercise bike to simulate the work you do on the road, an upright bike would be the best option.
So, which one is more effective? It turns out they are pretty much equally effective. A study from 2014 compared the energy use and muscular output using EMG activity of upright versus recumbent bikes. The research found no differences between the two bikes3.
The treadmill is the most common piece of at-home cardio equipment. In addition to being popular, treadmills are also highly versatile. You can walk, jog, or run on them, on level ground, or at various degrees of incline. A treadmill is excellent for both beginners and advanced exercisers. You can even get a folding treadmill that takes up minimal room, Ahh, conveniences.
So, how does a recumbent bike stack up?
Regarding calorie burning, walking on a treadmill versus riding a recumbent bike are comparable. The most significant difference in energy expenditure will come down to running. There is greater potential for calorie burn running on a treadmill, so if that is important to you and you enjoy running, consider that.
On the other hand, if you have joint issues or are over 50 pounds overweight, the recumbent bike will be the clear winner.
As with any exercise, the most important factor is consistency. You will get the best results from the piece of equipment you actually use. Personal preference is a critical factor.
Stationary bike benefits are endless, and the recumbent bike has become increasingly popular in recent years for rehabilitation.
If you follow sports, you know how common knee injuries are, specifically injuries to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). The ACL lies in the knee's middle, preventing the shin bone from sliding out in front of the thigh. Research indicates there is less load on the ACL using a recumbent bike than an upright bike4. These findings suggest that a recumbent bike is an excellent option for minimizing ACL loads while exercising or rehabbing.
Due to the seat design, the recumbent bike is also one of the best cardio options for people with lower back problems.
Similar to picking the ideal workout split for yourself, how long to exercise on a recumbent bike depends on many factors, including goals, fitness level, and intensity.
The recumbent bike is an excellent warm-up activity before resistance training. After all, no one wants to take on a leg workout with stiff muscles. When warming up, spend 5 minutes pedaling at a leisurely pace to get the blood flowing and raise internal body temperature.
When using the recumbent bike for an actual training session, at low to moderate intensities, the duration can be anywhere from 15 minutes up to an hour. Since the intensity is manageable, it can be sustained for a long time. However, limiting the workout to thirty minutes or less makes sense when using the bike for high-intensity interval sessions.
As with any bike, making sure the adjustments are set to fit your body is critical to making the experience as comfortable as possible.
Before starting a workout, adjust the recumbent bike seat so that your legs are almost fully extended to ensure a full pedal stroke. When your leg is at full range, there should be a 15- to 20-degree bend in the knee.
Here are five recumbent bike workouts for you to try. If you are just starting, ease into exercise with the beginner workout.
The beginner workout is pretty straightforward. Pedal at a consistently low intensity for 15 to 30 minutes. Start with 15 minutes, and add 5 minutes as needed. Pair it with a full bodyweight workout, so you're getting the best of both strength training and cardio worlds.
The only differences between the beginner and intermediate workouts are intensity and duration. To up the ante, this recumbent exercise bike workout is performed at moderate intensity. Moderate-intensity cardio involves exercising at 60-75% of your max heart rate or about a 5/6 out of 10 on the RPE scale.
Pedal at a consistent moderate intensity for 30 to 45 minutes. Start with 30 minutes, and add 5 minutes as needed.
Tempo training on an exercise bike is great for people who get bored doing one thing for an extended time but are still trying to improve their cardiovascular health or lose weight. Perform 2 sets, targeting 6-10 rounds per set.
When it comes to HIIT vs. steady state cardio for fat loss, both are great options. The real benefit of high intensity interval training recumbent bike exercise is you can get in and get out of a workout relatively quickly. This interval training workout is great for days when you don't want to or aren't able to spend an hour on the bike.
Tabata workouts are great for days when you're short on time but still want to get a great workout in. Prepare to feel those leg muscles burn! If you use RPE to monitor the intensity of your workouts, target closer to a 9 with 10 being your absolute max.
Since the recumbent bike is low impact on your lower body joints, you can work up to doing it daily. However, we recommend starting with two to three weekly cardio sessions and going from there. Make sure you're eating the right foods after your workout, so your cardio work isn't wasted.
Many people hate cardio because they feel it must be a painful experience. The truth is that you can get an effective cardiovascular workout while being comfortable on a stationary recumbent bike.
Moreover, a recumbent bike routine can also be a practical addition to your fat loss plan if your diet is dialed in. Imagine the results the recumbent bike offers if you paired it with healthy eating, and built muscle following an effective resistance training routine.
Now, being comfortable doesn't mean being easy. You still have to put in the work. There is no substitute for that. So whether you're drawn to a HIIT workout, interval workouts similar to Tabata style, or going at a steady pace, your fat burning capabilities are endless if you put in the effort.
If you want to get started with an exercise routine, the recumbent bike is an excellent option.
Author: Kyle Hunt, Hunt Fitness
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