Recumbent Bike vs. Upright Bike: Which should I Choose

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If you are planning to set up a home gym, just because you do not have the time to head to a proper gym class, you need to purchase some gym essentials. You can ask a professional for guidance and buy the necessary equipment. You will need dumbbells, kettlebell, pull-up bar, jump rope, weight plates, and of course, exercise bikes. 

Wait; what? Exercise bikes? You thought these were obsolete, didn’t you? 

Well, no. Exercise bikes are still trendy among fitness enthusiasts. 

In the ever-evolving fitness world, there is one exercise machine that has not lost its importance – exercise bikes. Whether it’s a home gym or a full-fledged fitness station, exercise bikes are one of the essential fitness equipment. Exercise bikes do get neglected in commercial gyms, but advancements in these machines compel the gym owners to bring it back in the gyms. Given the increasing popularity of spinning classes across the country is an indication that exercise machines are still in the game.

When you hit the market to purchase an exercise bike, you will be surprised to see the variety. There is a different exercise bike for every level of fitness, and choosing the perfect one can turn into a daunting task. The two most popular options that you will find in the market include a recumbent bike and an upright bike. Both these are popular choices, but each of these offers a unique set of benefits. 

So, how to make a choice? How to know which one is the best option for you? We can start by understanding each of these individually, and then we can go deeper into the key differences between the two. 

Upright Bike

The Most Common Exercise Machine

When it comes to working out at home, upright bikes are the most common exercise machines. These have been in use for a very long time. The new models come with advanced features that help in enhancing the workout experience and results. These bikes are designed in an upright body position with its pedals positioned under the body.

A man using nautilus 616 recumbent bike

Recumbent Bike

A Chair-Like Exercise Machine

The second option in consideration is the recumbent bike. It is a chair-like exercise bike that is for people who want to stay comfortable during their workout. It offers sufficient support to the back and does not put excessive stress on the body. A recumbent bike has a reclined body, a large seat, and its pedals are positioned in front of the body.

Now that we know what upright and recumbent exercise bikes are, we can start discussing the key differences between these two and decide which is the best option for you!

Recumbent Bike Vs. Upright Bike – The Key Differences

When choosing an exercise bike for your home gym, there are several factors you need to consider. The structure, benefits, muscles worked, comfort, ease of use, and many others. It is crucial to analyze an exercise bike on these factors to make the right choice. The chances of you making the wrong choice are high if you miss out on any of these essential factors of consideration. There are hundreds of options out there, and these machines are not cheap. A wrong choice may turn into an expensive loss. 

We can discuss the differences between these two exercise machines based on these factors. We want you to make the right choice. Therefore, we will highlight everything that you need to know before choosing the right exercise bike. 

Structure

Let us start with the most fundamental difference, and that is the structure. There is a significant difference between the construction of these bikes, which makes them ideal for different scenarios. Upright bikes resemble traditional road bikes and support similar movements. They are built in an upright position. These bikes have a small seat that is an upright position. The pedals are just below the body of the machine. Even though these are stationary bikes, they require you to maintain a balance. Due to its construction, many fitness enthusiasts consider the use of this bike a challenge, which motivates them to work out. 

Coming to the recumbent bikes, these have a completely different structure. Unlike the upright models, these bikes are built in a reclined body position. The pedals of these bikes are in front of the body and not below the body, which is the case with upright bikes. The seat of these bikes is large. The construction of an upright bike keeps a rider’s posture upright while the recumbent bike keeps a rider in a natural reclined body position. Due to the way it is constructed, many workout enthusiasts prefer to purchase the recumbent bikes. 

Muscles Worked

Every person has unique body requirements. Some people want to work on their hamstrings while some want to work on their calves. When choosing a stationary bike for your home gym, it is crucial that you carefully understand your requirements. These both are forms of traditional bikes and impact the same primary muscle. As the structure of the two bikes is different, it’s evident that there will be some dissimilarities between them in terms of the muscles that they work. Therefore, you need to purchase the one that addresses the muscles you want to work on; else, it will be of no use to you.

The primary muscles that these two bikes work on include quads, calves, hamstrings, and glutes. The workout benefits of recumbent bikes stop here, but upright bikes have an impact on several other parts of the body. The upright bikes do not offer back support, which is why a rider has to maintain balance. They have to use their spinal column as well as their core. Moreover, it even requires a rider to lean over the handlebars. All these movements and positions have an impact on the erector spinae, core, shoulders, triceps, as well as forearms. 

If you want to choose a stationary bike based on the number of muscles it impacts, an upright bike is a great option.

sunny-health-magnetic-recumbent-exercise-bike
Photo by sunnyhealthfitness.com

Ease of Use and Comfort

Another difference that you may want to know is the overall comfort. It includes the structure of the machine and the ease of use. When it comes to comfort based on the structure of the two bikes, we have to say that the recumbent bikes take the lead. Why? Well, these bikes, as discussed above, are manufactured in a reclined position. The seat is more generous in length and helps a rider enjoy a naturally reclined position. Besides, the pedals are in front of the body. If you are looking for a way to work out in complete comfort, then the recumbent bike is the perfect option for you. 

An upright bike, on the other hand, keeps a rider in an upright position and even requires them to lean over the handlebars for an effective workout. It is not a very comfortable way to exercise. 

Now let’s move on to ease of use. If you want to get on with your workout immediately, then an upright bike is the best option for you. The reason behind it is that these bikes mimic the action of regular biking. Every one of us has ridden a bike at least once in our lifetimes, so we are familiar with the movements. You do not have to ‘adjust’ to the bike, which allows you to start working out immediately. 

Talking about ease of use, we cannot say that using a recumbent bike is a challenge to use. If one gets used to it, riding a recumbent bike is much easier than riding an upright bike. The movement pattern is new, and one is not familiar with it, which is what makes it a bit difficult to use. Practicing on it for a few days will reduce the difficulty, and then you can work out on your bike with ease. 

Risk of Injury

A concern of many workout enthusiasts is the risk of injury each of the stationary bike poses. It is a significant factor of consideration. If the chances of injury are high on any of these bikes, it is no good for your workout. In terms of risk injuries, the recumbent bikes may outshine the upright bikes. When using a recumbent bike, the weight distribution is a plus. The back support takes up a major part of your weight and eases out the stress on your legs and feet. Moreover, you have the freedom to adjust your center of balance. The adjustment of your center of balance helps in diverting the pressure to the fleshy parts of your lower body. 

With an upright body, all your body weight is focused on the tailbones, and it increases the risks of saddles sores. It makes the upright bikes riskier to use and makes a workout session challenging. These stationary bikes do not offer back support, which also increases the chances of back pain. 

All these risks are important to consider before the purchase, especially if you were a victim of any injuries in the past. 

Impact on Calories

The next factor to discuss is the impact of using each of these two cycles on calories. One of the primary purposes of using stationary bikes is to burn calories, so you need to consider which bike can help you burn more calories if burning down the calories is your primary requirement. The faster you burn your calories, the faster you will lose weight. 

So, which bike is a more efficient calorie burner?

Well, in terms of calories burned, both types of stationary bikes have the same impact and burn the same number of calories. If you want to base your decision on the number of calories you can burn, there is not much difference, and you can buy any of these bikes. However, if you are looking for other factors such as comfort or muscles worked, you will have to watch out for the differences. 

Ability to Progress

The last factor of consideration is the ability to progress. Both stationary bikes allow you to increase the intensity of the workout slowly and gradually. You can increase the resistance, increasing the intensity of the exercise. It is a feature that both recumbent and the upright bike offer. However, this is the only way you can intensify your workout using stationary bikes. 

These are the factors that you will have to consider when purchasing a stationary bike. You know precisely how an upright bike differs from a recumbent bike. By analyzing these differences and bringing into consideration your requirements, you can make the right choice. 

To help you further, here is a summary of all the pros and cons of both recumbent bikes and upright bikes. 

Related:
Air Bike vs Spin Bike
Spin Bike vs Stationary Bike

Pros & Cons

A. Upright Exercise Bike

Pros

  • Easy to use since mimics the movement of traditional bike riding
  • Impacts more muscles due to the position of the body and movement 
  • Easy for a rider to adjust to the movement 
  • The structure motivates people to workout 
  • Helps in burning calories and losing weight 

Cons

  • It poses a high risk of injuries and causes lower back and butt pain
  • Makes a workout challenging 
  • It is not the most comfortable way to workout 
  • Limited options of intensifying the workout

B. Recumbent Bike

Pros

  • Keeps a rider’s body in a natural reclined position
  • It comes equipped with a large seat and offers back support, making a workout session comfortable 
  • Their chances of injuries are close to negligible 
  • Impact glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads
  • Helps in burning calories and losing weight 

Cons

  • It takes a few days to adjust to the ‘new’ movement and position
  • Limited options of intensifying workout



Our Top Picks

Schwinn 270

Best Recumbent Bike

A premium bike with an outstanding quality. Awesomely quiet, no matter the resistance level.

Exerpeutic Folding Upright

Best Upright Bike

A men’s health editors choice. Large seat cushion with Hand Pulse Monitor and space-saving design.

When to Buy a Recumbent Bike and When to Buy an Upright Bike

The final decision depends upon your requirements and body needs.

If comfort is your priority, then a recumbent bike is the perfect option for you. It lets you workout in a natural reclined position with a large seat. It takes off the stress from your tailbones and transfers it on the fat buts.

However, if the muscles being worked and ease of use if a determining factor for you, an upright bike is the one you need.

An upright bike, just like a recumbent bike, works on your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, but it also impacts other muscles. These include spinae, core, shoulders, triceps, as well as forearms. Moreover, upright bikes are structured just like a traditional bike and mimic the movements of a conventional bike; it is easier to use as compared to a recumbent bike. As compared to upright bikes, the recumbent bikes facilitate a new form of movement, and adjusting to it may take some time. 

Conclusion

Everything that you need to know about both upright and recumbent bikes have been provided in this detailed guide. You know the critical differences between these types of bikes. It will clarify any misconceptions you have about both these bikes. Moreover, you even know which bike is suitable for which circumstances. 

However, the final decision depends upon what suits you and what exactly are the needs of your body. You need to prioritize your requirements above all because you will be the one using it! 

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