Recumbent Exercise Bike vs Upright Bike

By Chuck | Exercise Bikes

Congratulations on your decision to actively seek a fitter body. The fact that you are looking at exercise bikes means you are determined to meet your goals.

The debate of what is the best between a recumbent exercise bike and upright bike is probably one of the lingering questions on your mind right now.

Well, the main difference between recumbent and upright bikes is the position of the user during workouts.

A recumbent bike gives you the position of sitting back with your legs in front of you as you pedal to fitness. An upright bike on the other hand gives you the same position as you would while riding any kind of bicycle.

No matter which of these two exercise bikes you choose at the end of the day, there are lots of benefits you stand to gain. They can both be a great way to get low-impact cardio exercises without too much stress on the joints.

The good news is that there are lots of different brands and models available at every price point. This essentially means that you should have no problems finding an upright or recumbent bike within your budget.

However, knowing how these bikes work as well as their positives and negatives is the best way you can determine which one is right for you.

Riding Position: Recumbent Bike vs Upright Bike

Recumbent Exercise Bike vs upright bike

The different riding position of both types of exercise bikes is their main difference. A recumbent bike gives you the same ability to sit back and workout like you’re sitting on a chair.

As long as the built-in back support offered by a particular model is good, you should have no problems working out for hours.

An upright bike on the other hand gives you the same riding position reminiscent of sitting on a stool at your favorite bar. Just as you do on a regular mountain bike or other types of bicycles, the onus is left to you to support yourself more.

Senior citizens and those who are suffering from back problems tend to prefer the recumbent position for exercise bikes. This is mainly due to the genuine back support offered which allows them to go on working out for as long as they want.

With the bigger and more comfortable seats integrated into recumbent bikes as well as the handlebars and backrest, you can expect more support if you have balance problems.

However, the seemingly more comfortable riding position available on recumbent bikes can also impede your ability to pedal as fast as possible to skyrocket your heart rate to targeted zones.

Upright bikes and spin bikes give you the same riding position as regular bicycles. This means you get the freedom to pedal as much as you want.

If you have never ridden a regular bike in the past then just give yourself sometime until you get used to it and you’ll be glad.

Joints

Both types of exercise bikes are famous for the low impact on the joints of users when compared to other fitness equipment. However, your ability to sit back and position your legs forward on a recumbent bike means your joints get a field day compared to upright bikes.

Upright bikes tend to affect the joints more. However, there’s minimal risk of injuries or serious sore joints even after intensive workouts on one of those.

Flexibility

Upright bikes are more flexible in terms of movement and the variety of workouts available; there are no two ways about that.

Indoor upright bikes also known as spin bikes actually give you a variety of exercises users can only dream about on a recumbent. From sprint workouts to hill climb simulation exercises, you can be sure that boring routines are out of the question.

The wide array of exercises motivates you to work harder, burning more calories and of course, toning more areas of the body.

These bikes are the way to go if you are serious about transforming your cardiovascular and physical health.

Upper Body

typical riding position of a recumbent bike

Full body workouts are the way to go if you want more than the health benefits of staying fit namely the physical perks. The sit-down riding position of a recumbent bike means that the impact on your upper body is minimal at best.

The continuous need to gain balance on an upright bike while working out gives enormous benefits to your upper body areas. Your belly, chest, arms, and back areas get genuinely excellent workouts in the course of riding.

Remember, riding on an upright bike requires bending your body forward and holding yourself in position in order not to lose balance.

Weight Loss

As long as you burn more calories than consumed, weight loss will occur. Most people see the recumbent as too relaxed for burning a huge amount of calories.

However, detailed studies have shown that this is only a misconception. The truth is, you are guaranteed to burn lots of calories even in the recumbent position as long as you work out with the same intensity, resistance, and time as an upright bike.

Most users actually try to pedal even faster on the recumbent in order to make up for the perceived “relaxation” it offers.

However, if you are more interested in losing fat around the upper body area, an upright bike probably gives you a slight advantage.

Remember, the level of comfort available on a recumbent also allows you to work out for a lengthier period of time.

Seat

picture of an upright exercise bike

Seating is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing between a recumbent exercise bike vs upright bike. Recumbent bikes tend to have bigger seats with more layers of padding material which usually leads to more comfort.

Working out on an upright bike can be quite uncomfortable due to the type of seats they come with. Most models feature larger bike seats which can be very hard on your butts.

This could stand in the way if your aim is to work out for longer periods of time to get in line with your fitness goals. A seat cover purchased separately usually comes with the necessary padding to make cycling more comfortable.

Ease of Getting On or Off

Because of the nature of their design, recumbent bikes are usually easier to hop on and off. Their standard step-through design means you don’t have to lift your leg over the frame- a move that can be extremely difficult for senior citizens who want to stay fit.

Upright bikes require lifting your leg over its frame. If you are very short, the only way to achieve this may be jumping over the seat or using the pedals as a springboard.

Compactness

Standard recumbent bikes tend to be less compact than their upright counterparts. This is due to the sit-back design which usually results in the frame becoming longer. These types of exercise bikes end up taking up more space at home.

An upright bike is designed for users to virtually sit in the air meaning there’s no comfortable seat with backrest to elongate the frame. Also, many models can be easily folded to fit in the smallest spaces.

Cost

The truth is you can find a recumbent or upright bike at virtually any budget these days. Generally, the relative minimalistic design of upright bikes means you can expect to pay a little less for them.

Focused Muscles

Generally speaking, exercise bikes are built to help you work on lower body muscles such as calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, and quads.

While a recumbent has little to no impact on your upper body muscles, upright bikes tend to ace that part of your body.

Exercising on an upright bike 3-4 times weekly helps build strength in the abdominal muscles, arms, shoulders, and back area.

Entertainment

The good news is that you can enjoy watching your favorite shows on virtually any exercise bike in the course of your workout. However, the limited support in upright bikes means you can’t expect to do this as comfortably as you want.

Reading a Kindle eBook or regular paperback becomes extremely difficult because trying to gain support and balance gets your hands full.

A recumbent bike on the other hand gives you 5-star entertainment. From watching movies on your computer to sampling through your favorite music playlist, you get the freedom to do it all.

However, don’t forget that entertainment in the course of a workout is a 2-way street. It can make your sessions more enjoyable but could also serve as a distraction that can limit your intensity.

Conclusion

If you are desperate to get in shape, tone muscles, burn calories, and improve your stamina, an exercise bike is the way to go. Fortunately, both types of bikes can give you excellent results.

The most suitable option for you depends on your personal preferences and goals.

A recumbent bike is the best option if you don’t want to compromise on comfort during workouts. It allows you to exercise at your own pace while watching TV, reading the news or even a best-selling paperback.

These bikes are also great for those with bad backs as it provides awesome back support in the form of comfortable seats and dedicated backrests.

The arm rests also complement the backrests to provide enormous support for those who do not have a lot of balance.

For those who have undergone hip replacements or recovering from injuries, a recumbent can’t be beat because it is gentler on the joints. If you are extremely busy and hardly find time to hit the gym, a recumbent bike can be lifesaving.

Users get to exercise while reading and replying emails and generally staying productive at the same time.

An upright bike on the other hand is great for those with limited space at home. They are usually cheaper than their recumbent counterparts and give you more intense workouts.

These bikes also give you the ability to stay in shape during winter and other colder times of the year when training outside seems impractical.

It is important to evaluate the strengths and weakness of both types in detail. Then go in for the type that you see yourself consistently exercising with.


About the Author

Chuck is a lazy fitness enthusiast committed to sharing the latest tips and comprehensive gear reviews to help you work out smart instead of hard.

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