A Comparison Of The Stationary Bike Vs. Recumbent Bike

Choosing which bike to use as your workout program progresses along can be quite the challenge. Many people aren’t entirely sure which bike is going to lead to the best results and which will be optimized for their body.

By answering a few simple questions however, you can figure this out and make an informed purchase decision. The stationary bike is a great way to mimic real life cycling, however the recumbent bike is an ideal option for those who are hoping to avoid low back pain.

Let’s look at more of these pros and cons of the stationary bike vs. recumbent bike.


  Stationary Bike Recumbent Bike
Who It’s Best Suited For Athletes

Young Adult Trainees

Those Hoping To Boost Speed And Power

Older Trainees

Those Recovering From Injury

Those Hoping To Build Endurance

Target Muscles Worked Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Low Back, Core, Shoulders Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves,
Target Fitness Benefits Improved Strength Output

Enhanced Cardiovascular Endurance

Fat Burning Benefits

Improved Speed And Power

Improved Strength Output

Enhanced Cardiovascular Endurance

Fat Burning Benefits

Approximate Calorie Burn Per Hour* 500 450

*Note this will vary considerably depending on your body weight and the intensity level given. Calorie burns are an estimate of a 145 pound individual going at a moderate pace.

Let’s go over these points more thoroughly so you can see the full picture of the stationary bike vs. recumbent bike.

Who it’s Best Suited For

When thinking of who these bikes are best suited for, first note that anyone can successfully use these bikes without a problem. There really are no limitations on someone not using either of these bikes, provided they aren’t suffering from a knee injury, in which case biking should be avoided.

This said, each bike will specialize in helping a certain type of individual a bit more than the other, so that’s what we’re referring to here.

With the stationary bike, because this bike is more physically demanding since there is no backrest to offer support, it’s usually better suited to younger adults than older adults. This said, of course if you are an older adult and you are strong and fit, then this may not be a concern.

But if stability and potential back pain is a concern, that’s more reason to use those backrests the recumbent bike provides.

The stationary bike is also a good option for those who are hoping to improve their athletic performance. This is because if you are doing cycling as a sport, you’ll get better transfer over benefits from using this bike over the recumbent bike as the moment pattern is nearly identical.

Additionally, it’s easier to generate power when on the stationary bike, a concept we’ll discuss in a moment, so this tends to serve athletes better as well.

Speaking of power, the reason why the stationary bike wins out as far as power is concerned is because when you are in the upright position and can lean over the bike handlebars, this makes it generally easier to pedal as fast as possible while keeping the body in a fixed position. If you’ve ever tried to pedal at 100% effort for speed on the recumbent bike, you may have noticed you start to feel a bit uncomfortable. This bike isn’t build as well for power development, so if that’s your goal, choose the stationary bike.

What the recumbent bike is good for is endurance. Most people will find they can bike for longer on the recumbent bike due to the fact that both the hamstrings and the quad muscles are working intensely together, versus just the quad muscles working almost alone. When all the emphasis is being placed on the quad muscles (or most of the emphasis), this means they are more likely to burn out quickly and stop being able to exercise at the intensity needed to carry out the exercise for a prolonged period of time.

Target Muscles Worked

Which leads us into the next point, the target muscles being worked. When you are doing your workouts on the stationary bike vs. recumbent bike, you’re going to work slightly different muscles.

The quads, and calves will be worked with both bike choices, however the hamstrings will not come into play as much on the stationary bike as they will the recumbent bike. They still will be worked, but they’re working more as a secondary mover than a prime mover.

Then on the stationary bike, you can also expect your core, lower back, and even the shoulders to be worked to some degree as they help to keep you stabilized.

Think about which muscles you most want to work when making your decision which bike to use as this can help sway your decision.

Target Fitness Benefits

So what are the fitness benefits you’ll see from each bike? Both bikes are great for increasing cardiovascular endurance. As noted though, the recumbent bike may come out slightly over the stationary bike when looking at this factor.

The stationary bike will be more for developing top speed and the ability to work hard against force. This is why athletes are so well served by it.

Both bikes will help you burn fat since they are both going to burn an appreciable amount of calories, which is key for creating the fat loss deficit that you need.

Approximate Calorie Burn Per Hour

Finally, speaking of calories, how many calories do these bikes burn? How does the stationary bike vs. recumbent bike stack up?

Both bikes will burn around 500 calories per hour, assuming you are a 145 lb. individual who is going at a moderate pace. If you turn up the dial and go at a vigorous pace, you can expect to burn up to 600-700 calories per hour.

The recumbent bike may burn slightly less, 50 calories fewer per hour and this is thanks to the fact that your upper body is completely supported by the machine. The difference is not that significant however so don’t let this be your determining factor. In the grand equation of things, 50 calories per hour is unlikely to make that much of a difference. Choosing the bike you enjoy and are more likely to do your workouts on is far more important.

So there you have the comparison between the stationary bike vs. recumbent bike. As you can see, there are definitely some differences to note and factor in when you decide which to buy. This said, both bikes are excellent for boosting your overall fitness level, so you should see great results regardless of which one you go with.

Photo credit: Supavadee butradee/Shutterstock; MR.SOMKIAT/Shutterstock; BOONSING/Shutterstock; Kzenon/Shutterstock

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