Recumbent Bike for Weight Loss: How Effective is It & How to Maximize your Efforts

All products are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission.
kathlene pierson spinning instructor and writer
By Katie Pierson

Spinning® Instructor & Personal Trainer

 Katie holds ten different fitness certifications, including Group Fitness, Spinning Elite, Rockstar Spinning, and Personal Training.

People have a variety of goals and reasons for why they decide they want to improve their body composition. However, one of the biggest reasons we hear is that people want to lose weight to improve their health.

Are you considering a recumbent bike to reach your health goals? Let us break down how effective this piece of equipment is and how to maximize your efforts.

What Is a Recumbent Bike?

Recumbent Bike for Weight Loss

A recumbent bike puts the rider in a more reclined riding position than the usual upright style. In addition, the pedals are in front of the rider compared to underneath. Also, the handlebars are located around the seat.

Recumbent Exercise Bike Benefits

Comfort

A larger, more comfortable seat is just one of the great benefits of a recumbent bike. Because of the reclined position of a recumbent, many riders find this position more comfortable, especially with the assistance of the backrest and handlebars. In addition, since the riding position is relatively pleasant, riders can tolerate longer durations in the saddle.

Easy on the Body

Not only is biking easier on joints since it is a non-impact exercise, but a recumbent bike is gentler on the body than other types of cycles. In addition, the reclined positioning of the seat allows riders to get onto the bike and maintain a proper riding position—the handlebars and backrest help support the rider’s balance and form.

Challenging for Riders of All Fitness Levels

Preset programming is usually included in the console of these models allowing riders to select workouts and resistance levels that continue to be challenging. This helps build cardiovascular endurance, which provides benefits such as decreasing the chance for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, building bone density, increasing stamina and strength, and assisting with weight management.

Muscles Worked with a Recumbent Bike

A recumbent bike offers a worthy lower body workout. Now, let’s get a little technical and break down the muscle groups activated while riding a recumbent bike.

Glutes

The glutes or buttock muscles are one of the leading powerhouse muscle groups for biking. Gluteus Medius, Maximus, and Minimus drive power through hip extension during the pedal stroke.

Quadriceps

The quadriceps have four different muscles: Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermerdias that help with knee extension, while Rectus Femoris assists with knee and hip extension.

Hamstrings

The muscles Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Bicep Femoris form the hamstring and are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension.  

Shins

The anterior tibialis muscle helps with dorsiflexion (points the toes up).

Calves

The two main muscles of the calf that are activated while riding a recumbent bike include the gastrocnemius and soleus. They are responsible for plantar flexion (points the toes downward).

Is a Recumbent Bike Good for Weight Loss?

Recumbent bikes can be good for weight loss as working out will increase your daily calorie expenditure. They offer a low-impact workout, easier on joints such as knees, hips, and ankles. The bike’s low-impact capability allows riders to work out longer, burning more calories. In addition, this type of workout will help increase the rider’s cardiovascular fitness level. Cardio helps strengthen your heart since it is a muscle, allowing you to train harder and longer.

*It is important to note that losing weight is a three-pronged approach, including cardiovascular exercise, weight training, and, most importantly, fueling your body correctly.

Tips & Factors to Burn More Calories with a Recumbent Bike

When it comes down to maximizing your workouts on a recumbent bike, keeping the concept of F.I.T. in mind is critical. F.I.T. stands for frequency, intensity, and time which we will discuss in greater detail.

Frequency

How often you are using your recumbent bike is essential. A good rule of thumb is three workouts per week maintains your current fitness level, but 4-to 5 sessions per week will improve it. Consistency is key if you want to see improvements in your body composition. For example, a 30-minute ride on a recumbent bike will torch over 200 calories aiding in weight management.

Intensity

Intensity plays a significant role in busting through plateaus. I always tell my clients to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Varying your intensity levels not only makes your workouts more fun but also helps to keep your body guessing. For example, a Tabata workout requires a very high-intensity output and shorter workout time while offering a caloric afterburn of 9X higher than an endurance ride.

Time

The amount of time spent on your recumbent bike impacts the number of calories expended during a ride. Aim for at least three 30-minute rides per week. If you are unable to ride that long, that is okay. Instead, start building your endurance and gradually adding minutes to your workout. Endurance rides will be longer on the bike compared to higher intensity workouts.

Recumbent vs. Upright vs. Indoor Cycle Comparison

There are a few differences in overall muscle recruitment when riding recumbent, upright, and indoor cycles. Since all three exercise bike options are made to target the lower body, there is no surprise that hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, anterior tibialis (shin), and calves are all utilized in each bike option. However, there are a few differences in how specific muscles work in each riding position. For example, a study published by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that the semitendinosus (part of the hamstring) and tibialis anterior (shin) had greater activation while riding in a recumbent position compared to that of an upright position. In contrast, greater output from the Rectus Femoris (part of the quadriceps) was seen when riding upright. In addition, since recumbent bikes include a backrest, the abdominals are not required to engage to maintain proper positioning. Finally, although indoor cycles are also considered a type of upright cycle, due to their flywheel design and the ability for riders to also train out of the saddle, they require more muscle recruitment.

RecumbentUprightIndoor
HamstringsYesYesYes
QuadricepsYesYesYes
GlutesYesYesYes
ShinsYesYesYes
CalvesYesYesYes
CoreNoYesYes
Upper BodyNoNoYes

The Bottom Line

Any exercise that you commit to has the opportunity to result in weight loss. However, remember that there is more to weight loss than just increasing your cardio output. Nevertheless, a recumbent bike is a fantastic exercise option for riders just starting or veterans looking to continue to challenge their bodies.

Katie Pierson

Katie is the creator of MT Girl Fitness and has been a certified fitness professional for almost twenty years. She currently holds ten different fitness certifications, including Group Fitness, Spinning Elite, Rockstar Spinning, and Personal Training. Fitness is her passion, and she loves seeing her clients reach goals they never imagined.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.