Recumbent Bike vs Upright Bike: Differences Explained

A recumbent bike and an upright bike will both give you a good safe cardiovascular workout and are often recommended as the ideal exercise for people who are recovering from injuries or starting an exercise regime. However it is good to be aware of the differences between a recumbent and upright bike to understand which is best suited for you.

Recumbent Bike vs Upright Bike – Comparison

The main difference’s between the two bikes is as a result of the layout and structure of each.  On a recumbent bike, you will have a bucket seat with a backrest and you will exercise in a more horizontal position than on an upright bike when the seat is smaller and you need to use your core muscles to ensure balance and posture. In many cases the rider on an upright bike is hunched forward over the handlebars which can led to a stiff and sore neck and shoulder pain and the smaller seat on an upright bike is often uncomfortable for riders and leads to saddle soreness. The back support on the recumbent bike is beneficial for people with lower back pain and sciatica.

Another big difference between the two bikes is the position of the pedals, on a recumbent bike the pedals are placed in front of the rider, while on an upright bike the pedals are below the rider. This results in the recumbent bike being less stressful on your spine and joints such as ankles and knees.

Both recumbent and upright bikes burn the same amount of calories and have the sale effect on weight loss and fitness.

Muscles used: Recumbent bike vs Upright

An upright bike will give your body a more consistent all over workout than a recumbent bike, which only exercises some of your muscles.   Cycling on an upright bike will ensure your upper body gets a workout as much as your lower body because of the sitting position and the need to use you abdominal muscles to balance the bike.

An recumbent bike will use the following muscles during a workout: Quadriceps (your thigh muscles), Hamstrings (back of your upper thigh), calves and your Tibilais Anterior (shins) . Your abdominal muscles will get a low impact workout when you pedal

When using an upright bike, all the muscles used on recumbent bike will be exercised as well as your gluteus Maximus (your bum), your arm muscles, chest and shoulder muscles and your back.  Your abdominal muscles also get a more intense workout.

Recumbent bike vs Upright bike: Knee Injuries

Both recumbent and upright bikes are considered excellent ways to rehabilitate after knee injuries because of the low impact the exercise has on the joints.

The impact on the knees with a recumbent bike is lower than than the impact of an upright bike, but the full range of movement on the recumbent bike is less. Many doctors recommend that after an injury, a recumbent bike is used in the beginning to start strengthening the muscles and increasing the range of motion and then one the knee has recovered sufficiently, using an upright bike to increase the recovery. One of the risks of an upright bike however is the tendency for riders to stand while cycling, which can cause the knee damage and delay healing.

Choosing between a recumbent of upright bike is a matter of personal choice and an understanding of the level of strength and fitness of your body, your age and your overall health.

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