Which Is Better A Recumbent Bike or An Upright?

Recumbent Bike Vs Upright: What’s The Difference?

Understandably, you’re pretty excited if it’s your first piece of home gym equipment. If you have set new goals for yourself and are eager to start your new program, this may be a good time for you.

Firstly, which bike would you prefer: a recumbent or an upright? Which one is good for you? Will one get you into better shape more quickly? How will it affect your joints?

Several studies from the medical and science in sports and exercise journal indicate that cycling for as little as 30-45 minutes is efficient in raising metabolism and maintaining it throughout the day.

The resistance you meet on an exercise bike helps you build muscle and burn calories, so it’s a great cardio workout with weight loss benefits. However, which is better, a recumbent bike or an upright? Let’s explore!

Which Is Better A Recumbent Bike Or an Upright?

What is the difference between the two bikes, and which one is suitable for your fitness? Please take a look! I’ve compiled many factors.

Manually Operated Resistance

Recumbent Bike

The main difference is that the resistance on a recumbent bike is manually operated, and you can stand up, which engages your hamstrings.

In general, recumbent bikes have a more comprehensive range of seat and handlebar height adjustments. They’re simple to use and great for high-intensity interval training. Your body is positioned in a better place for some, which is more comfortable.

Upright Bike

In contrast, upright bikes tend to be cheaper and compact. Some models contain cycling and fitness programs included in the console.

Upright bikes often have preset programs to follow, and 95% of the work you’ll do is sitting down. As a result, they tend to be more quad and dominant.

Both of these bikes are great entry-level pieces of equipment for training at home.

Engage More Muscles

Recumbent Bike

Recumbent bikes keep clients seated instead of allowing them to stand and engage different muscles. Many people don’t engage their core muscles on this bike because of the seat position and slight recline.

The lower body is typically engaged when using this bike. However, it does provide a stable environment since your client does not have to hold on to the handlebars. This allows them to do more with their hands during exercise (hold weights, read a book, etc.).

Upright Bike

You can have your clients stand on the upright bike, just like a road bike. They will be able to engage more muscles, as well as use different strengths, as compared to just pedaling.

An upright bike exercises the core muscles as the rider stands and sits, and the seat requires the client to maintain their posture during exercise.

In contrast to the recumbent bike, this requires more stability and balance. Both seated and standing positions require the lower body to be engaged.

In addition to exercising their glutes and arms, standing will also help them engage their arms. It’s more effective to alternate from seated to standing positions to work out the whole body.

Burn Calories

Recumbent Bike

The recumbent exercise bike is stigmatized as ineffective as the upright exercise bike in terms of burning calories. However, the intensity and duration of the workout determine calorie burn.

Recumbent bikes are more comfortable than upright exercise bikes, so clients spend more time on them. In addition, they’ll be able to pedal faster, which will allow them to burn more calories. This is good for clients hoping to lose weight.

Upright Bike

You get to burn more calories than the recumbent. You burn more calories with the upright bike than the recumbent due to the riding position of the upright bike, which resembles a regular bike. The latter is designed to be more comfortable and protect the user from back injuries.

In general, people assume clients will burn more calories on upright bicycles since they engage more muscles. However, this is not always the case. Another factor that you must consider is the rider’s weight. The client would likely work out for a much shorter time and with less intensity on these bikes.

Over time, this can significantly impact the number of calories they burn. Although this can be a bit uncomfortable, if the rider is willing to work hard and doesn’t mind the slight discomfort, it can be an effective way to burn calories.


Recumbent Bike

A recumbent bike puts your client’s body in a more natural position and is usually easier on their joints and backs during exercise. Sitting on a piece of furniture with a backrest and adequate seat coverage is like sitting on a piece of furniture with a backrest.

This also typically has a slightly sloping backrest. This type of bike typically has a much more comfortable seat and pedals positioned out in front of the body, making it a much more stable and comfortable ride.

Upright Bike

A road bicycle is an upright version of a regular outdoor bike. They have smaller seats without backrests, and the pedals are on the bottom of the body.

Depending on where one sits on the bike and how large the seat is, as well as how far one leans forward to reach the handlebars, riding the motorcycle may cause discomfort:

  • Tailbone region
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Wrists

Riding Position

There is a major difference in the riding position between these two bikes. The recumbent bike offers riders a reduced risk of back injuries. Hence, exercise your lower body; the upright bicycle is ridden like a regular bike, exposing one to the lower back and saddle sore wound.

The recumbent allows one to sit on it like an office chair. This makes it an ideal bike for those who suffer from back injuries; as you recline on the bike, you can use your feet to recycle.

Ability to Progress

Is it easier to progress on recumbent vs upright bikes? Choosing between these two options is difficult because you can increase the intensity by turning up the resistance, forcing your muscles to work harder.

Additionally, if you want to build your strength and quickness, you can increase your speed.

It doesn’t get much easier than these two methods, so there’s no natural way to progress with the bike. Providing you increase one or both of them steadily, you should see good results in your program.

Seat Size

The recumbent uses a more prominent seat than the upright bike. The recumbent seat resembles a standard office chair, while the upright exercise bike is positioned in an upright body position.


The recumbent pedals are easier to reach. You notice that the pedals are located in front of the body on recumbents.

At the same time, those upright bikes are under the body. This makes the recumbent bike safer to ride than the upright bike and ideal for beginners.


The recumbent bikes are more significant and take up more space than the upright bike. Part of the reason for this is the large seat and positioning of the pedals. It is therefore critical to account for space when purchasing one.

Model RecumbentUpright
Position of PedalsFront of the bodyUnder the body
Seat SizeLargerSmaller
Riding PositionReclined with large seatUpright with a small seat
Injury Risk LowModerate
Ease of UseSuitable for beginnersA bit hard to ride
Workout ConsistencyModerate High

Recumbent Bike Vs Upright Bike: Which One Is Best?

First, note that anyone can use these bikes successfully without any problems. In general, there is no reason for someone to report using either of these bikes, as looking as they are not suffering from a knee injury, they should avoid biking.

Accordingly, each bike will cater to a specific type of individual better than others, so that’s what I’m talking about here. The recumbent bike improves endurance. The recumbent bike is more comfortable for most people because the quad muscles and the hamstrings work together intensively instead of just the quad muscles working almost alone.

It is more likely that the quad muscles will burn out quickly if the emphasis is placed mainly on them, and they will no longer be able to keep up the intensity required for a prolonged period of exercise.

Generally, recumbent bikes are recommended for wheelchair users, people with mobility limitations, seniors, and those suffering lower limb and back injuries because of the ease of use and the seat’s safety.

Which One Is Best for Back Pain?

The movements on recumbent and exercise bikes are smooth, constant, and safe for joints, unlike other fitness machines, such as the rowing machine. Because of the reclined position, the recumbent bike puts less stress on the knee than the upright bike.

In this way, a recumbent bike is perfect for knees and rehabilitates after an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Despite the slight increase in knee extension angle in the upright position, the difference in ankle angle between vertical and recumbent positions is insignificant for other knee injuries or problems.

If you have concerns regarding your exercise routine, you should consult your doctor about what intensity, and which movements to avoid. As for back pain, notably lower back pain, recumbent bikes are better than upright bikes. A recumbent bike is better for lower back pain since it has a comfortable sitting position and provides back support. If you are riding an upright bike, you should keep your back straight and ensure your saddle is at the right height.

People with back or knee problems and seniors may benefit from recumbent bikes more than upright bikes.

Benefits of a Recumbent Exercise Bike and an Upright

Now, I discuss the advantages of these two bikes. Let’s have a look!

Recumbent Bike

A recumbent bike gives the user more stability since the weight is more evenly distributed. You can benefit from the support that a recumbent bike provides for your back and spine. Think about pedaling from a chair regarding how this back would work.

A recumbent bike usually has a larger seat and front-mounted pedals than an upright bike. As a result, it’s difficult to fall off.

  • In particular, if you have issues with stability or balance, a recumbent bike is a good option.
  • You will also get less fatigue since the design does not require a lot of your body.
  • Upright bicycles target the hamstrings better than recumbent bikes.
  • As a mild exercise for your back and joints, it is good to do after you’ve been injured or sick.
  • It is easier to read a book or magazine while pedaling on a bike that is so stable.


If you think of the word bike, this is probably the first image that comes to mind. While the upright bike has no wheels, it is positioned similarly to a two-wheeler.

It has a small seat, has no backrest, and the pedals are under your feet instead of in front of you, as with a recumbent bike. Lack of stability and support requires a good sense of balance to exercise safely.

  • Recumbent bikes burn fewer calories than upright bikes since they require more effort from you.
  • The upright bike works your abs, glutes, back, arms, and even your neck. An upright bike offers a complete body workout, while a recumbent bike does not.
  • The practice simulator simulates outdoor riding in bad weather, so it’s useful for training or preparing for races in bad weather. As with an upright bike, riding an outdoor bike engages the same muscles.

Why Does A Upright Bike Work Different Muscles from A Recumbent Bike?

Recumbent bikes allow you to remain horizontal or reclined and do not require you to use your upper body muscles. A stationary upright bike, on the other hand, works the muscles in the upper part of the body as follows:

  • The abdominal muscles contribute to the posture and balance of the spine and pelvis.
  • Maintain your position and support your spine using the quadratus lumborum and iliopsoas muscles.
  • The front and back arms muscles are used when you hold the handlebars. During sprints or riding out of the saddle with high resistance, the arm muscles work more, tightening the handlebars.

You put more strain on your arm muscles (biceps and triceps) and the muscles of your lower back when you pedal out of the saddle with high resistance.

You use less effort on your buttocks and your quadriceps as you use your whole body’s weight to cycle. Recumbent bikes target fewer muscles than upright bikes.

How Does A Recumbent Bike Work the Same Muscles As an Upright Bike?

By using a recumbent bike or upright bike, you can work out the lower body muscles:

  • While pedaling, the quadriceps and hamstrings, the strength at the front and back of your thigh, are constantly in use.
  • The gluteal muscles (large, medium, and small buttocks) are activated when you push the pedals.
  • When you cycle, you use muscles located at the back of your legs, called the triceps, which form the calves.

Sum Up

Increasing cardiovascular endurance is excellent for both. The recumbent bike may come out a bit ahead of the upright bike. The upright bike will produce more incredible top speeds and the ability to work hard against force. This is why it is so beneficial to athletes.

Since both bikes burn calories, they will both help you lose fat. This will create the fat loss deficit needed for weight loss.

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