When it comes to the recumbent bike vs. the elliptical, beginners want to know which type of fitness equipment can offer the best low impact workout. Both the elliptical and recumbent exercise bike can be found in any gym, but these days, they’re also commonly found in the home and designed to provide the type of gym-quality workouts that boost endurance and promote weight loss.
But when it comes to results, the biggest differences can be found in the number of calories burned per workout.
What We Love About the Elliptical Machine
Both of these machines train the same muscle groups, however, we found that there are some major differences. The recumbent exercise bike and the elliptical train the quadriceps, glutes, core, and calves and both can be used to warm up before weight lifting workouts or as part of your regular cardio workout session.
An elliptical is a machine that’s designed to mimic the same type of movement as running, but without your feet actually leaving the ground. Because of this, there is less amount of stress placed on the knees and ankles since there is no landing impact. Most models come equipped with handles that are designed to support the user as they move while also training their upper body, providing a type of low impact total body workout that many beginners and seasoned gym goers are looking for. This machine is commonly used as a type of warm-up exercise, but it can also be used as the focus of a low impact cardio workout.
What We Love About the Recumbent Exercise Bike
Like the elliptical machine, the recumbent provides an excellent low impact workout. It can be used in the beginning or at the end of a workout session. Since most models come with a variety of resistance levels, using the recumbent can help to gently lower or raise the pulse. When used to warm up muscles, you will significantly reduce your risk of injury during high impact workouts such as weight training or HIIT. Riding a recumbent for twenty to thirty minutes can also provide a great cardio workout for anyone who wants to lose weight while gaining muscle. The biggest advantage the recumbent has over the elliptical is its extremely low impact level. The recumbent can even be used by athletes or individuals who have suffered a back injury and are in need of a workout for the rehabbing process. The recumbent allows you to sit back, so you’re putting the least amount of pressure on your upper and lower back, unlike the elliptical, which requires you to stand.
Which Machine is More Effective for Weight Loss?
While both of these machines are a great choice for cardio workouts or warming up before a weight training session, one machine tends to offer better weight loss results than the other. Many personal trainers recommend the elliptical machine to clients interested in losing weight at a faster rate. The elliptical is more effective when it comes to warming up and losing weight because the user must stand during the workout. Additionally, the elliptical machine also works the upper body while the recumbent does not. Basically, with an elliptical workout, the core will be more involved.
However, the recumbent also has a slight edge over the elliptical in terms of rehabbing features because it works to protect the rider’s hips and back thanks to its large seat and reclined position.
Studies have shown that the elliptical machine can burn approximately twenty-five to thirty percent more calories than the recumbent bike, which is huge if weight loss is your goal.
Joint Health and Working Out
Using a recumbent or elliptical can provide an effective cardio workout, however, depending on your current physical condition, one machine may be more beneficial than the other, especially if you have a history of knee injuries.
You must constantly use your knees to support the weight of your body and for mobility and because of this, medical issues such as bursitis and tendonitis can be fairly common if you overdo it during a workout, especially if you’re a runner or you’re significantly overweight.
The recumbent is different from the stationary bike in the way the rider is positioned during use. The seat on the recumbent is reclined slightly, with a comfortable backrest that provides much-needed support. The rider will also stretch their legs out, placing their legs at hip height, instead of positioning them straight down like they would on a regular upright bike. This translates to less intensity when pedaling.
Since the seat is also adjustable, moving the seat further from the pedals will also help to decrease the amount of pressure that’s placed on the knees.
Elliptical Machines and Joint Health
An elliptical machine features pedals, just like a recumbent exercise bike. These pedals mimic the motion of running, using a type of gliding pattern as opposed to the up and down motion you experience when running. This gliding movement is combined with handlebars that go back and forth so the workout targets the upper and lower body and the core. Elliptical machines offer a type of low impact exercise that’s easy on the ligaments, tendons, and knees. Some physical therapists even recommend working out on an elliptical in order to rehab knee injuries because there is no direct pressure applied to the knees. Additionally, the user can also alter the angle or slope of the machine to increase or decrease workout intensity.
Bottom line, even a top of the line recumbent bike cannot burn as many calories per workout as the best elliptical machine can, but if your goal is a safer, low impact workout that can gently help you on your path to physical fitness, then the recumbent is the best choice.
If you want to drop weight at a faster rate then you’ll need to increase the intensity of your workout, which makes the elliptical the better choice.