Recumbent bike vs. Elliptical: Which One to Choose & Why!

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If you’re someone who would much rather go for lower-impact equipment for training, then both the recumbent bike and elliptical trainer should be your ideal choice. An elliptical trainer can easily be used by people of all ages. You can use either a recumbent bike or an elliptical trainer for having effective cardiovascular workout sessions. Both these exercise machines will target a similar set of muscle groups within your body. However, there remain some significant differences, when it comes to how your calories are burned. Both of these training equipment work on your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calf muscles. Also, if you’re into lifting heavy weights, then using either a recumbent bike or an elliptical trainer can be a very effective method of warming up.

Recumbent bike

A recumbent bike is specially designed to be used indoors and it can benefit you in several ways, upon usage. These bikes have been designed with the idea of making your workout session more efficient by providing you with several resistance levels, while at the same time ensuring that your back maintains a proper posture. Recumbent bikes have an ergonomic design, this will ensure that your body is positioned properly and at the same time, make your workout sessions secure and effective. Similar to an elliptical trainer, recumbent bikes can serve as a very productive low-impact, training machinery. You can use a recumbent bike either at the start or end of your workout sessions. You can easily fine-tune the pedals in this bike based on your preference. You can use this bike for warming up your muscles and joints before going for heavy weight-lifting and other intense impact-exercises. This can significantly reduce your chances of any form of injuries from occurring. You can also use a recumbent bike for superb cardio sessions, this can be a very efficient method of burning calories, shedding weight and in the process, you can gain lean muscles. One of the major advantages of recumbent bikes is, you can perform very low-impact exercises while using this training equipment. A recumbent bike should be perfect if you suffer from frequent backache, have weak joints, or if you are on rehab from any injuries. As mentioned previously, these bikes will also help in properly supporting your back. Thanks to the backrest on this bike, your back won’t be exposed to unnecessary pressure.

Recumbent Bike

Figure: Recumbent Bike

Benefits of using Recumbent bikes

  • This will offer you a Lower impact exercise mechanism
  • You can alter the programs and bring variations among the speed and resistance levels
  • It will help in strengthening muscles in the lower body, such as your glutes, hamstrings & quads
  • These exercise bikes will help you in shedding weight and fat by moderately burning your calories
  • Several Recumbent bikes are fitted with a built-in sound system and racks for holding your water bottles

Drawbacks of using Recumbent bikes

  • It won’t work on your upper body muscles
  • Initially, you need to put in the significant effort for strengthening your quads to get sufficient intensity levels

Elliptical trainer

The elliptical trainer’s motion otherwise known as the oval motion will help you to achieve a full range of motion. The subtle and smooth motion of this training equipment will ensure that your joints remain flexible and mobile. An elliptical trainer is low-impact workout equipment that has been specially designed to imitate and simulate movements similar to the ones when you’re sprinting. Upon usage of this machinery, you’ll clearly notice this. One major plus side of this training equipment is, unlike sprinting, using an elliptical trainer won’t cause your feet to come into contact with the ground every time. So, this results in a lesser amount of pressure from being exerted on your hips, knees, ankles, and toes. Also, if your equipment is fitted with handlebars then it can sync your lower and upper body movements very effectively. This way, the machine can also work on your core and upper body muscles, in addition to your calf, hamstrings, quads, and glutes during the entirety of your workout sessions. Much like a Recumbent bike, an Elliptical Trainer can also be used for warm-up sessions before you move on to perform more intense workouts. You can also use the Elliptical to carry out your specific workout routine. An Elliptical machine can do wonders if you’re contemplating shedding some extra pounds or gaining lean muscles. This machine is a very popular choice of workout equipment among a lot of fitness enthusiasts.

Elliptical trainer

Figure: Elliptical trainer

Benefits of using Elliptical trainers

  • It won’t cause too much impact on your joints
  • You will enjoy yourself while using this equipment
  • This will enable you to make adjustments to both the speed and resistance levels
  • You can use this training equipment by following either a lower or upper inclined mechanism
  • It helps in burning comparatively more calories. Because it also works on your upper body muscles

Drawbacks of using Elliptical trainers

  • Working out on this can be bad for you if you have pre-existing knee problems.

Benefits of workouts on an Elliptical trainer

The diagram able shows some of the benefits of workouts on an Elliptical trainer

Comparison between Recumbent bike & Elliptical trainers

Recumbent bikeElliptical trainers
SeatConsists of a backrest to support your back, has a bit of paddingNon existent
HandlebarsPositioned comfortably, parallel to the backrestLong, Synced with the pedals
PedalsFront of bodyUnder the body, Attached to the length of handlebars
ConsoleYes, Electronic watch display or LED displayYes, Electronic watch display or LED display
Muscles worked onCalves, Quads, Hamstrings, GlutesShoulder, Biceps, Triceps, Core, Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads and, Calf muscles
Region of body muscles tonedLower bodyUpper & Lower body
Impact on JointsModerateLow
Target groupUsers with joint issues, such as in knees, ankles and hipsAlmost all users without any joint problem, any age group
Burn of CaloriesCalories burned is less as only a few muscle group is targetedCalories burned is more than a recumbent bike as more muscle group is targeted
Weight loss PotentialityLesser weight loss compared to Elliptical trainersGreater weight loss compared to Recumbent bikes
ResistanceServes Electro-magnetic resistance, Operated manually, Offers better simulationConsists of motorized or Electro-magnetic resistance. Resistance mechanism is quite high compared to recumbent bikes
Variation of WorkoutsLess variationGreater variation
SafetyVery solidSolid
Riding positionHaving a reclined body position, with your spine flat and parallel to the backrestUpright position, keeps your spine straight and your legs and hands moving
Space consumptionMay be portable, space consuming, Not foldableIt is not portable, Not foldable

The following diagrams show the features of Elliptical trainers and Recumbent bikes

anatomy of an elliptical machine

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Features of Recumbent bikes

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The table below illustrates and compares the amount of work done by different forms of exercises compared to Recumbent Biking and Elliptical Training

Recumbent bike vs Elliptical

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Between Recumbent bikes and Elliptical trainer, which would do a better job in keeping you fit?

A1: Recumbent bikes and Elliptical trainers work on your cardiovascular system and it helps in significantly reducing the risk associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Both these workout equipment also enhance your stamina. Also, this equipment does not put too much stress on your joints. The elliptical trainer works on both your upper and lower body. So, compared to a recumbent bike it can result in a more grueling workout session. Whereas a recumbent bike strictly works on your lower body and also consists of a seat for you to sit on during your sessions. In the case of older people, a recumbent bike can be an ideal method of keeping themselves fit as it will allow them to position their backs safely against the backrest. Elliptical bikes can be very useful for your weak knees, hips, and for anyone who’s in the process of rehab from any injuries.

Note: You are advised to exercise for a minimum of 10 minutes on either a recumbent bike or an elliptical trainer. Whereas, the optimal duration of a workout should be around 30 minutes to 45 minutes. This will ensure that you have a healthy mind and a fit body.

Q2: How do Recumbent bikes and Elliptical bikes perform when it comes to tone your muscles?

A2: Both these workout equipment perform very well when it comes to tone your muscles. However, they won’t enhance your muscle mass. You should keep in mind that these haven’t been manufactured for body-building purposes.

Recumbent bikes: This exercise bike works specifically on both your calf, thighs. During your workouts, the backrest on the seat helps in ensuring that you’re maintaining proper posture, keeping your spinal cord straight. This is vital when it comes to keeping your back pain in check. However, you should keep in mind that recumbent bikes don’t do too much work on your upper body. But you can strengthen your thighs, calf muscles, and glutes simply by increasing the resistance levels.

The video below will give you an idea about the muscles that a Recumbent bike works on.

Elliptical trainers: An Elliptical bike works on both your upper and lower body. It works significantly on your upper body, the muscles on your back, on both your biceps and triceps, the pectoral muscles on your chest and your abdomen. On the other hand, when it comes to your lower body, it works on your glutes, thighs, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Within the duration of moving your arms using the handlebars, your biceps and triceps are being worked on rigorously. This also causes the pedals to be in sync and moving at the same time. Hence, it will result in work being done on your glutes, thighs, hamstrings, quads, and calves. We advise you to pedal back and forth so that it works on other muscles of your body as well.

The video below will give you an idea about the muscles that an Elliptical trainer works on.

Note: If you want more work to be done on your muscles while working on either the Recumbent bike or Elliptical trainer, then we advise you to increase the resistance levels. If the resistance levels are set to be quite low, then a sufficient amount of work won’t be done on your muscles, this, in turn, will have an insignificant effect.

Q3: Is a Recumbent bike or an Elliptical trainer more effective when it comes to shedding some pounds?

A3: Both these workout equipment will help you in losing weight. But the amount of weight you lose will depend on at what intensity you’re prepared to workout.

The table below depicts the number of calories you’ll burn upon the usage of an Exercise bike and an elliptical bike.


Working out on an Elliptical bike will result in 15% more calories burnt. However, what tends to be the ultimate determining factor is the intensity at which you are working out. If you carry out a high-intensity workout on a recumbent bike in comparison with a low-intensity workout on an elliptical trainer, then the Recumbent bike will cause you to shed more weight. All in all, if you consider everything while maintaining similar conditions during workout sessions on either of this equipment. The Elliptical bike has the upper hand as it targets more muscle groups, resulting in more calories to be burned in the process.

You will be able to understand how to make use of an elliptical trainer when you are recovering from a knee injury upon going through the video below.

Q4: What are the other factors that I should take into consideration while choosing between a Recumbent bike or an elliptical trainer?

A4: There isn’t too much between a Recumbent bike and an elliptical trainer. Both this workout equipment will help you to carry out efficient cardio sessions to help you lose weight, aid you in maintaining proper shape and enhance your stamina without putting too much stress on your joints and lastly strengthen and tone your upper and lower body. Two defining factors between choosing either a Recumbent bike or an elliptical trainer is the amount of space they take up and their price. The Recumbent bike will require a greater amount of space to be accommodated. However, it will cost way less for you to buy a recumbent bike in comparison to an Elliptical trainer. We urge you to consider these two factors while buying this workout equipment.

Q5: Would a Recumbent bike or an Elliptical bike be more suited for elderly people?

A5: A recumbent bike will be well suited for elderly people. Also, if you suffer from back pain or weak joints, then a recumbent bike will be ideal for you. You can easily get on and off this bike. The backrest on this bike will make sure that your spine is properly supposed during your workouts. You will be able to maintain proper posture at all times during your rides.

➥ We have a very good selection of recumbent exercise bikes for senior citizens, we suggest, you have a look!

Q6: Will I be able to perform High-Intensity Interval Workouts (HIIT) on recumbent bikes?

A6: Yes, you will be able to perform HIIT on recumbent bikes. However, you won’t be able to cycle in high-intensity while maintaining a standing position. But you can carry out high-intensity pedaling while being in a seated position.


A recumbent bike will cause your upper body and your buttocks to be at rest during your workout. It will be working on your thigh and calves. If you have back-ache or suggest from joint-immobility then a recumbent bike may be an ideal; cardio workout equipment for you. However, if you want to shed some weight and plan on going for aerobic exercises, then you should definitely go for a recumbent bike instead. You should think about your preference and requirements before contemplating buying either of these for your cardio sessions.

Dion Lewis

My name is Dion Lewis.I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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