Having an exercise bike at home can really come in handy when you don't have time to get out and about for a workout. If yours is the recumbent style, it's going to be easier on your back too. The downside: you generally don't stand up on a recumbent, meaning you have fewer options for working different muscle groups. You still have ways to work different muscles on your recumbent. The key is not necessarily to adjust the seat and handlebars after you get going but to make slight adjustments to how you're using the bike during your workout.
Position the seat so that your legs are bent at approximately a 10- to 15-degree angle when your legs are strapped to the pedals and fully extended. Each knee should be slightly above the height of your hips when it is in the upper position. Also, adjust the height of the handlebars so that they're high enough to allow a slight bend in your elbows. Once you've nailed down this proper seat height and distance, don't adjust it -- a seat too far forward can do damage to your knee joints, while a seat too far back can make your pelvis rock forward and back and hurt your lower back.
Turn the tension knob -- typically located near the bike's monitor screen -- to the right to tighten it or to the left to loosen it. If you want to ride for longer periods and get a cardiovascular workout, adjust the tension to a medium level that you can maintain for 20 to 60 minutes. If you're looking to get more of a strength-training workout, turn the knob farther to the right to make it more difficult to pedal. A more intense level will make it difficult to maintain a steady pedal cadence for more than a few minutes. In either case, in this basic position, you'll primarily be working your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles of the butt.
Place the balls of your feet directly on the pedals. After a few minutes, place your toes on the pedals to work slightly different portions of your quadriceps and hamstrings. Move back to the balls of your feet, but widen or narrow your stance. If your bike has adjustable pedal straps, move the straps outward or inward -- making the same adjustment to the pedals -- for one workout and then move them to another position for another workout.
Hold the handlebars firmly as you pedal with a medium level of tension, working to pull your torso up toward the handlebars slightly without allowing your butt or back to leave the seat. Tighten your abdominals and hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute at a time, working your abs in an isometric fashion. The added tension on your arms will also work the biceps and triceps.
- Avoid lifting your pelvis off the seat or rocking it forward or backward while you do the various exercises; doing so can cause back strain.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.