Is it possible to kick back, relax and work out all at the same time? That's part of the thought process behind a recumbent bike. The seat is definitely more comfortable than a standard bike, and the backrest gives you support while your legs do most of the work. Even though it might seem easier than a traditional stationary bike and makes an ideal low-impact exercise machine, a recumbent bike has different levels of resistance to make your legs just as weak the next day.
Feeling the Burn
Just because you can't stand up on the pedals like you can in spinning class doesn't mean a recumbent bike doesn't work your legs. The pedaling motion needs the quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs, as well as the hip flexors and a bit of the gluteus muscles in your tush. Your calves join the workout party as your point and flex your foot as you pedal. These are the same muscles worked on a standard stationary bicycle, although the angle of your legs is different. Your hip muscles don't work as hard on a recumbent bike, but you can compensate by changing the pedaling intensity.
To get a better workout on a recumbent bike, take advantage of the incline settings. These simulate riding up and down hills, working your quadriceps harder as you push to reach the top and your hamstrings as you control the pedaling speed going downhill.
Pedaling like you're trying to outrun the wind can get your heart rate up, but it's not always what you need to tone and strengthen your leg muscles. Pump up the resistance on the bike, making pushing the pedals harder. This takes more strength and helps create definition in your leg muscles. Be sure to warm up and cool down with low resistance -- keep the high resistance for the middle stretch of your workout.
Turn It Off and On
Turn up your speed for a short time, then dial it down to recover for a couple of minutes as part of interval training. Set your resistance level at a challenging level and pedal as fast as you can for one minute. Catch your breath and pedal slower for two to three minutes, then turn the speed back on for another minute. This gets the blood flowing to your muscles but doesn't overtax you for the entire workout. If you can program the incline setting on your bike, it can help you with your interval training. Set it for uphill for one minute and downhill for two minutes, giving it all you've got uphill and taking a bit of a breather downhill.