Recumbent bikes are a little strange looking. First, they're lower to the ground than a traditional upright bike and the pedals are out in front of you instead of below your body. It's a little difficult, too, to get used to using one, but well worth the effort: they provide a challenging workout. Because the pedaling action is at a different angle than an upright bike, you might wonder if the recumbent bike will tone your thighs.
When you perform a pedaling action on any bike, you use your upper leg muscles. Your upper leg includes your quadriceps as well as your hamstring muscles, but fitness experts say that recumbent bikes tend to work the hamstrings along the back of your thighs more than your quads. That's not to say that the front of your thighs won't be doing any work, but they won't be working as much as the backside.
The Backside Bonus
Because recumbent bikes call on the backs of your legs to push through the pedaling movement you'll be working your glutes a bit more than if you were zipping along on an upright stationary bike. Getting some extra toning action on your posterior while you're working your legs and burning off fat is a nice little three-for-one bonus.
Choosing a Stationary Recumbent Bike
You may enjoy working out on a recumbent bike so much that you decide to buy one for use at home. Picking the best one doesn't always mean buying the most expensive one, although you should buy from a recognized and reliable company. Try it before you buy it to make sure that the seat is comfortable and that the pedals can be adjusted so that your knee is slightly bent when you extend it fully forward. The pedaling motion should be smooth and even with no sticking. Look at things like how big the bike is, whether you have the space for it and how loud it is when you're using it. Take into consideration the cost of maintaining the bike in addition to how readily available replacement parts are. If the recumbent bike you choose requires assembly, read through the assembly manual before you take it home to ensure you understand how it goes together -- or that it's at least written in a language you understand.
Other Thigh Exercises
Recumbent bikes are effective sources of cardio exercise that will also work on toning your legs, but when you want to focus on toning your thighs you should include some resistance exercises along with your cardio training. Step ups, lunges, squats, deadlifts and thigh abductor and adductors are just a few of the exercises that personal trainers recommend to their clients who want sexy, toned and defined muscles in their upper legs.
- Matt Siaperas; Personal Trainer, Hardbodies Gym; Blackfoot, Idaho
- Pub Med.gov: Functional Roles of the Leg Muscles When Pedaling on Recumbent and Upright Bikes
- Fitness For Dummies; Suzanne Schlosberg and Liz Neporent
- ACE Fitness: Upper Leg Exercises
- American College of Sports Medicine; Selecting and Effectively Using a Stationary Bicycle
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.