Both an elliptical machine and a recumbent bike provide you with a low-impact cardiovascular workout that burns calories and helps build lean muscle mass. These machines use similar muscle groups, but there are unique advantages to each machine, so chose the one that best suits your personal fitness needs.
Elliptical Machine Basics
The elliptical machine was designed to mimic the moments of running but in a lower-impact way. The elliptical machine features movable foot pedals. You stand on the pedals and while your legs mimic the movements of running, you never actually pick up your feet. The motion works your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core and calf muscles. Most elliptical machines allow you to move in a forward and backward motion. The forward motion emphasizes your quadriceps, and the backward motion emphasizes your hamstrings. If your elliptical machine has movable handles, similar to ski poles, you can engage your chest, upper back, biceps and triceps.
Recumbent Bike Basics
A recumbent bike features a backrest and a bucket shaped seat, which supports your lower back. While pedaling, you are in a natural seated position where your weight is evenly distrusted throughout your back, hips and glutes. Similar to the elliptical machine, you engage your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calf muscles and core when pedaling a recumbent bike. But because you are standing when exercising on an elliptical, you engage your core more on that machine than on a recumbent bike.
Benefits and Disadvantages
According to the Spine Health website’s Megan Tyner, an ACE certified personal trainer, a recumbent bike is recommended for individuals who have suffered a back injury. This is because you are in a seated position, which supports the majority of your weight and provides a lower impact workout than the elliptical machine. According to the MayoClinic.com website, the elliptical machine is a good alternative to joggers who suffer from knee, hip or back pain. But if you continue to experience discomfort in your knees, you should chose a recumbent bike over an elliptical.
Unlike the seated position of a recumbent bike, when you are on an elliptical, you are standing. This means that you support more of your body’s weight, which leads to a higher caloric burn. Additionally, because an elliptical machine can have movable arms, it allows you to engage more major muscle groups, which helps you burn even more calories than the recumbent bike. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person burns 670 calories per hour on an elliptical machine. That same person burns 520 calories riding a recumbent bike at a moderate pace for one hour.
- Women’s Health Magazine: Seven Reasons To Start Bike Riding
- WebMD: The Exercise Bike is Back
- Trainer Secrets: Recumbent Exercise Bike vs Upright Exercise
- Healthy Live: Building Leg Muscles with a Recumbent Exercise Bike
- MayoClinic.com: Are Elliptical Machines Better Than Treadmills For Basic Aerobic Workouts?
- Advanced Fitness: Elliptical Machine
- Spine Health: Stationary Bike
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.