The recumbent bike may not have the same status in your gym as treadmills and ellipticals, but it's a useful tool in your box of tricks for weight loss. Cardio is key in any fat-loss program, as it burns a high number of calories. Don't just idly pedal away on the recumbent while reading a magazine though -- up the intensity and use the bike to get your weight loss off to a flying start.
Benefits and Schedule
The main benefit recumbent bikes have over their upright counterparts is that they offer back support. This is a huge advantage if you suffer from a lower-back injury or have a history of back problems. That makes the recumbent bike ideal for someone just getting into stationary cycling, according to the American Council on Exercise. How often you hit the bike is ultimately up to you, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of intense cardio every week. Aim to hit those numbers over three, four or five sessions.
High-intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training, usually referred to by the catchy acronym of HIIT, is the best way to burn fat, says Rachel Cosgrove, trainer and owner of Results Fitness in California. Interval training is classified as vigorous exercise and involves short bursts of very high-intensity effort, broken up by longer periods of steady state work. Warm up on the recumbent bike for five minutes, then ramp the level up and go as fast as you can for 20 to 30 seconds before settling down to a steady pace and moderate resistance for two to four minutes. Repeat this as many times as you can in 20 to 30 minutes. Interval training raises your metabolism far higher than steady state work, hence its super fat-burning properties.
Steady State Training
If interval training is so great, you might think that there'd be no need for your traditional, moderately paced cycling, but this isn't the case. While interval training is highly effective, it's also extra demanding, and by performing it every session you run the risk of burning out and overtraining. For this reason, include steady state training in your session. Cycle for 30 to 45 minutes at a medium pace. The effort should be high enough that you can just about hold a conversation without gasping for air. Steady state training satisfies the moderate part of your cardio requirement.
During each session, aim to do a little more than the last. If in the last session you did eight 20-second intervals, next time aim for nine intervals, or stick with eight but bump each one up to 25 seconds. Add a couple of minutes, up the resistance slightly or increase your distance in every steady state session. To hit your exercise targets, start with two 20- to 30-minute vigorous-intensity interval workouts each week spaced two to three days apart and an extra 90 minutes of moderate steady state work. This will give you 130 to 150 minutes of a mix of moderate and vigorous activity each week. Include other forms of training too, such as strength training with free weights, body-weight or machine training and other forms of cardio. As always, for best results, combine your training plan with a calorie-controlled diet.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.