Finding the right bike can mean the difference between quitting or sticking with it.
With two types of stationary bikes available at most gyms - upright and seated - you may wonder which will work best to meet your goals. Then there are spinning bikes, normally used for specialized classes, but sometimes available in gyms as well. While all three have certain aspects in common, some variations may lead to you choosing one over the other, but you can always switch around.
See the Similarities
Whether you're on a spin, upright or recumbent stationary bike, you're getting a cardiovascular workout while toning the muscles of your lower body. You're targeting your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and the gluteal muscles. All three, used for the necessary time and intensity level, can help with weight loss goals.
Spin Your Wheels Like a Pro
Spinning bikes simulate racing in an indoor environment. You can stand up or lean forward, working the muscles in your lower body with extreme intensity as you would during an actual race. Certified personal trainer and founder of the Exercise Bike Expert, Brett Spottke, explains that these bikes are designed to simulate hill climbing and sprinting and meant to be used "standing up and grinding hard." Spinning classes have become increasingly popular in many gyms, but the fast pace can be difficult for those just starting out. Unless you are looking for a very intense workout or are training for a race, you won't need a spinning bike.
The upright stationary bike is designed similarly to a regular outdoor bike where the rider either sits up straight or leans forward grasping the handles. You can adjust the resistance to push yourself harder and mimic the movements of riding on the road or stand while pedaling. In addition to working your entire lower body, the upright position also engages your abdominal muscles as they work to stabilize your body. A downside to this traditional position is that in addition to regular muscle soreness from exercising, some people experience pain in the neck and lower back as well as wrist pain from the way the body is positioned.
Consider Your Comfort
Seated, or recumbent, stationary bikes have cushioned seats with backs allowing for more comfort. The seat is almost level with the pedals, and your arms are relaxed at your sides. This position removes many of the discomforts of the upright bike while working the same lower-body muscle groups. In fact, pedaling in the recumbent position actually makes your leg muscles work harder than in the upright position. This could be due to the fact that extending your legs in front of you works against the pull of gravity as opposed to the downward movement with upright bikes. Also, contrary to past findings, this study found that recumbent bikes provided no less intense a workout from a cardiovascular standpoint. If you have lower back issues and bending forward for a long period of time isn't an option for you, then going with the seated recumbent may be the most comfortable choice.