The recumbent bike, a staple in most gyms, is often overlooked as a serious weight loss tool.
Are we right to dismiss them as an effective piece of fat burning equipment?
Or, are recumbent exercise bikes good for weight loss?
The recumbent cycle provides a much more comfortable exercise experience than most other cardio equipment.
It also impacts the joints much less than most other forms of cardio. In particular, the knees, which can take a pounding from the treadmill and even the upright bike. 
The extra comfort of a recumbent bike is the reason many people feel it is inadequate for a good calorie burning workout.
The “no pain, no gain” mantra has people believing that such levels of comfort cannot possibly be effective for weight loss.
Are they correct, or can you burn enough calories to lose weight with a recumbent cycle?
Advantages Of A Recumbent Bike
Before we can properly judge the recumbent bike on its ability to help an individual lose weight, we must weigh up some of the pros and cons of using one.
The most obvious benefit is the extra back support provided by the seat of a recumbent bike. The backrest promotes better posture by eliminating the need to be hunched over a set of handlebars, like on an upright bike.
While we are on the subject of the seat, the overall comfort provided by the larger seat is a huge plus. Being more comfortable, generally, means that longer workouts are more manageable. A definite bonus!
In our review of the best recumbent bikes, you will be pleased to find more comfort and convenience features.
As mentioned earlier, the recumbent cycle can also reduce the load on the knee joints. The low impact nature of a recumbent bike reduces the risk of injury. Staying healthy is a must if long-term weight loss is the goal.
As a result of all of these benefits, we may be inclined to feel that the recumbent bike doesn’t work the muscles as much as the alternatives.
However, it has actually been shown to provide similar peak muscle activation in the lower body. 
Disadvantages Of Using A Recumbent Bike
Clearly, the recumbent cycle has a host of benefits.
It’s only fair that we address some of the possible drawbacks before deciding if the recumbent bike can be useful for losing weight.
The main disadvantage will seem a little hypocritical. I stated earlier that the backrest on the seat is a benefit. However, it can also be seen as a drawback too.
Using a backrest means that the core muscles aren’t being utilized as much to support the trunk. This may or may not matter to an individual. If the main goal is a cardio workout and not a core workout, this isn’t likely to be an issue.
Fewer upper body muscles are used on a recumbent cycle as well. This follows on from the point about less core muscle activation and the same guidelines apply.
Meaning, the user will probably be looking for a cardio workout, not an upper body workout. So, using the upper body isn’t necessarily important.
Are Recumbent Exercise Bikes Good For Weight Loss?
Now that the advantages and disadvantages of using a recumbent cycle have been covered, we can discuss whether or not they are effective for losing weight.
Firstly, we need to understand exactly what is needed for weight loss.
Without going too in-depth, in order to lose weight, the body needs to be burning more calories than it is taking in each day.
Calories are ingested through the diet and are burned up through activity. This is where the exercise comes in.
Increasing daily activity levels will increase the total number of calories burned. Burning more calories each day should lead to weight loss, as long as ingested calories are being controlled by a sensible nutrition plan.
So, we know we need to burn enough calories if losing weight and burning fat are the target. Can the recumbent bike burn enough calories?
In short, yes it can.
Any piece of equipment that has the ability to challenge your cardiovascular system can be a tool for burning extra calories. Recumbent cycling can certainly be used to challenge your heart and lungs effectively.
A recumbent bicycle also uses the relatively large muscles of the lower body against resistance. Working large muscle groups, like the legs, will burn a much higher number of calories than smaller muscle groups will.
When we consider how the recumbent bike couples cardio training with the use of large muscle groups, it is obvious to see its weight loss potential.
However, it can depend on how you use it.
How To Use A Recumbent Bike For Weight Loss
This is where many people go wrong and give the recumbent cycle a bad name.
The rather unfortunate fact, from a weight loss perspective, is that recumbent cycles usually have a television placed right in front of the user.
Add the extra comfort of a large seat with a backrest, and it becomes very tempting to sit and watch our favorite shows as we revolve the pedals, just enough, to let the machine know we are still using it.
This style of slow, time consuming cardio exercise just isn’t efficient. We need to up the intensity if we want to get the very most out of the recumbent bike for weight loss.
Sure, calories will be burned during slower cardio sessions. The problem is that it will take a very long time to burn any significant number of calories using this method.
On the other hand, high-intensity training or “H.I.T”, helps to burn a higher number of calories per minute. Meaning, you can get a lot out of a shorter workout.
One added benefit of sticking to more H.I.T style training is that it’s been shown to continue burning calories after the workout has finished. 
Extra calories can be burned for up to 24 hours after the initial workout. That does not happen with a slower, more “traditional” cardio workout.
Therefore it makes so much more sense to be performing high-intensity training when the main goal is losing weight.
Fortunately, a recumbent bike is an excellent machine for performing high-intensity interval workouts.
Designing A Weight Loss Workout On The Recumbent Bike
We know that the most efficient form of cardio for weight loss is high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T).
We also know that a recumbent bike is a great machine for H.I.I.T workout. But, how do we design a weight loss workout like this?
There are many options, but the idea of interval training is to combine shorter periods of hard effort with periods of lower intensity, easier work.
A very popular and effective method is TABATA training. It is also super simple.
In TABATA training, high-intensity intervals of 20 seconds are followed by 10-second rest intervals. A total of 8 rounds are completed for a 4-minute workout.
TABATA is interval training in its simplest form. However, it is a very intense method and may not suit a beginner.
The beauty of interval training is that can be adjusted to an individual’s current fitness levels. The work to rest ratios can be manipulated very easily.
A recommended workout, to begin with, would be to rest for twice as long as the work interval.
An example would look like this:
20s high-intensity sprint.
40s low-intensity, slow pedalling.
20s high -intensity sprint.
40s low-intensity, slow pedalling.
That pattern can then be completed for the desired number of rounds. Starting with 5-8 rounds is a good amount.
As fitness increases, more rounds can be added or the low-intensity phases can be shortened.
Recumbent Bikes And Weight Loss: Final Thoughts
So, are recumbent exercise bikes good for weight loss?
They certainly are. The recumbent bike can be just as good as any other piece of cardio equipment available.
Recumbent cycles may even be a much better choice than some machines if we take into account their lower impact nature.
Being easier on the joints is a huge advantage. Longevity and physical health are key if weight loss is to be sustained.
It is important, however, that the right exercise protocol is put in place for maximum weight loss.
The most efficient protocol is certainly going to be some form of high-intensity interval training.
To really make the most of a recumbent bike’s calorie burning abilities, intersperse short bursts of intense, pulse-racing exercise with lower-intensity recovery periods.
Pair H.I.I.T. on a recumbent bicycle with a calorie controlled diet and weight loss is inevitable.
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