7 Recumbent Bike Benefits to Get You Back in the Cardio Game, Plus a Sample Workout

Most commercial gyms are stacked with treadmills, rowing machines, and exercise bikes galore. And though they’re often stationed off in a corner, far from their cousin the upright stationary bike, the recumbent bike can do you a whole lot of good if you just get on and pedal. I’ll take you through the seven recumbent bike benefits that make me recommend this reclined option to so many clients.

What Is a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bicycle is a stationary bike — but it’s not in your typical configuration. On most exercise bikes, you’ll be sitting upright, with no back to lean on, just the seat or saddle. But with a recumbent bike, you can lean back onto a backrest. You’ll be sitting more or less reclined instead of upright. 

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To accommodate the different shape of the bike — which is generally lower to the ground than other exercise bikes — the handlebars are placed lower, too.

Recumbent Bikes Vs. Upright Bikes

Recumbent — sitting with back support. Upright — sitting with no back support. That’s the short of it. Here’s the longer of it.

Upright Bike

You’ll hold more of your body weight over the tops of your legs. You are stacked more vertically and this helps you generate powerful strides. 

You can lean forward into the handlebars and come off the bike seat as though you were road cycling. 

Even when you’re leaning forward, the onus is on you to support your body weight and stay balanced during your ride.

Recumbent Bike

This type of bike has a larger seat and a backrest designed to help provide support.

So, you won’t be holding up your upper body with your core so much since you’re leaning back with support.

The reclined position also accommodates people with a broader range of body sizes and shapes than the more compact upright bicycle. 

Altogether, the upright and recumbent exercise bikes both provide solid cardio for all fitness levels. From beginners to advanced athletes in physical therapy, and even experienced cyclists, there are plenty of bike options to choose from.

Recumbent Bike Benefits

From supporting a solid lower-body workout to providing an excellent cardio workout, the recumbent bike is a phenomenal tool. Here are seven different reasons I recommend the recumbent bike for many of my clients’ cardiovascular training.

It’s Low Impact

The recumbent bike is amazingly low-impact. While even the most cushioned treadmills put that repeated pounding pressure on your joints with each step, recumbent cycling takes the jolts out of the ride. 

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To be fair, that’s true of all bicycles. But the recumbent bicycle takes it even further by giving you back support. The upright bike still requires you to grip and rip during hard effort, whereas the recumbent bike lets you lean back for a more relaxed core and upper body. No need to balance and support your upper body during these recumbent rides.

You Can Customize the Difficulty

Increasing or decreasing resistance on the recumbent bicycle is as simple as the push of a button. Literally. All you need to do is press a button on the console or the side handlebars on most recumbent bikes and you’re all set. 

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This enables rapid transitions between higher and lower intensity work perfect for high-intensity interval training, warm-ups, or cooling down alike. In this way, the recumbent bike is one of the most easily adaptable pieces of exercise equipment for creating both an intense workout and a low-intensity aerobic exercise session.

It’s Very Accessible

A pretty high degree of accessibility sets a recumbent exercise bike apart from many other cardio options. With scalable resistance and a supported seating position, you’ve got a solid cardio option for less stress on your back, core, lower back, and upper body. 

That’s why stationary recumbent bikes can be helpful for folks with a wide range of body types and abilities. Whether you’re contending with back pain or just looking for a low-key but powerful way to accomplish your fitness goals, this bike has literally got your back.

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Another aspect of accessibility — the recumbent bike has a modest footprint. It doesn’t take up a tremendous amount of space, so it’s a common piece of equipment for home gyms.

You’ll Get a Great Cardio Workout

Ah, cardio workouts. The nemesis of many a strength athlete — but essential nonetheless. And don’t worry. Just because you’re sitting down and can rest your back doesn’t mean your workout won’t be up to conditioning snuff.

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A systematic review of research has suggested that indoor cycling provides benefits to aerobic capacity, blood pressure, lipid profiles, and body composition. (1) Although this study focused on stationary bicycling more broadly — rather than this kind of bike specifically — the recumbent bike falls under the proverbial stationary bike umbrella.

It’s Fun

Let’s face it — sometimes you just want to plop down on a piece of equipment and mentally check out. If you’d rather catch up on Netflix during your cardio session than endlessly pound the pavement outside, the recumbent bike is a solid choice. From podcasts to movies or just being alone in your own thoughts, long-duration cardio lets you head off to your own world.

And don’t underestimate the power of enjoyment in your workout program. Genuinely liking what you’re doing means you’re much more likely to stick with an exercise program — science says so. (2

[Read More: Biking Vs. Walking — Which Is Better For Your Goals? A Personal Trainer Weighs In]

The recumbent bicycle is particularly beneficial here. There aren’t any complex movements involved and you are fully supported as you train. If there is one piece of equipment uniquely qualified to let your mind wander and still make gains, it’s the recumbent bike.

It’s Pretty Safe

There is some injury risk to any training program — just like any daily activity — but you’re certainly able to mitigate this risk through exercise or equipment selection. In fact, in many rehab or injury scenarios, the recumbent bike is a recommended option. 

The fully-supported cycling position and ease of scaling resistance make the recumbent bicycle a fantastic choice for maintaining or reintroducing movement after injury or during rehab.

It Fits Well Into Most Programs

Maybe you want to get ripped to bust out of your shirt sleeves, get strong enough to deadlift 500 pounds, or become powerful enough to crank through CrossFit WOD after CrossFit WOD. Or, you might just want to build yourself better aerobic fitness. Either way, you’ll want a cardiovascular system that doesn’t quit. 

Don’t worry — you can, indeed, train for multiple goals at once (concurrent training) without trading one type of gains for another. (3) To do this effectively, though, you’ve got to program things right.

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Using a low-impact cardio machine that doesn’t require a lot of mental energy is fantastic for plugging into your routine after a hard lifting session. It also doesn’t cause nearly as much soreness or fatigue as some other potential cardio options. All-in-all, the recumbent bike is the perfect match for most routines. 

Sample Recumbent Bike Workout

The recumbent bicycle is super accommodating while still allowing you to get creative. You can do the same type of workouts you’d come across on any other piece of cardio, but you’ll be able to do so from the comfort of a seat that you just won’t have with other equipment.

The Workout

A good recumbent bicycle workout includes a dynamic warm-up, work period, and cool down. Since you’re already on the cardio equipment — and can Netflix it up to your heart’s content — no skipping steps here. You’ll be traversing simulated hills, so you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

Perform a five-minute warm-up at 50% of your heart rate max.

Set a cycle duration of 30 minutes.

Every five minutes, increase the resistance by 5 to 10 levels for one minute.

Cycle the remaining four minutes at your base pace, allowing your heart rate to recover.

Perform a five-minute cooldown at 50% of your heart rate max.

How Often to Do This Workout: Given that this workout is a challenge, perform the recumbent bike hill training session one to two times per week.


Make it Easier: Use a reverse pyramid style for your workout. Start with the highest intensity hill possible — when you have the most energy — slowly tapering down the difficulty of each hill until the end of your workout.

Make it Harder: Try modifying your hill duration to match the length of a song. Instead of one minute of hard effort, scale your hill to your favorite high-intensity song and during alternate tracks.

Coach’s Tip: Hills add up. Don’t be afraid to moderate the resistance as you near the end of the workout.

Frequently Asked Questions

The recumbent bike is an often overlooked cardio option, but there’s no need to sleep on the machine. Here are some frequently asked questions for you to consider as you plan out your next ride.

Do recumbent bikes burn belly fat?

As a general rule, any exercise that burns calories technically can burn belly fat. The key is that spot reduction isn’t a very viable strategy for general programming — so you’re more likely to see body fat drawn from different parts of your body at different rates. Opt for staying consistent with your calorie balance and maintaining solid nutrition as you use the recumbent bike for weight loss.

What are the disadvantages of a recumbent bike?

While the reclined position has many benefits, it’s a bit harder to go all out. With an upright bike, you can really get into the highest possible intensity because you’ll be leveraging your entire body into the mix. With a recumbent bike, it may take a lot more effort to get your heart rate to soar.

How long should I ride a recumbent bike? 

Given how low-intensity the recumbent bike is, you’re able to perform rides for as short or as long as you prefer. A good rule of thumb is no less than five to 10 minutes as a warm-up or cool-down, and aiming for 10 minutes to an hour of riding for health or performance. Scale to your needs or fitness level!

Is a recumbent bike as good as walking?

A recumbent bike is as good as walking for many goals. It’s low impact, improves cardiovascular outcomes, and helps with calorie burn if that’s a priority of yours. They are distinct, however, in the muscle groups involved, the amount of work each one performs, and the fact that walking is a weight-bearing activity while riding the bike is not.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


Chavarrias, M., Carlos-Vivas, J., Collado-Mateo, D., & Pérez-Gómez, J. (2019). Health Benefits of Indoor Cycling: A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 55(8), 452. 

Nielsen, G., Wikman, J. M., Jensen, C. J., Schmidt, J. F., Gliemann, L., & Andersen, T. R. (2014). Health promotion: the impact of beliefs of health benefits, social relations and enjoyment on exercise continuation. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24 Suppl 1, 66–75. 

Schumann, M., Feuerbacher, J. F., Sünkeler, M., Freitag, N., Rønnestad, B. R., Doma, K., & Lundberg, T. R. (2022). Compatibility of Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training for Skeletal Muscle Size and Function: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 52(3), 601–612.

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