Two girls training on recumbent bikes at the gym

Top 6 Tips to Get Started with Training on A Recumbent Exercise Bike

Are you looking for a new way to work out, or to lose weight, but don't want to aggravate sore knees or cause pain in your back? If so, the recumbent exercise bike may be exactly what you are looking for.

This seated stationary bike differs in that it has a backrest, which you lean against. The pedals are positioned out in front instead of below you like those on upright stationary bikes.

Benefits of a Recumbent Exercise Bike

There are several benefits to training on a recumbent exercise bike. These include:

  • provides back support, which is particularly beneficial for those with back issues
  • lessens stress on knees and hips, protecting these important joints
  • builds quadricep muscles which help to protect your knees
  • lowers the strain on your neck, arms, and wrists
  • provides a cardio workout as well as a muscle-strengthening exercise

As with any exercise, before even approaching your recumbent bike, be sure to stretch first. If you're not used to working out, start with slow, even stretches.

If you're already in pretty good shape, try doing more dynamic stretching. This will warm up your muscles while increasing your range of motion. Include lunges, body rotations, side bends, and toe touches to get your muscles ready.

If you're new to the recumbent bike, here are six tips to get you started in the best way possible.

1. Start with a Seat Adjustment

Setting up your recumbent bike specifically for your body is the key to starting your training out well. This involves adjusting your seat to fit your body.

Sit down on the exercise bike and press your back against the backrest. Place your feet in the pedals in front of you. Complete a few slow cycle rotations and notice how your knees look and feel. There needs to be a slight bend to your knee on the far side of the cycle rotation. You don't want to overextend your knee, nor do you want it to bend too much.

The seat slides forward and backward, so start at the midpoint if possible and adjust it until you have a comfortable rotation. This may take several tries, so don't get discouraged. You will soon get used to this and will adjust the seat without giving it a second thought.

The setup will differ dramatically for someone who is 5'2" versus someone who is nearing six feet.

2. Take Time to Warm Up

As with any exercise of this type, you will need to warm up first. Start slow, adjusting to the seating and the cycle motions. If you feel any tweaks in your knees or hips, adjust the seat a little more, and also check your foot positioning in the pedals.

Maintain a slow, steady pace, gradually adding a little speed for approximately five minutes. Keep the resistance low (more about this later).

Make warming up a part of your workout routine. It will help to loosen up your muscles and warm up your core.

3. Resistance is Key

On a recumbent exercise bike, you can adjust the resistance up or down. To start, choose a comfortable resistance based on your level of fitness. This will help you get used to the bike and body movements needed during cycling.

As you add resistance, pedaling will become harder and harder. This will not only strengthen your leg muscles but will also increase the level of your cardio workout.

Most recumbent exercise bikes offer programs you can choose from, which will automatically adjust the resistance up and down. These are usually named for their benefits, such as a fat burner or endurance builder. This feature provides variety, so you never become bored with your cycling workout.

4. Develop Proper Form and Maintain It

With every exercise, including this one, maintaining proper form is imperative to not only a good, calorie-burning workout, but also in the prevention of other injuries. Here are a few tips to keep you in proper form:

  • do not lean forward,
  • keep your back pressed against the backrest,
  • try not to grip the side handles too hard, even during high-intensity workouts, and
  • push hard with your legs, not your core or upper body

5. Determine Most Beneficial Duration

When just starting, don't push your body too hard. Limit the amount of time you work out on the recumbent exercise bike, then slowly build-up, adding extra minutes each day.

According to reports from the American College of Sports Medicine, you need to get 30 minutes of cardio exercise per day. If your main goal, however, is weight loss, you will need to build up to somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes a day.

If you haven't worked out in a while, your stamina and your leg muscles may not hold out that long. Don't give up. Be proud of what you can do starting, and celebrate each milestone of adding more time to your workouts.

Eventually, you will reach your goal endurance level and see the results not only in weight loss but also in cardiovascular health.

6. Add Interval Training

Getting used to the recumbent exercise bike is a huge accomplishment. Now it's time to up your training by slowly introducing interval training to your workout.

What is interval training? Interval training consists of alternating short yet highly intense bursts in your pedaling. You can do this by simply increasing your resistance and increasing your speed.

Why do this? It will increase calorie burn, and also keep you focused and challenged during your workout.

Try this for interval training to start with:

  • Increase resistance 1-2 increments up from your warm-up pace. If you feel you are working your legs, and can still carry on a conversation, this is your base pace, and the one you will return to each time.
  • Increase resistance, so you are working a little harder for approximately five minutes.
  • Decrease resistance back to your base, holding it there for five more minutes.
  • Increase again.

Continue this up and down interval for at least 20 minutes.

Interval training is often a choice on the pre-programmed workouts on must recumbent bikes, so select this, and you won't have to keep adjusting or timing your increases. The program will do it for you.

Be sure to wind down after each workout with a cool-down period, followed by a post-workout stretching.

It doesn't take long to master training on a recumbent exercise bike. Taking the time in the beginning by adjusting your seat, warming up, keeping proper form, adding resistance and duration, and incorporating interval training into your workout will set you on your way to better fitness, and better health overall.