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10 Best Exercises on Recumbent Bike for Cardio

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Last updated: March 23, 2023

Recumbent bikes offer an aerobic form of exercise suitable for all fitness levels, and I have incorporated stationary bike workouts into countless fitness plans for my clients over the years.

Recumbent bike workouts aren’t just for individuals who are old or with chronic back pain or joint issues but offer a great way to target specific muscle groups and get a challenging low-impact cardio session.

This article will guide you through the best exercises to combine strength and cardio, which worked great for my clients.

Let’s get started.

Quick Summary

  • Using a recumbent bike for interval workouts offers a highly efficient way to improve your fat-burning capabilities.
  • The reclined position of a recumbent bike offers a good workout for your leg muscles and puts less stress on your lower body joints.
  • Recumbent bikes provide a wide variety of low-impact workout programs that, with a healthy diet, help you burn fat and lose weight.

Steady-State Workout

A steady state workout on a bike

Recumbent bike steady-state workouts are straightforward; you get on the bike and pedal.

You can follow up your session with resistance training using kettlebells, body weight, or dumbbells for an excellent cardio and strength workout routine.

Beginner Workout

The following is a slightly challenging recumbent bike exercise with low resistance and speed for beginners.

Pedal consistently at low intensity but higher than a leisurely pace for 15-30 minutes. Keep the pedal resistance comfortable to prevent injury.

You can start at 15 minutes and increase duration by 5-minute increments as you build endurance.

Move to the intermediate level workout once you can do 30 minutes with minimal effort.

Intermediate Workout

Cycling while on a bike

Intermediate steady-state recumbent bike workouts increase the intensity and duration.

At this level, you’ll want to pedal at moderate intensity, which is approximately 50-70% of your max heart rate [1].

Keep a consistent moderate pedal stroke for 30-45 minutes.

In the beginning, aim for 30 minutes and increase by 5-minute increments as you improve.

Advanced Workout

As your fitness level improves, so should your workout intensity to reach and maintain your fitness goals.

This workout will offer a solid challenge:

  • Start slow and warm up at a lower intensity for 2-3 minutes.
  • Increase your pace and resistance level, pedaling for 30-60 minutes. You should be sweating quite a bit here.
  • Cool down with a leisurely pedal for 2-3 minutes.

Tempo & Calisthenics

Pregnant woman using recumbent bike

A tempo recumbent bike workout is a great way to fight boredom if you struggle with simply sitting on a stationary bike and pedaling.

Combining cardio equipment with bodyweight exercises is also a great way to aid weight loss.

Additionally, the following works the lower body on the bike and the core and upper body with the calisthenics exercises.

Set One

  • Pedal for moderate intensity for 30 seconds.
  • Immediately follow up with ten push-ups.
  • Take a 30-second rest.
  • Repeat a minimum of five times.
  • Take a one-minute rest before moving on to set two.

Set Two

  • Start again with 30 seconds of medium-intensity pedaling.
  • Immediately follow up with ten sit-ups.
  • Take a 30-second rest.
  • Repeat a minimum of five times.

HIIT Recumbent Exercise Bike Workout

Using bike inside gym

High-intensity interval training is a very efficient way to work out, and a recumbent bike routine is no different.

A HIIT workout can provide the same benefits as a longer medium-intensity workout [2].

Try this interval training workout for your next recumbent bike exercise day:

  • Warm up for 2-3 minutes at a steady pace with low to moderate intensity.
  • Pedal for 30 seconds at high intensity; essentially, pedal as hard as possible.
  • Ensure proper form during the hard pedal to avoid injury risk.
  • Follow up with 60 seconds of low-intensity recovery pedal.
  • Repeat for ten rounds.
  • Cool down for 2-3 minutes at low to moderate intensity.

For more experienced exercisers, here is an advanced HIIT recumbent bike workout:

  • Warm up at a lower intensity with medium pedal resistance for four minutes.
  • Pedal at total effort, with high resistance for 15 seconds.
  • Recover at low resistance for 1 minute and 15 seconds.
  • Complete four rounds.
  • Pedal at total effort, with high resistance for 20 seconds.
  • Recover at low resistance for 1 minute and 40 seconds.
  • Complete six rounds.
  • Cool down, pedaling at low intensity and resistance for five minutes.

“Due to the intensity of the workout, HIIT can elevate your metabolism for hours after exercise. This results in burning additional calories even after you have finished exercising.”

- Tyler Read, BSc, Certified Personal Trainer

Tabata on the Exercise Bike

Woman with gym coach performing exercise on recumbent bike for her cardio

Like traditional high-intensity interval training, Tabata is a highly effective and efficient exercise routine that promotes cardiovascular fitness and muscle gain and can help you lose weight, particularly when paired with a healthy diet.

Try the following Tabata recumbent bike exercise:

  • Warm up, pedaling moderately with medium resistance for 2-3 minutes.
  • Pedal at an all-out effort for 20 seconds.
  • Follow the high bursts with 10 seconds of recovery at a low-intensity pedal.
  • Repeat for eight rounds.
  • Cool down by pedaling at a moderate pace for 2-3 minutes.

Don’t be fooled by the brief duration of this interval workout; Tabata is essentially a shorter period and even higher intensity form of interval training.

It provides a highly-effective workout and is great for days when you don’t have much time to pedal the recumbent exercise bike.

Depending on your fitness level, you should begin interval training by doing traditional HIIT workouts before jumping right into Tabata.

Upright Versus Recumbent Bikes

Woman with facemask riding on a recumbent bike

Both upright and recumbent bikes offer an effective low-impact workout that you don’t get on other cardio equipment like a treadmill.

Cycling doesn’t strain your ankles, knees, or hips like different forms of exercise like running and plyometrics.

A workout on a recumbent bike does not require riders to lean forward as with stationary bikes.

Unlike a traditional bike saddle, the recumbent bike has a larger seat with back support.

Undoubtedly, bikes burn calories, aid weight loss and effectively work on the lower body.

An upright bike works the core muscles harder, but research finds that a recumbent bike workout works two muscles harder; the semitendinosus in the hamstring and the tibialis anterior in the shin [3].

Tips for Exercise on a Bike

A line of gym goers riding on a recumbent bike for cardio

As with any form of exercise, there are things you can do to maximize your workout efforts.

1. Stretching

Stretching is essential for new and experienced exercisers alike and offers many benefits.

Try dynamic stretching because you are moving while you stretch, which is a great way to get the blood flowing, warm up muscles, and give them a full range of motion.

Spending five minutes doing a combination of lower and upper body movements like toe touches and trunk rotations helps you get the most out of your training session.

Related: Static vs Dynamic Stretching

2. Adjust the Seat

Make any seat adjustments so your extended leg is slightly bent.

You don’t want to over-extend your leg while pedaling and risk knee pain or other injuries.

3. Warm Up and Cool Down

Cycling using a bike inside the gym

The last thing you want to do is jump right into or out of hard-effort cycling.

Take a short period at the beginning and end of each session to pedal at low resistance and speed.

Warming up loosens the legs and increases the core temperature before exercise.

Cooling down allows the heart rate and blood pressure to recover after exercising.

4. Supplements

Adding a supplement to your post-training routine can promote muscle gain and recovery [4].

Additionally, pre-workouts before physical activity can improve energy and focus and contain ingredients to promote recovery.


How Long Should You Work Out on a Recumbent Bike?

How long you should work out on a recumbent bike depends on your fitness level and goals. For a complete cardio workout, a half hour is an excellent place to begin, and you can increase exercise duration over time.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Recumbent Bike?

One of the major disadvantages of a recumbent bike is that it does not work the core as well as an upright bike. Additionally, recumbent bikes take up more space than upright bikes.

You Can Get a Great Workout on a Recumbent Bike

Riding a recumbent bike is a great way to build muscle and cardiovascular endurance while protecting your joints and supporting your back.

My fitness clients who regularly incorporate cycling, strength training, and a proper diet effectively maximize fat loss.

I also advise them to take a pre-workout before exercising, which allows them to increase the training intensity and duration while promoting muscle gain and recovery.

We put countless supplements, including pre-workout, through the paces here at Total Shape.

Check out the links to find our top pick.


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