Unlike upright bikes, recumbent bikes have comfortable bucket seats and a back rest. Stationary recumbent bikes are a fixture in health clubs, but road recumbents are fairly uncommon despite being around since the mid 1800s. The bikes allow people of all levels to train the muscles of the legs and buttocks without putting strain on the wrists and back. Although less common, recumbent bikes that combine hand and leg propulsion or that feature exclusive hand propulsion can also help train the muscles of the upper body.
Advantages of Recumbents
Because the position of the recumbent bicycle is more comfortable and supported, it offers a way for the de-conditioned individual to build up leg muscle strength. Many people, particularly the elderly and the obese, find upright cycle seats uncomfortable. The bucket-style seat of recumbent bikes accommodate larger bodies and provide more support. Most recumbents feature a backrest that can be helpful for riders who have spine injuries or who suffer from back pain. Recumbent handlebars are usually positioned at shoulder height, reducing pressure on the shoulder joint and wrists.
All types of cycling train the muscles of the thighs, specifically the hamstrings and the quadriceps. An article in the December 2007 issue of вЂњClinical BiomechanicsвЂќ noted that the two most worked upper leg muscles during recumbent cycling are the biceps femoris, one of the three hamstring muscles, and the rectus femoris, one of the four quadriceps muscles.
The 2007 вЂњClinical BiomechanicsвЂќ article also noted that the gastrocnemius, the largest calf muscle, is activated during recumbent cycling. This muscle is intrinsic to walking. Strengthening the gastrocnemius through recumbent cycling offers benefits for patients undergoing rehabilitation of the lower legs.
A recumbent cycle activates the muscles of the buttocks, including the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus provides the power behind the pedal stroke as your hips rotate through the pedaling motion. When you climb hills on a road recumbent or increase the resistance on an indoor stationary recumbent, you increase the load on these large buttock muscles.
Upper Body and Core
Bicycles are effective at training the lower body, but do not provide much benefit for strengthening your upper body. Hand-powered recumbent bikes do activate the posterior deltoids - the backs of the shoulders, the triceps - the back of the upper arms and the trapezius - a triangular upper back muscle, notes a study in вЂњClinical BiomechanicsвЂќ in January 2012. These bikes are usually used by people with limited use of their legs, and provide an alternative to wheelchair racers which can put an undue amount of strain on the shoulders. Traditional leg-powered recumbent cycles engage the abdominals, especially if you move the seat slightly forward - closer to the pedals. Hand cycles are even more effective in training the core, especially if you are able to use one without back support.
The recumbent bike may offer a less-effective cardiovascular workout than upright cycling, especially for the very fit. Climbing hills in a recumbent bike can be slow and you may have to shift to a very low gear, especially if you have underdeveloped gluteal muscles. Recumbent bikes are faster than upright cycles, but they have been outlawed in racing by the International Cycling Union since 1933.