In this article, we will be pitting two behemoths of the cardio equipment industry against each other in a head-head comparison and looking at a few alternatives.
We will look at the benefits and downsides to both and consider which one is the better tool for weight loss purposes. The two machines in question are the traditional stationary exercise bike vs. its not-so-distant cousin, the elliptical trainer.
If you enter any gym, these are two machines that will most likely dominate the cardio section.
Table of Contents
Exercise Bike Pros & Cons
What We Like
What We Didn't Like
Elliptical Pros & Cons
What We Like
What We Didn't Like
Comparing Exercise Bikes Vs. Ellipticals
For Calories Burned
In terms of the calories burned, a lot will depend upon the effort you put in on each machine. Let's look at an example for a 6'2" guy like me.
For an hour of exercise on the elliptical, I would burn around 954 calories if I kept up the same pace for the whole hour. If I spent the same amount of time on a typical stationary bike and put the same effort in then, I would burn around 588 calories.
If I were to utilize a spin bike, however, I would burn around 920 calories.
Winner - Elliptical wins here but only for raw data.
For Weight Loss
Calories burned in a single hour of exercise are easy to calculate, but it gets a bit more complicated when it comes to actual weight loss. To burn the calories above, you would need to be consistent with your exercise every time you get on the machine.
The elliptical trainer is typically more difficult and requires you to be in a standing position moving your whole body. The stationary bike allows you to sit down during your workout.
Depending on what you find more comfortable, you will probably find it easier to burn consistent calories on your preferred machine. You will also struggle to motivate yourself to do an hour on the elliptical if you find it too hard, and vice versa.
Winner - Choose the machine you prefer and can see yourself sticking to.
For Cardio Training
If you are focused more on your fitness levels as opposed to your weight, then you will probably want to utilize the elliptical. This is a more full-body workout that will improve cardiovascular ability more than the exercise bike.
Again though, if you really prefer the exercise bike, you will most likely get more benefits for sticking to that.
Winner- Elliptical, but choose the machine you prefer and can see yourself sticking to.
For Strength And Endurance
Both of these machines are designed with cardio in mind. This means that they should not be used in replacement of a proper strength or endurance-based workout plan.
Both machines will add strength and size to your muscles; however, the stationary bike wins here due to the focus on the lower body and legs.
Winner - Exercise bike
Specialist Exercise Bikes
The results above are all based upon the traditional exercise bike found in most commercial gyms. If you are looking for information about the more specialist variants of bikes, you should read on.
Recumbent Exercise Bike
The recumbent exercise bike places you in a seated and reclined position. They are designed with comfort in mind and allow you to watch a television screen while you exercise.
This is great for those that need a low-impact beginner-friendly machine to start on, but you will really need to be focused on your energy during your workout. Recumbent bikes are effective as cardio, but only if you put consistent effort into your workout.
Once you feel that your workouts are getting too easy on the recumbent, you should make the swap onto one of the other machines listed in this article.
The spin bike is the opposite of the recumbent as it is designed to be used during high-intensity classes that burn a shed load of calories and send your heart rate up and down like a rollercoaster.
Spin is great for fat burning, improving cardiovascular ability, strengthening the legs and back and is also the best exercise for training for road cycling enthusiasts.
AirBikes are unusual in their mechanism. Instead of controlling the resistance via controls, the resistance is controlled by the effort you put in. If you pedal hard, the resistance goes up; if you let off the pressure, your resistance goes down.
This makes it easy to do HIIT workouts, as you don't have to waste time trying to find the correct resistance; you can control it with your body.
Key Things To Remember For Weight Loss
While your choice of machine is very important in terms of your weight loss goals, they will not be enough on their own. Here are some key things to remember:
Weight loss will only happen if you control your calorie input. The Golden Rule is that you must consume Fewer Calories Than You Burn during the day to lose weight.
Remember to Stay Hydrated. Staying hydrated, both throughout the day and during your workouts, is imperative to weight loss.
Make sure you utilize Rest Days. When you are training hard, your body needs rest days to recover. These are the days that your body will actually lose weight and build muscle.
These are the cardinal rules for weight loss training, so make sure you implement them. When you do, you should see immediate improvements.
Other Machines That Are Good For Weight Loss And Cardio
If you have tried both the elliptical and the other exercise bikes here and cannot seem to get on-board, you might want to consider another cardio machine. Here are two excellent substitutes.
All of the machines in this article so far have been based on cycling motion. If this is not your thing, you should look to one of the fancy treadmills in the gym.
These machines come pre-programmed with lots of workouts. With treadmills you can put the gradient up to replicate walking up a hill. This can be a great way to improve endurance without needing too much cardio ability.
There are also options for different programs to keep you on your toes. Choose a program that replicates running up and down a series of hills or implement some interval training.
Treadmills are also perfect for those that love running but can't deal with the stress that road running puts upon the body anymore.
Rowing machines are one of the preferred cardio machines for those that also engage in weightlifting and strength training. This machine combines an upper body workout with a cardio workout.
Training on a rowing machine burns a huge amount of calories. It also switches the focus from the legs to the upper body and lower back which makes it perfect for people with knee injuries.
There we have it. As with most things, the best machine for weight loss will depend upon your preferences, fitness levels, and injuries. This is why most commercial gyms will have a fleet of each of the machines listed in this article.
Find the machine that you love using. You will be most likely to stick to a long-term plan which will lead to better results in the end.