Do Exercise Bikes Strengthen The Lower Back? – Garage Gym Pro

Exercise bikes have become increasingly popular over the last few years, thanks to spinning classes offered by many gyms.

In addition, many people are also looking for lower-impact exercises that can provide them with the health benefits they need, such as muscle strengthening and toning.

But do exercise or recumbent bikes strengthen the lower back?  

This article will discuss the different types of exercise bikes that can be beneficial for your lower back, how to effectively use them, and tips to stop this workout machine from straining your back.  

Exercise bikes come in two main types: upright and recumbent.

Upright stationary bikes look like your typical road bikes with handlebars out front with a vertical orientation.

On the other hand, recumbent bikes are designed with a backrest and the rider's legs out in front. 

Both these types of bikes can have numerous health benefits, but the best one depends on the rider’s preference and what they want to get out of their exercise bikes.  

If you are experiencing back pain, the best exercise bike for you depends on where you’re more comfortable.

Others claim that the forward position on an upright bike has eased their pain, while some prefer having a backrest instead. 

To help you understand the difference between the two, here’s a quick rundown of the main types of exercise bikes:

Upright exercise bikes 

This type of stationary bike allows riders to have more variety of movements, such as riding in a racing position or pedaling while standing.

These positions exercise different muscle groups, letting you choose which muscle to strengthen as you go. 

At the same time, if you have osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis, the forward-leaning position in an upright bike provides the most comfort for your condition. 

Recumbent bikes

This is the easiest stationary bike to use since the backrest provides more support.

If you are experiencing mechanical low back pain like degenerative disk disease, the added back support from the reclining position makes exercising more comfortable. 

But if your fitness goal is to get toned and strengthen your muscles, this may not be an ideal machine since it’s a less intense workout compared to upright bikes. 

Related Article - Recumbent Vs Upright Exercise Bikes

does exercise bike strengthen lower back

Lower Back Benefits Of Riding Exercise Bikes

Both recumbent and upright stationary bikes can greatly improve your lower back strength.

Check out some of the fantastic benefits for your lower back below!

  • Biking is a gentle, low-impact workout that doesn’t put too much strain on your spine and back. Although some forms of low-impact exercise like running and biking on the road can still be rough on many people experiencing lower bike pain, stationary bikes can help engage certain muscle groups without jarring the spine.
  • For people experiencing back problems like spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis, exercise bikes can be one of the most tolerable aerobic exercises. But it’s best to check with your doctor before committing to any type of exercise as conditions vary per person.
  • If you have spinal stenosis, leaning forward on an upright stationary bike can provide more benefits than a recumbent bike since the flexed forward position is more comfortable than sitting or standing.
  • For people with osteoarthritis, stationary bikes can keep your joints flexible and help reduce the stiffness that you’re experiencing. It also strengthens muscles that support your joints without putting too much strain on your body.
  • If you are experiencing back problems, you also need to ensure that you have a healthy spine structure and posture, as it can reduce back pain. Recumbent and upright bicycles can strengthen the core muscles that keep your spinal structures healthy.
  • Since exercise bikes target your core, including your abdomen and back, it provides stability to achieve good posture. A strong core can support your spine and keep your posture upright, reducing susceptibility to back pain.
  • As you strengthen your core and back muscles, any back pain you’re experiencing can improve in the long run. If you maintain this core strength and flexibility, any injuries or back pain can be easily prevented.
  • Since recumbent bikes offer back support and comfort, there’s less pressure on the lumbar spine, also known as your lower back. This allows you to comfortably work out without straining any of your lower back injuries.
  • Recumbent stationary bikes have larger seats than upright bikes. This allows you to spread your weight over a much larger area. This minimizes strain, not only on your back but your neck too.  
do exercise or recumbent exercise bikes strengthen the lower back

How To Effectively Use Cycling To Strengthen Your Lower Back

Exercise bikes can be very effective in strengthening your back, especially if used correctly.

To help you out, we have listed below the steps on how to correctly use a stationary bike for your lower back:  

  1. 1
    The most crucial step you need to do is adjust the seat height. Each person is different, so the right seat height depends on your height, back condition, and the type of bike you’ll be using. If you’re using an upright bike, you need to adjust the seat to the same height as your hips. To do this, stand beside the bike and adjust the seat accordingly. Then, check the seat height is correct, mount the bike, and start pedaling. One of your legs should be fully extended but with a slight bend in the knee. The pedaling motion should be comfortable without pointing or flexing your feet to reach full extension. Your hips should also not move when you pedal. On the other hand, recumbent bikes’ seats adjust forward and bike. The correct seat height should allow you to fully extend your legs while still keeping a slight bend in the knee. 
  2. 2
    Another thing that you need to adjust for upright bikes is the handlebar. Make sure that you feel comfortable. It's best to raise the bar higher than average to alleviate lower back stress that happens when you lean forward. When you're sitting, you should still be able to reach the bar easily while keeping a forward incline and elbows slightly bent.
  3. 3
    Next, put on the foot straps. Many people think that it won’t change anything, but they can actually help you with your form. When the foot straps are on, you can push and pull the pedals, allowing you to create a more efficient stroke. Just don’t put it too tightly, and ensure that your foot can move comfortably. If you don’t put it on, your foot and calf can cramp easily.
  4. 4
    Then, check your posture. Hunching your back may seem easier, but it’s an excellent way to develop back and neck pain. So, keep your chest up, tug your shoulders away from your ear, and down to the ground; your ears should be in line with your shoulders, and draw your belly button in. 
  5. 5
    After correcting your posture, add some resistance to the bike. Don’t put it in the highest setting right away. Instead, slowly dial it up until you feel a bite in your legs, but not too much that it hurts. This is the starting point of your workout.
  6. 6
    Now, start to warm up for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, go ahead and start pushing yourself. But don’t exert too much effort, or you’ll end up straining your back, especially if it’s your first time trying an exercise bike.
  7. 7
    Lastly, work out in intervals. Instead of constantly spinning forever, challenge yourself. Pedal for 20 up to 50 seconds at a higher resistance (depends on your strength), then reduce the resistance back to your starting point and slow down for ten seconds. Do this at least eight times, and push more if your body can do a more intense workout.  
does an exercise bike help lower back pain

How To Stop Exercise Bikes From Causing Back Pain

The best way to stop exercise bikes from causing bike pain is to maintain the correct posture.

Don’t hunch, and always keep your back straight. 

You also need to distribute some weight to your arms and hands. 

Don’t just straighten your arm; keep it slightly bent. This will allow some of the impact to be distributed to your upper body and not just your spine.

For upright bikes, you can periodically change the upper body's angle. This will prevent muscle fatigue that can lead to improper form.  

Another way to avoid back pain is by strengthening your core. Add other exercises into your workout to strengthen your core muscles.

A simple plank every day can do wonders for your body. You can also try yoga and swimming. Lastly, always stretch before and after your workouts.

Read Also - Exercise Bike Vs Rowing Machine For Lower Back


Common Exercise Bike & Back Pain Questions 

Is a recumbent bike good for spinal stenosis? 

Yes, it is. But be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any exercise, especially with this condition.  

Can cycling cause bulging discs? 

If you cycle with incorrect form, you can introduce many problems, including bulging discs. That’s why you need to ensure you cycle with the correct form.  

Can an exercise bike help sciatica? 

Yes, it can. However, don’t push yourself too much when riding a stationary bike with sciatica.  

Are stationary bikes okay for herniated discs? 

Yes, it's okay to use stationary bikes with herniated discs. However, it's always best to check with your physician first. 


Conclusion

If you’re struggling with back pain, exercise bikes can help ease it. However, every condition is different, so it’s best to check with your physician before buying a stationary bike at home.

You can also visit a gym to try if it works for you before purchasing at home.  

Last Updated on September 12, 2022