Working out which cardio machine will be the best for your specific needs is difficult, especially if you are looking at purchasing one for your home gym. These machines are one of the pricier purchases in any garage gym setup, so picking the right one is crucial.
In this article, we will pit the recumbent bike and the treadmill against each other in a head-to-head. We will compare some of their benefits and some of their disadvantages.
Both of these machines are excellent choices. This is why almost every commercial gym will come equipped with row after row of them.
Remember, each will allow you to build a healthier, stronger body no matter which machine you choose.
Table of Contents
Recumbent Bikes (Overview + Pros & Cons)
Recumbent bikes are great for cardio as they are stationary bikes that allow you to dictate your speed and level of resistance to create a perfect workout. You are in a sat-down position which takes most of the pressure off your joints during exercise.
Treadmills (Overview + Pros & Cons)
A treadmill is a machine that simulates either walking or running without being outside. You can change the speed and gradient to swap from a low-impact exercise or high-impact workout too.
Recumbent Bike Vs Treadmill: Key Differences Compared
For those of you who want a little bit more information, we have reviewed these two excellent machines across several categories to help you in your decision.
Burning Calories & Weight Loss
When it comes to pure calorie-burning potential, there isn't much that can rival the treadmill. Utilizing gravity and a lot of kinetic energy, running burns calories at a crazy rate.
On a recumbent bike, you are supported by the fact you are in a sitting position. This means you do not have to carry your body's weight during the exercise; this reduces the energy necessary for the motion and reduces the calorie-burning potential.
The problem with the treadmill is that the number of calories that you burn is linked to the energy and effort you put in. It is very hard to run at full intensity for a whole hour on the treadmill, whereas the recumbent bike is a bit less energetic.
Best for Beginners
Both machines are simple and easy to use. The recumbent bike is just like riding a bike normally; you sit down and pedal. The treadmill takes a little bit more to get used to but is equally easy to use.
If you are larger and a little bit more out of shape, you will find the recumbent bike the easiest to begin with, especially for losing weight in those initial stages.
Winner: Recumbent Bike
Burning Belly Fat & Building Abs
Getting rid of that stubborn belly fat is one of the biggest goals we see in the gym. Unfortunately, it is impossible to target the fat specifically on your belly. Instead, you will need to reduce your body fat percentage overall and lose some weight across your whole body. As your body fat drops, this will help your abs become more pronounced.
The best way to drop belly fat is to combine lots of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) with a good diet. If you make sure that the number of calories you consume is lower than the calories you burn in the day, you will begin to lose fat.
For HIIT training, the treadmill wins by a country mile. With a range of programs and options that will simulate HIIT programs like hill climbs or interval sprints, it is easy to get those intense sessions in on the treadmill.
Working Out with Injuries/Joint Pain
If you are looking at getting back into training after an injury or suffer from joint or back pain, you will need to be careful not to overdo it.
Treadmills, and running in general, exert a significant impact on your bones and joints. This makes it a bad choice for those who have weaker joints or who are recovering from an injury.
The recumbent bike, on the other hand, allows you to work out from a seated position. This means that your body is supported, and you are not carrying your body weight during the workout. This makes the recumbent bike the perfect recovery cardio.
Winner: Recumbent Bike
Most Muscle Groups Worked
Running on the treadmill is a workout that engages almost every muscle in your body, especially your quads and hamstrings. You will also develop a sturdy core that stabilizes you during your running.
Finally, running requires you to pump your arms which gives you an upper body workout too. To maximize this, you could even hold a pair of dumbells while running.
A recumbent exercise bike will put more focus on your lower body, strengthening your quads and calves. It will give you a slight core workout but nothing on the same scale as the treadmill.
Activating as many muscles as possible will allow you to maximize your weight loss goals and build the most muscle.
Toning Legs, Bums and Tums
If you are looking to improve the aesthetic of your lower body and tone your bum and legs, you will need to consider what is more important.
If you have a little bit of weight to lose around those areas, you will be better off using the treadmill to help you shift the body fat.
Once you have managed to drop to the correct body fat percentage, you will be better off swapping to the bike and ramping up the resistance levels. This will give your legs a much more thorough workout than running on the treadmill; just make sure you keep the resistance high.
Cardiovascular & Running Training
If your sole goal in the gym is to improve your cardiovascular ability or skill in running and not just lose weight and look good, the treadmill is the better machine.
The treadmill is the closest replication to real-life road or track running that you can get. This means that if you are a track runner or a long-distance runner, you will want to train on the treadmill.
This also allows you to make use of the more cushioned surface of the treadmill track, reducing the time you pound the ground outside. This will help prevent joint problems from too much uneven impact.
Strength and Endurance
Building strength requires a different approach to losing weight and training cardio ability.
The best machine for building strength is the recumbent bike, as you can set the resistance high and turn the workout into one that is more orientated towards muscle building and growth.
Winner: Recumbent Bike
Practicality for a Home Gym
If you are reading this article because you want to purchase a machine for your home gym, you will need to consider what space you have.
Treadmills generally take up a lot of space and are hard to store as they don't usually fold up or reduce in size for storage.
Recumbent bikes take up a lot less floor space, and most of them can be folded up or reduced in size in order to store them.
Winner: Recumbent Bike
Cardio machines are pretty expensive. If you are looking at second-hand equipment, we advise you to stick to recumbent bikes, they are cheap, and the quality levels don't differ too much.
Treadmills should always be brand new or of high quality and trustworthy brand. The lower quality machines have insufficient cushioning and will lead to injuries in the shins and ankles. They are, however, a lot more expensive to buy brand new.
Stay clear of cheap, low-quality treadmills.
Recumbent Bikes & Treadmills vs. Other Cardio Equipment
Although you will find lots of good recumbent bikes and rows upon rows of high-end treadmills in the cardio section of your gym, they are only two of the many different types of cardio machines that you will find in the gym. Here are some of the other great machines you could look into.
If you want a cardio workout that mixes strength training with calorie-burning brilliance, then you should take a look into rowing machines.
These incredible hybrid cardio machines allow you to get a huge upper body and lower body workout in one big HIIT session.
If you want the ultimate lower body workout and enjoy pain and suffering, then maybe a stepper is the right machine for you.
With a stepper, you climb an unlimited set of stairs, creating a burn like no other. Steppers are challenging to use, but when used correctly, they are a great piece of equipment.
Elliptical machines are a great low-impact form of cardio equipment. By allowing you to work out in a gliding position, there is very little stress on the joints. For losing weight when you are very out of shape or overweight, they are perfect entry points.
You should be able to do long periods of steady-state cardio without overdoing it.
There you have it, with the information you now have at your disposal, you should find the decision a little bit easier. Don't stress too much; while both machines have their benefits and negatives, they can both be used to help you realize that dream body. Good luck!