Stationary Bike vs. Elliptical – Which is Better for What?
When it comes to cardio workouts and burning fat, there aren’t many machines that come to mind, but two of the most popular are elliptical trainers and stationary bikes.
Both of those pieces of equipment are excellent choices for both cardio and calorie-burning, which can make it hard to pick the right one for you.
As you would guess, a lot of meticulous planning goes into deciding the option to pick here; that’s what I set out to explain in this post. But before diving into details, let’s take a look at a brief breakdown of the different machines I will be going over.
So, which would be better for you, a stationary exercise bike or an elliptical trainer?
Well, it depends.
On what, you ask?
Keep reading to find out!
A Quick Run-Through of Both Options…
For those who are at wits end trying to figure out which one makes a perfect fit for your weight loss and fitness goals, here’s a breakdown of the different options at your disposal and what’s special about them.
Well, the choice is pretty much down to your objective, and of course, a few other aspects, too; like how easy it is on your joints, comfort, budget, and several other factors.
An elliptical is the go-to machine if you love working up a sweat .
And while this one allows you to ante up the intensity of your workout, it can be a tad hard on your joints. So yeah, it’s a good one for safety as long as you are doing everything right.
I personally own this Sole E35 right here, and trust me, it gets the job done while still keeping things fun!
Thinking of going for an exercise bike? Then you’re in luck as you have several options here.
If comfort and low-impact cardio exercise are your top preferences, then go with the recumbent bike – you can check one out on Dicks here, or check reviews and price on Amazon by clicking here. It is a great choice for seniors, and you can count on it when recovering from injury – your joints, lower back and even the upper body will thank you.
An upright bike is great for targeting your core and legs, but that comes at a cost – it exposes your hands and wrists to a great deal of pressure. But if you are fit enough, and in your best form, then just get a good one – the Bowflex VeloCore makes for an excellent choice, the reviews say it all.
Then there’s the spin bike; this one is the machine you should get your hands on if you are bent on getting one heck of a serious workout.
It is the bike for die-hard indoor cyclists and those into cycling sports; it not only awakens the rider in you, it’s also the closest you can get to riding outdoors.
And if you’re looking for an affordable cardio machine, these should definitely fit the bill; like this Bowflex bike, for instance, which goes for way less compared to the competition.
What Is an Elliptical?
An elliptical trainer is a stationary workout machine used to simulate stair climbing as well as running and walking. What’s unique about this piece of equipment is that it doesn’t cause excessive pressure on the joints, thus making it suitable for those with some injuries as it decreases the risk of impact accidents.
Just like other workout machines, an elliptical trainer offers different levels of intensity based on the speed of the exercise as well as the resistance set by the user.
And the thing I love most about these machines is that they come in both large and smaller size models like the stamina in-motion elliptical; the latter can be used even under the desk to get in some workout while working.
What Is an Exercise Bike?
A stationary bike is just that, an exercise bike that is stationary. It’s a machine that includes saddle, pedals, and handlebars to offer the benefits of cycling all from the comfort of your own backyard gym.
Similar to elliptical trainers, exercise bikes put little stress on the joints while still providing an excellent aerobic workout.
Exercise bikes come in three types, which I’ll detail below.
Types of Exercise Bikes
Exercise bikes come in several types; recumbent bikes, upright bikes, and spin bikes. These offer varying workout intensities, and the stakes also vary depending on the bike you choose.
Recumbent Exercise Bike
This is by far the most comfortable out of all types of exercise bikes. Recumbent exercise bikes usually have a large, cushioned seat along with a backrest – both of which are positioned back from the pedals, thus providing all the support your upper body, back, and joints need. And yes, some of the foldable bikes with backrest are compact to save on space, good news to those living in apartments with less space for fancy workout equipment.
If you’re an older adult, one with limited mobility, or suffer from any joint injury or back pain, a recumbent exercise bike is the way to go.
Upright Exercise Bike
The upright exercise bike has pedals positioned just under the user’s body, which is why it can be used standing or sitting.
Unlike an indoor cycle bike, an upright exercise bike uses electromagnetic induction that slows the flywheel to increase or decrease resistance.
An upright exercise bike is an excellent machine if you want to strengthen your core and legs, but its upright design can be inconvenient for some as it puts pressure on the hands and wrists.
Indoor Cycle Bike / Spin Bike
This is the closest you’ll get to an ordinary bicycle. Indoor cycling bikes, A.K.A Spin Bikes, are also similar to upright exercise bikes, but their resistance is given in different ways.
These machines are called spin bikes, and they owe their name to the weighted flywheel they feature, which is connected to the pedals through a transmission system.
That setup, along with the direct-contact brakes, makes this type the most challenging to ride. On the bright side, it also allows this bike to provide an authentic cycling experience.
To tackle the resistance on such a bike, all you have to do is turn a small knob.
Elliptical vs. Exercise Bike – Which Is Best for What?
One of the most important considerations you should keep in mind when choosing between these two should be the purpose you have in mind for it…or say your fitness goals.
Which Is Best for Losing Weight and Burning Fat? – The Elliptical
Let’s start with the million-dollar question: which is better for losing weight and burning fat; the elliptical trainer or exercise bike?
Well, theoretically, an elliptical trainer exercises your body, which will increase metabolism and burn more calories compared to a stationary bike.
That makes sense, considering that elliptical trainers are designed to train the whole body, whereas exercise bikes are geared towards the lower body.
It’s more about comfort and intensity here…
The matter is a bit more complicated than that though, as how fast you’re going to put off pounds will ultimately depend on how comfortable you are with the machine you use as well as the intensity of your workouts.
After all, the comfier you feel using a machine, the more effort you’re going to put when working out with it, which will let you burn more calories. If a machine feels awkward, on the other hand, achieving your desired weight loss goal will prove to be a daunting task.
Turns out, the intensity is what really makes a difference
That said, it’s mainly the intensity that will determine how many calories you’re going to burn. Following a very intense workout on an exercise bike, no matter its type, will yield better results in terms of weight loss than practicing quietly on an elliptical trainer.
All in all, the elliptical trainer is the winner when it comes to weight loss potential, but the difference between the two machines isn’t that huge, and you can build your fitness level to new heights with either of them if you work out regularly with suitable intensity.
Which Machine Is Best for Bad Knees? – Recumbent Exercise Bike
If you have bad knees, or any other joint issue for that matter, you ought to stick with an elliptical trainer or a recumbent exercise bike.
Because although both stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are designed to go easy on your joints thanks to the low-impact exercises they offer, the latter option offers almost zero impact, since you won’t even have to lift your feet off the footpads.
Granted, you don’t have to lift your feet off the pedals when using a stationary bike either, but when training on such a machine, your knees will keep moving from a straight to a very bent position, which can be taxing to your joints.
Did I also mention that recumbent exercise bikes are also a good option and this is because recumbent bikes have a totally relaxed seating position that allows you to sit and lay back. This style of seating position allows you to keep the weight off of your joints and allows you to focus on pedaling.
In fact, recumbent exercise bikes are great for knee rehabbing, and none has proven itself more than the Sole LCR bike. It’s built for comfort, and is super easy on your joints, but still offers one heck of a workout.
You can check out its reviews and price on Amazon by clicking here.
Which Is Best for Seniors? – Recumbent Bike
For older people trying to stay fit, a stationary bike, especially a recumbent one, would be more suitable than an elliptical trainer.
Recumbent bikes have been the go-to machine for senior citizens, overweight people, as well as rehab patients and people with balance problems – for obvious reasons.
After all, these machines are comfortable and easy on the joints due to their unique design, making them just perfect for those who cannot use treadmills, elliptical trainers, and upright bikes.
Which Is Best for Runners? – Elliptical Trainer
If you’re a runner, you ought to get a machine that can increase your cardio capacity. In other words, you need a piece of equipment that can engage as many muscles as possible during your workout sessions as that will teach your body how to use oxygen efficiently.
It’s often argued that treadmills, and more so the incline treadmills are best suited for runners, especially those looking to get more intensity to not only burn fat, but also running for weight gain by building muscles over time.
But hey, both the elliptical trainer and the exercise bike can be just as suitable for that, as you can adjust the intensity of the workout on them to get more of your body engaged in your training sessions.
In that case, I’d say go with the Bowflex M9. This trainer is not just fun to use, it’s as solid as a tank – even an overweight person can’t bring it down. You can get it on Amazon by clicking here or grab it on the manufacturer’s site for slightly cheaper.
That said, stationary bikes are a bit limiting in this regard as they primarily target your lower body along with a bit of your core. Elliptical trainers, on the other hand, engage both the upper and lower body along with the core, thus giving you unlimited possibilities and the most comprehensive workout when it comes to cardio capacity gains.
Furthermore, elliptical trainers have a near-authentic running position and experience compared to stationary bikes, and they’re easier on the knees than a treadmill, for example, thus giving you the best of both worlds in this aspect.
Which Is Best for Building Muscle and Strength?
The right choice here will depend on which muscles you want to tone and strengthen.
There’s one thing that you need to keep in mind, though. The exercise bike and elliptical trainer are both cardio machines that will only help you get in some cardio after your workouts, not strength building fitness equipment. Don’t mistake these for the likes of a sumo smith machine, for example. In other words, they can help you tone some of your muscles, but they won’t help you double your gains.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s know which machine is best for which muscle group!
If you’re looking to target your lower body, both the elliptical trainer and the exercise bike can work just fine for you. After all, both will allow you to train and build bigger quads, thighs, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more of a full-body workout, then an elliptical trainer would be a better choice, considering that it can help you train not only your lower body muscles but also your arms, pecs, back muscles, and sculpt some 10-pack abs.
Finally, if you want to strengthen your core and get insane 12-pack abs to impress the ladies, get a stationary bike. To tone your abs using an exercise bike, tighten the handlebars and contract your stomach muscles while cycling. You can also try interval training, which is a sure way to get your core muscles to the next level.
Stationary Bike vs. Elliptical – Which Costs More?
Depending on the type, exercise bikes can cost anywhere from $400 to $2000. The price of elliptical trainers, on the other hand, can cost from less than $500 to over $3,000.
It all depends on the model, of course, and although you can probably get more bang for your buck purchasing an exercise bike, both machines are pretty similar when it comes to the average price.
Do note, however, that the difference between having to fork out more cash and getting a great also boils down to where you buy from. The price will vary depending on where you buy, and that’s fine.
But for those on a tight budget, I’d suggest looking further afield before finally pulling the trigger. A case in point; the Bowflex max trainer is slightly costlier on the manufacturer’s site than the price on Amazon .
On the other hand, the opposite is the case for the Sole LCR recumbent bike, whose Amazon price dwarfs the price tag on Dicks sporting.
Stationary Bike vs. Elliptical: Advantages & Drawbacks
Just like is the case with any other fitness equipment, both options have their benefits along with a fair share of drawbacks. Let’s look at both benefits and downsides for each of them;
Benefits of Ellipticals
The elliptical is not popular among fitness buffs for nothing, get a good machine, and you will have every reason to smile whenever you hop on it, as it brings home several cool perks.
Provide Full Body Workout
This is one of the top perks of getting an elliptical trainer, and it’s the reason it’s called cross-trainer or X-trainer.
Thanks to its handlebars, the elliptical trainer can provide a dual-action workout that engages most of the major muscle groups in your body, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, pecs, core, biceps and triceps. If the reviews on some of these machines are anything to go by, this added advantage is something users won’t miss for the world.
Remember, the more muscles you engage, the more calories you’ll burn, which makes this machine superior compared to lower-body-only exercise machines, which is the case for most exercise bikes.
Keep in mind that, to get the most out of such a dual-action workout, you must distribute the resistance between your upper and lower body.
When walking or running outside or on a treadmill, every step you take puts pressure on your joints. Eventually depending on how long you run on the treadmill even if it has the most cushioned deck of any treadmill out there you will find that your joints will be quite sore after some time. Elliptical trainers, on the other hand, prevent that through the elliptical motion they provide.
After all, your feet never leave the pedals, which means that your body is supported all the time, making the whole experience similar to walking in midair.
With a machine like this, you’ll never be able to use the “my knees hurt” excuse ever again!
So, if you find it hard to tolerate the jarring motion of walking or running because of your age, weight, or condition, you might want to stick with an elliptical machine.
Helps Prevent Osteoporosis and Recover from Injury
Unlike stationary bikes, an elliptical trainer provides a weight-bearing exercise that forces your body to work against gravity, which inhibits the onset of osteoporosis.
Moreover, if you’re recovering from an injury and still want to maintain a high level of fitness, getting an elliptical trainer would be ideal. That’s because although it’s a low-impact machine, this piece of equipment can still give you high-intensity workouts without going hard on your joints.
Cons of Ellipticals
Despite all the great benefits that you can get with an elliptical, it also has some downsides that you should have in mind when deciding to pick one.
To use an elliptical machine, you must be standing and moving throughout the whole workout.
That may be fine for the first couple of minutes, but the longer your workouts get, the less comfortable such position is going to become in contrast with using a stationary bike, or the more comfy recumbent model, which allows you to sit down in a comfortable manner.
Can Be Overwhelming
As I mentioned above, elliptical trainers target several muscle groups, including the glutes, thighs, hamstrings, pecs, back muscles, arms, and core.
Granted, that can be a huge advantage if you’re looking to get into shape fast or strengthen your muscles, but if you’re a senior citizen, an overweight user, or a total beginner, using an elliptical machine can be overwhelming and tiring.
There’s also the fact that elliptical machines have a steep learning curve. The movement they provide may feel unnatural at first, which is why such a piece of equipment may take some getting used to.
Their Size Can Be Problematic
One disadvantage that must be mentioned is that choosing the size of an elliptical trainer can be more problematic than picking the dimensions of an exercise bike.
Elliptical machine models vary vastly when it comes to the size, which means that you may end up with a unit that’s either too big or too small for you. Either way, such a machine would be uncomfortable or worse, bad for your joints. If you find yourself in such a situation, make sure to switch to an exercise bike.
Benefits of Exercise Bikes
Exercise bikes come with a bucket-list of great features and benefits that have made them a fave for many in the fitness space, both at home and in the gym. Below are some of these benefits;
They Allow for Interactive Live Training Workouts
Let’s face it; working out at home can be boring. After all, the scenery doesn’t change that much throughout the workout, and, for most machines, there aren’t many exercises to try, which is the case for the elliptical trainer.
Enter stationary exercise bikes with screens.
Many stationary exercise bikes come with screens that allow the user to try interactive workouts through apps like iFit, Peleton, Echelon, and Zwift. That way, you can join live classes led by professional trainers, which will help you get the most out of your indoor bike.
My Favorite is actually an interactive gaming app called Zwift. Buy a Zwift compatible exercise bike and away you can do to any destination in the world and go through virtual rides. It’s Extremely cool.
They Provide a Low-Impact Workout
Stationary bikes use smooth movements to help you strengthen your muscles as well as your bones and joints without putting them under too much pressure.
After all, your feet don’t leave the pedals throughout the workout, making these bikes capable of providing a challenging workout while going soft on your knees.
That makes these machines suitable for people with pre-existing joint issues and a better alternative to running, jogging, and jumping, all of which can put your joints under a lot of stress.
They Offer Endless Workout Possibilities
There’s more to do than to just sit and pedal on an exercise bike. After all, you can easily adjust the resistance, cadence, and stance. So, besides normal cycling, you can try doing a seated hill climb, standing hill climb, or sprints.
Unlike elliptical machines, exercise bikes don’t force you to stand up throughout your workout sessions. Instead, you can sit comfortably on the bike’s seat and pedal!
The fact that you’re sitting also means that you can free your hands to pick a book to read, change the TV channel, or send an urgent text. Granted, that can be done on an elliptical trainer as well, but, in that case, you’ll have to struggle to maintain your balance and keep your head from bobbing around.
They’re the Best Option for Overweight and Elderly Users
Since they only target lower body muscles and offer a comfortable seating position, exercise bikes are perfect for senior citizens and overweight people. That’s especially the case for recumbent bikes, which are specifically designed for such users.
Stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are two of the most widely-used cardio machines, and for good reason. They’re excellent for losing weight, toning muscles, and staying in shape, all while being low-impact and going easy on your joints.
Each machine has its own pros and cons, so there is no correct and wrong choice here, but rather the right option for each case.