As reformed “cardio queens,” we have to admit, we never considered the recumbent bike a respectable piece of equipment.  It never seemed as hard-core as running or doing the stepmill or doing hour-long Tae Bo workouts.  However, after a weight-bearing injury left Jill flat on her butt, she found myself on the recumbent bike, using it as a low-impact alternative.  Forced to create her own intensity, she pushed through some seriously tough workouts, torching fat and sculpting her legs like she never dreamed.

In our My Gym Trainer books, we thought that including recumbent bike workouts for this very reason was a must.  Many people have injuries and arthritis that limit them to non-weight bearing exercise, and why shouldn’t those exercisers, too, can get a really great workout to burn fat and tone the lower body?

Why Pedal

The recumbent bike is a piece of cardiovascular equipment that places the user in the seated position with the feet forward and back against a pad, as opposed to the upright bike which is more similar in orientation to a regular bicycle.  For a biomechanical perspective, it is advantageous to use the recumbent bike to take pressure off the joints of the lower body.  The recumbent has traditionally been recommended by doctors and physical therapists to patients whose joint conditions require them to get activity through non-weight-bearing exercise.  My Gym Trainer found another use for it: leg-burning device to generate real leg-shaping, fat-torching results! J

My Gym Trainer’s Favorite Recumbent Bike Workouts for Fat Loss

Traditional fat-burning anaerobic exercise done via high-intensity interval training (HIIT) creates a hormonally and calorically favorable environment to lose inches.  Ninety-five percent of exercisers want fat loss.  And most females will point to various hip and thigh areas and want to get rid of localized fat in these places.  Luckily, since the recumbent bike only works the lower body, the trainee can channel all exertion to the legs and glutes to create powerful pedal strokes through the fat-burning protocol.  We know from recent studies that HIIT burns greater amounts of fat than low-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise, as was shown via stationary bikes in an article published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (Dec 2008).  Fat burning increased 60% from baseline with interval programs such as those contained in My Gym Trainer.  Even though the recumbent bike utilizes only the lower half of the body, the metabolic effect created by interval training on the bike generates a universal fat-burning ripple effect.

Workout #1 – 25 minutes: Traditional HIIT workout done on the bike. Pedal as hard as possible for the “working” segments and move the legs very slowly during the “resting” segment in order to recover and be able to generate the same force for the next working segment.  Go for intense, all-out peaks of exertion (to the point of breathlessness), followed by low valleys of rest and recovery. Remember, it is not about duration, but instead about intensity.

Use a recumbent bike whose highest level is 20.  Choose the Manual program and adjust the level throughout the workout according to the time and segment lengths listed here.

Workout #2 – 25 minutes: Add an upper body component!  Grab a set of lighter weights (perhaps 5-8 lb dumbbells for women and 12-15 lb dumbbells for men).  The protocol is similar to Workout #1 in that we are incorporating intervals, however, in addition to pushing the legs hard during the “working” segments, you are going to perform upper body movements at the same time.  Full-body movements like this can feel awkward, but will only exponentiate the fat-burning potential of the workout.  By recruiting more muscle groups, the workout challenges not only their aerobic capacity but their muscular endurance too. The result is breathlessness, burning and an overall feeling of exhaustion.

Begin on a Manual Setting and adjust the levels as you progress through the workout.  The upper body movements involved are also listed.  During your “resting” segments, place the dumbbells in your lap so you can recover.

Check back next week for a recumbent bike workout that builds muscular endurance and shapes the legs!