The recumbent bike – my favorite piece of gym equipment.
Which usually sits in the corner of the fitness center, untouched. Along with a few other “odd” workout contraptions. I call this the corner of misfit gym equipment.
Most people are clueless to what a recumbent bike is.
Or THINK it’s a workout for the elderly. Which, it’s great for the “older” generation. However, “young bucks” can benefit from a recumbent bike workout too.
Don’t believe me? Give the routine at the bottom of this page a try.
Because when performed correctly, a recumbent bike workout is a big-time muscle builder. Especially in your legs…
And if you follow the few simple techniques in this article, you’ll end up collapsed on the floor. With so much lactic acid pumping through your legs you may not be able to walk.
I kid you not…
I used to pull a big blue cushioned floor mat next my favorite recumbent bike at the gym…
After my workout I would roll off the seat and lay on the padding for ten minutes until my legs “cooled off”.
That’s how intense this often disrespected piece of equipment can be.
It also goes to show the secret to a great cardio workout isn’t the equipment, but the effort you put in…
(The recumbent bike is low-seated and your legs pedal horizontally instead of vertically like on a standard stationary bike)
Before getting to the workout, here’s a few reasons the recumbent bike is one of the best pieces of cardio equipment for building muscle in your legs.
1 – Direct Muscle Work
The recumbent bike targets one key set of muscles. Your legs.
In fact, you can have a killer “leg day” workout just by using the recumbent bike.
And it’s far better than the treadmill…
Actually, ten times out of ten I’ll choose the recumbent bike over any treadmill in the gym (for more reasons I’ll explain below)…
Here’s why: The recumbent bike holds your hips tightly in place. Keeps your back pressed against the padded seat. And has a handle to keep your arms at your side.
This takes away momentum and recruitment of other muscles when performing the recumbent bike workout.
Which I love… and is advantageous if your focus is on building stronger legs…
Instead of using multiple muscle groups, like the elliptical for example, where you’re using your upper and lower body.
Pro Tip: To increase your muscle-building results in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves while on the recumbent bike, use the mind-muscle connection.
Focus all of your thinking on the muscles being worked.
Picture what you WANT your legs to look like and image that mental image throughout the entire set. You’ll engage your muscles far better this way.
2 – You Can Go “All Out”
You can’t build muscle on the recumbent bike taking it easy. You must go “all out”…
I teach the proper intensities and how long to go “all out” in my Anabolic Running course.
Now, what I like about the recumbent bike is it’s easy to give 100% effort because you can control the resistance of the pedals against your own ability.
Pro Find: The absolute BEST recumbent bike is designed by a company called SciFit. The resistance is “built in” to the machine.
Basically, when you begin to pedal, the machine automatically applies resistance based on your effort. Meaning, you won’t have to press any buttons.
Simply pedal as hard as you can and the bike will “fight back”. It’s a killer workout. If you have any SciFit equipment at your gym, you’ve struck gold.
(Here’s what it looks like if you’re curious)
If you don’t have a SciFit don’t worry about it.
You can still get the same challenge from a standard recumbent bike. You’ll just have to control the resistance up and down, that’s all.
Back to my main point, you must give it your best effort if you want to build muscle during your recumbent bike workout. Plain and simple.
3 – No Joint Pain
I hate joint pain… how about you?
Unfortunately I’ve “dinged” myself up with careless weight lifting and football injuries in my “younger years”. So I have to find ways to work around it.
The recumbent bike is one of those ways.
Because instead of banging up my knees on the treadmill – I can enjoy greater results with zero pain.
The recumbent bike is a “no impact” tool.
Which is why men and women in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond, wisely use this piece of equipment.
It won’t bang up your cartilage or inflame your hips, ankles, or knees.
Instead, the only “pain” you’ll feel are your legs filling up with muscle building lactic acid with each pedal you make during the sprint portion of your recumbent bike workout.
Don’t worry, it’s normal 😉
(This is why you want to take care of your joints… so you can enjoy the activities you love with the person(s) you love without the interruption of pain).
Pro Tip: Incase you were curious. Some other no-impact exercises include swimming, rowing, and “arm cycling” on the ergometer.
(The ergometer gives me the most intense arm pumps. I’ll save that blog post for another day though.)
4 – Anabolic Cardio
Anabolic Cardio – the ability to unleash boatloads of muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone while doing cardiovascular exercise.
Only a few machines in the gym allow you to do Anabolic Cardio.
The recumbent bike is one of them.
I give a few others in the Indoor Anabolic Running guide which I include in my Anabolic Running Course.
However, to give you the “short” of it… Anabolic Cardio uses a combination of breathing techniques, intensities, duration, and rest periods to help you maximize muscle growth and optimize your body’s most powerful anabolic hormones.
Most cardio equipment can be a hinderance in the intensity and duration portion.
For example, the treadmill.
It’s very difficult to push your body hard enough to reach the “lactic threshold” (which is where the “magic happens” for building rock hard muscle)
For one, the treadmill gives you an “assisting mechanism” – the circulating platform.
Which takes a bit of the grunt work OFF you… and puts it onto the machine. Truth is, you NEED that stress to create an anabolic impact with your hormones.
And the rotating platform creates a “crutch”.
And if you do try to go all-out on the treadmill the speeds can get very high. Almost too high. To the point of feeling uncomfortable.
(The recumbent bike won’t hold you back – which is why I love it)
Now, if you’re advanced, you can crank up the incline on the treadmill and have a killer anabolic workout.
However, I don’t recommend it for most people.
One more example is the rowing machine. Sure, it’s a no impact workout, however it doesn’t give you the capacity to go 100% pedal to the metal.
Because after every pull is a “rest” while the rowing bar returns to it’s starting point. Which is why I don’t recommend it for an anabolic cardio workout.
Not enough lactic acid build-up.
Okay, so now that you’ve sat through my love-expressions for the recumbent bike…
Here Is My Recumbent Bike Workout for Building Muscle:
Warm up: 5 minutes
Interval Sprint: 20-30 seconds w/ nasal breathing (max effort)
Rest: lower resistance and lightly pedal for 120 seconds with nasal breathing
Cool down: 5 minutes
It’s simple, yet it WORKS. Be sure to pull up a mat next to the machine so you can flop over after…
Just kidding 😉