A stationary cycle, also known as an exercise bike, is a piece of gym equipment commonly found in homes and fitness clubs alike. It is very easy to use and delivers an effective aerobic workout while having little to no impact on the body, meaning it is not hard on the joints. A stationary cycle can be used for both aerobic conditioning as well as toning and strengthening the lower body. Although exercise bikes have been around for quite some time, they have grown in popularity quite recently thanks to the spinning craze taking over gyms and studios.
Tips for Buying a Stationary Bike
Making an uninformed purchase is never a good idea and buying a stationary bike without the required knowledge is an even worse idea. Buying a stationary bike is a process, an easy one nonetheless, but it is a process. Use the tips below to make sure you get the right stationary bike for you and your specific fitness needs.
Decide on a Type
Your options include upright stationary bikes, recumbent bikes and hybrids which are perfect for those that want two machines in one. Upright models best suit those looking for a realistic cycling experience, recumbent models are ideal for those seeking a more comfortable workout while hybrids are perfect for anyone needing an elliptical and stationary. All are excellent choices so the decision is really based on preference.
Set a Budget
Just decide how much you are able to spend and keep that number in mind as you shop around. When coming up with a budget remember that a stationary cycle is worth a small investment.
Consider Your Goals
When looking to buy a stationary bike you want to consider your goals prior to making a purchase. The goal is buying a cycle that will best help reach the goals mind. The way to do that is looking for stationary bikes with features that will improve your workouts. You may benefit from one with several preset programs or a wide range of tension levels while others want any and all workout stats possible.
Consider Your Space
Measure the amount of space you have available and take note of these measurements. Once you have those numbers compare them to the dimensions of stationary cycles to avoid buying a bike that is too large.
After considering the above you want to do your research. Learn about the models within your price range, do some research on the manufacturer, read reviews, watch online videos that give an overview of the stationary cycle and just focus on gaining enough information to make an informed decision.
While researching stationary bikes also look for the following:
- Heart rate monitor
- Broad range of resistance levels
- Built in programs
- Easy to read and access control panel/display console
- Comfortable seat that is adjustable
- Sturdy construction
- Durable construction
- Minimum 1-2-year warranty
Test It Out
At this point there is likely 1-2 stationary cycles you have your eye on. Before finalizing your decision, test it out (even if you plan to buy online). Use it just as you would at home and take the time to try everything out.
Decide Where to Buy
Once you have chosen a stationary bike, the last thing to do is decide where to buy and complete your purchase. You will get excellent service at a specialty fitness store, are likely to find a great deal online or you can head to a trusted retailer near you. The choice is yours but specialty stores will assemble the machine, may offer financing and make it a point to be there every step of the way.
Benefits of Using a Stationary Cycle
The stationary bike is an old favorite because it works. What can get easier than pedaling to a stronger, more fit you? Cycling gets the heart pumping, increases lung capacity, tones and so much more. The benefits really are endless and anyone at any fitness level can get on a stationary bike and go. You have probably used a stationary in the past but were you aware of how it was affecting your body? Well now it’s time to gain some very useful knowledge. Below are the benefits of using a stationary cycle.
Ease of Use
Stationary bikes are very easy to use. Anyone can get on and start pedaling as long as they watch their form and technique. The only thing you may have to learn is how to use the control console. When compared to other exercise machines, that is as easy as it gets. In addition to being easy to use, stationary cycles are extremely convenient. Having one at home allows you to enjoy a heart pumping cycling workout anytime you please.
Stationary bikes are very gentle on the joints which means you can reap all the benefits of cycling without running the risk of injury and discomfort. Little to no stress is put on the knees and little impact is put on the spine since the spine is not at all jarred during workouts. As a plus, flexibility improves since users are able to get the physical activity needed without it taking a toll on the spine and joints.
Improves Heart and Lung Function
Cycling is excellent cardio. The faster you pedal the harder the heart and lungs work. The heart begins to pump faster to supply the body with more blood and carry nutrients to muscles. As a result, the number of beats per minute increases and that muscular organ becomes stronger and more resilient due to training. Exercising on a stationary bike improves lung function by forcing breathing rates to increase. When physical activity is done on a regular basis the amount of oxygen the lungs can handle increases to supply the body’s demand for oxygen. Increased lung volume means improved lung function.
Cycling on a stationary bike strengthens muscles and allows riders to develop lean mass. The way to do this is putting the resistance levels to good use. Resistance combined with the push and pull of each pedaling motion engages major muscles in the body. During the push portion the quads (located in the thigh area) are put to work and the push targets the hamstrings as well as the core as long as you keep the abdomen tight during training. Those with moving handlebars can even engage muscles in the upper body.
As you know, stationary cycles are very efficient cardiovascular machines. In fact, a moderately paced session burns more calories than other types of exercise. Due to the higher calorie burn riders are able to create and maintain the caloric deficit required to lose weight, more specifically weight from fat. Metabolism also increases since cardio speeds the rate at which the body burns energy.
How to Use a Stationary Cycle
There is a right and wrong way to use a stationary bike. Whether you think you have your technique down pat or have no clue how to use an upright or recumbent cycle, check out the directions below. They are easy to follow, straight to the point and will help you better understand how to operate a stationary bike without putting yourself at risk of exercise related pain or injury.
Using an upright stationary cycle is very similar to using a regular bicycle. Although pretty easy, there is room for error. Here’s how to properly use upright models:
Step 1: Adjust the seat.
You want to adjust the seat so your legs are almost straight when the pedals are at the lowest position. This makes sure your body doesn’t feel crunched during the upward portion of each pedaling motion and avoids straining the hips as the pedals come down. Adjust, try it out and if it feels right, you have adjusted the seat correctly, if not, keep adjusting until you can pedal comfortably.
Step 2: Check the handlebars and control console.
Next, you want to adjust the handlebars, if the machine has that option. The bars should be positioned so the arms reach out at shoulder level. This helps put less strain on the shoulders and back. After that is taken care of, get to know the control console. Take a moment to check out the resistance levels, learn how many there are and note other useful stats displayed like distance covered, calories burned and cadence which is the number of revolutions per minute.
Step 3: Adjust pedal straps.
Some people use them, some don’t and it is really your choice but the straps do improve efficiency. When using pedal straps keep in mind that they should be snug but shouldn’t cut off circulation.
Step 4: Posture is important.
Before you start pedaling, you have to get your posture just right. Upright cycles leave a lot of room for hunching which often leads to back pain. To avoid this, keep your back straight, head up, shoulders back, engage the core and keep your ears in line with your shoulders.
Recumbent cycles are easier to use because you don’t have to put as much effort into your posture. The body remains in a comfortably reclined position. To use a recumbent bike, adjust the seat first. Unlike upright seats that move up and down, the seats on recumbent models move forward and back since pedals are in front of the rider. You then want to get acquainted with the control console to understand your options and then adjust the pedal straps to increase efficiency. From there, all you have to do is pedal. When pedaling be sure to pedal with your entire foot rather than just the toes to avoid cramping. Rather, press from the balls of the feet through the heels and engage the top portion of the foot during the upward motion of each stroke.
Types of Stationary Cycles
A stationary cycle is a home gym must have. Both high end and low end models have the ability to deliver a heart pumping, muscle activating workout that fully engages the lower body including the, glutes, quads and calves. Those interested in adding a stationary cycle to their personal gym should consider the types of cycles on the market. Fortunately for you, there are only two main types of stationary cycles to choose from and the third is more of a wildcard. They do differ in function and layout but all types include a padded seat, metal frame, pedals and a display console located at the front of the machine. Types of stationary bikes include upright cycles, recumbent cycles and hybrids which act as both a stationary bike and elliptical trainer. Let’s discuss these three in detail.
Upright Stationary Cycles
Upright stationary cycles feature a seat that positions the rider’s body above the frame making it very similar to using a regular bicycle. The seat is small much like traditional bicycles and the pedals are located under the rider while the electronic display sits above the pedals along with the handlebars. Since upright models are most like traditional bikes they are able to deliver consistent workouts since they best imitate the position of the rider on a traditional bike. Since it is up to the rider to keep the body upright, the muscles in the abdomen are engaged throughout the entire duration of the workout along with the muscles in the lower body and even the arms. The body is engaged even more as resistance level is increased.
Recumbent Stationary Cycles
Recumbent stationary cycles house a large, more comfortable seat located well into the frame. The seat puts the rider in a declined position making this type more ergonomic. The pedals of the cycle are located in front of the body while the display sits above the pedals making it easily accessible to the user. Due to the more ergonomic design, the rider is quite comfortable during use (some recumbent bikes even have arm rests), the low center of gravity offers greater stability and the natural body alignment helps avoid aches and pains in the buttocks as well as the lower back, more specifically the lumbar spine. As a plus, recumbent stationary cycles are really easy on joints.
As said, hybrid stationary cycles combine a stationary cycle and elliptical trainer. Hybrids include an ergonomic and very comfortable seat like you would find on a recumbent bike and pedals are positioned in front of the body. The major difference is the fact that the pedals have dual uses. They act as bike pedals as well as the lower body function when the machine is used as an elliptical trainer. Hybrids also have moving handles and a control console. Users have the option to sit down and cycle or stand upright to stride their way fit. Like all types of stationary cycles, the user can easily adjust the resistance level.
Stationary Cycle Workouts
There are so many stationary cycle workouts. With this valuable piece of equipment, the options are endless which is why it’s such a smart investment. Riders can build muscle, burn fat, increase endurance and more. Check out the three cycling workouts below, try them out and see your body transform.
The Ambitious Beginner
The Ambitious Beginner is THE workout for those new to training on a stationary bike. Even though it is a nice introduction, this workout will definitely challenge the body while giving you a chance to get a feel of what stationary cycling is all about. Remember to try your best, maintain good posture and complete the entire motion as you pedal. Efficiency is important.
You will need:
- Stationary cycle
Total Duration: 20 minutes
* Resistance level is up to you.
Warm Up – 5 minutes with RPE at 3-4
Cycle – 1 minute with RPE at 7-8
Recover – 30 seconds with RPE at 3-4
Cycle – 1 minute and 30 seconds with RPE at 7-8
Recover – 1 minute with RPE at 3-4
Cycle – 3 minutes with RPE at 5-6
Recover – 2 minutes with RPE at 3
Cycle – 1 minute with RPE at 6-7
Cool Down – 5 minutes with RPE at 3-4
The Heart Pumping Mass Builder
The name says it all! This workout will get your heart pumping and help build lean muscle mass that is going to ignite calorie burn by boosting the metabolism.
Total Duration: 25 minutes
Warm Up – 5 minutes with light resistance, RPE at 5
Cycle – 5 minutes with moderate resistance, RPE at 7
Recover – 1 minute with light resistance, RPE at 5
Cycle – 5 minutes with heavy resistance, RPE at 7-8
Cycle – 1 minute with heavy resistance, RPE at 8-9
Recover – 3 minutes with light resistance, RPE at 5
Cycle – 2 minutes with moderate resistance, RPE at 7
Cycle – 3 minutes with heavy resistance, RPE at 8
Cool Down – 5 minutes with light resistance, RPE at 3-5
The Full Fit 15
This full body stationary bike workout adds upper body activity for full body benefits. This workout is certainly intense but will only take 15 minutes of your time. Unlike the other workouts provided, riders should focus on the number of rotations per minute (rpm) rather than rate of perceived exertion. Striving for a certain number will make you pedal harder and faster which means better results. Make sure to complete a 5 minute warm up and cool down.
You will need:
- Stationary cycle with varying resistance levels
- Set of dumbbells (choose a weight you’re comfortable with)
Total Duration: 20 minutes
Cycle – 2 minutes with moderate resistance at 80 rpm while performing alternating bicep curls
Cycle – 2 minutes with moderate resistance at 70 rpm with no upper body movement
Cycle – 2 minutes with heavy resistance at 50 rpm while performing shoulder presses
Cycle– 3 minutes with light resistance at 90 rpm while performing front raises
Recover – 1 minute with light resistance; no upper body movement
Cycle – 3 minutes with heavy resistance at 60 rpm while performing alternating bicep curls
Cycle – 2 minutes with heavy resistance at 50 rpm while performing side raises