Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by JP
If you’re trying to decide between an elliptical or a stationary bike, whether for home use or the gym, it’s essential to weigh out the pros and cons against your personal fitness goals. Both machines are great for cardio exercise, giving you a choice to decide between speed and rhythm.
Unlike the treadmill, both of these machines adapt to your effort level and offer versatility to adjust resistance and incline to challenge you. Popular models such as the Gold’s Gym Stationary Bike and the LeMond Stationary Bike are great choices for home use.
Although they’re similar in many aspects, ellipticals and stationary bikes don’t offer equal fitness benefits. Read on to explore their pros and cons, along with some additional factors to help you decide which one is right for you.
Elliptical machines’ workouts often look like a combination of skiing movement and stair climbing. Their most noticeable feature is the stationary handlebars, which come as a convenient addition for people with upper body problems as they’re designed to give balance.
- Moving handlebars for body strengthening and muscle benefits
- Resistance and incline can be added to further challenge the user
- Since the upper body is also utilized, more calories can be burnt
- Load distribution between the legs and arms, so when the legs are exhausted, the arms can take over
- Can be performed in forward or backward motions to target different muscle groups
- Can be adjusted to be low-impact for those under rehabilitation programs for injuries
- Can be adjusted to be high-impact for those who wish to perform high-intensity workouts
- May take a while to get used to the motion of the machine
- If misused, can result in hip and back pain
- May not be enough of a challenge for fitness novices
This cardio machine provides a no-impact aerobic workout. The two main types of exercise bikes include recumbent and upright forms.
The upright one is a regular road-style bike that’s vertical and has handlebars at the front, while the recumbent form is ideal for those with physiological problems, as it supports the back by eliminating the leaning position.
- Doesn’t take long to learn using this machine
- Targets multiple muscle groups in the legs, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings
- Can burn a good amount of calories to support reaching weight loss goals
- Most bikes come with various programs to challenge the user
- User can adjust both speed and resistance
- If not done correctly, it can trigger back, shoulder, and knee ache
- Doesn’t target the upper body
- User should have a sufficient amount of leg strength to attain fitness goals
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Stationary Bikes and Ellipticals
Along with the pros and cons of both cardio machines, it’s essential to consider the factors that may influence your personal fitness goals.
Ease of Use
If you’re a budding new fitness enthusiast trying to figure out which out of the two is right for you, you must select the one you find easier to use. That’s because you don’t want to give in after a week of struggle and abandon all the fitness goals you’ve made for yourself.
Beginners will find the bike easy to adjust to, mainly because many of us cycled in our youth. Our brains are wired to pick up the motion quite easily.
On the other hand, the elliptical will require some adjusting at first because of the different motions it entails and the balance factor when using the moving handlebars.
If you’re new to these machines but would like to try one, then opt for the stationary bicycle; that’ll give you something to settle into for some time before moving on to the elliptical.
Both the elliptical and the stationary bike are somewhat similar in their appearance as well as their functions. Both don’t provide impact exercise and, therefore, if used correctly, shouldn’t cause you injury the way other impact machines do.
Having said that, bikes pose a risk to your knees because of repetitive movement, while the elliptical, when used with incorrect posture, can create back problems and aches – but this is less common. Therefore, when it comes to bodily risks, the elliptical wins the race.
A primary goal for using cardio machines is to burn fat and calories. So naturally, it’s one of the critical considerations for choosing between the two. Ellipticals allow you to burn about 15% more calories than stationary bikes, but of course, this depends on how you use them.
If you perform an intense workout on your bike and a very easy-going workout on the elliptical, of course, you’ll burn more on the bike. But the elliptical has more potential to burn calories faster than the stationary bike because of the handlebars that work the upper body simultaneously with the lower.
Additionally, the constant standing upright requires more energy to be put in, and the body is pushed to work harder.
Ellipticals tend to give your whole body a workout rather than just your legs. Because of the movement of both your arms and legs, your body performs compound moves that work compound muscle regions.
There’s also the versatility of adding in resistance and incline to further challenge the muscles in your body. Your glutes, chest, back, arms, quads, calves, and core are all working together to stabilize your balance – all of which give you an all-rounder workout.
On the other hand, the stationary bike doesn’t work the whole body but gives a more targeted workout for the hamstrings, quads, and calves.
Having said that, if you position yourself to be out of the saddle or in a “danseuse” position, you can exert more pressure on your glutes and quads, giving them a workout – but this isn’t comfortable for extended periods.
If you’re considering these machines for home use, you’ll need to consider the upkeep requirements and costs for them.
For this specific purpose, you can opt for high-quality machines, such as the Stationary Recumbent Bike, the Schwinn 130 Stationary Bike, or the Nautilus Stationary Bike. With these models, servicing will be less often, which will significantly lower your maintenance costs.
In general, however, elliptical machines are more complicated in their build and have complex parts that tend to cost more upon repair. In contrast, the stationary bike is more straightforward and has fewer chances of something going wrong in its functionality.
Both machines have their advantages and disadvantages. Your choice should depend on your circumstances. If you’re a novice looking to burn maximum potential calories, the elliptical may be a better choice.
But for beginners or those undergoing physio for injuries, a bike may be an excellent place to start; it can give you a fair calorie-burning workout, keeping your heart healthy and providing you with fitness maintenance.
You must select a machine you’ll use and not give up on whether the elliptical or bike. The most effective machine will be the one you regularly use because only then will you get closer to achieving your fitness goals.