The exercise bike is one of the most popular home fitness machines and in gyms you’ll find them in every corner as well. But what actually makes this device so effective? And most importantly, how can you get the most out of your exercise bike workout?
In today’s article you will find a complete step-by-step guide including a 4-week workout plan, so that you’ll be able to enjoy the full benefits of using the exercise bike. Have fun! 😉
The Benefits of Working Out With An Exercise Bike
Treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical, exercise bike, … This list could be continued almost endlessly, and the choice of workout equipment is often even more difficult than choosing the right pizza at your favorite Italian restaurant. So what exactly are the benefits of the exercise bike?
First of all, compared to other workout machines, the exercise bike provides a workout that is very easy on the joints. So, while on a treadmill, 3-4 times our own body weight rests on our joints with every step, riding the exercise bike is a real boon to our bodies.
The feet are in constant contact with the pedals, eliminating all impact forces. The seat and stationary aspect of the workout also protects our backs. For people with chronic back pain, there is also an even gentler option with the recumbent bike.
In addition, the exercise bike workout is very easy to control and the execution is very simple and self-explanatory. With the rowing machine, for example, the entire sequence of movements is much more complex and requires a certain amount of experience.
The exercise bike is therefore an excellent option for beginners. But also advanced athletes or cyclists can get their money’s worth by choosing the right device. In the following sections, I will show you how to find the best exercise bike for you.
How Long And How Often Should You Work Out?
Everyone knows this situation: When you are in possession of a new thing, you are very enthusiastic about it, especially in the beginning. It doesn’t matter if it’s the latest Christmas present or an exercise bike: In the beginning you tend to use it very often and are highly motivated to work out.
Now of course it’s a good thing to approach your exercise bike workout journey with high motivation. At this point, however, I have to slow you down a bit, because it is very important not to overdo it in the first few weeks.
Just as there is too little exercise, there is also too much exercise. Let me explain it to you in a simple way: When building muscle, we elicit tiny little tears in our muscle fibers through strength training. These tears are repaired in the rest periods after your workout and then, the muscle comes back stronger in order to be better prepared for your next strength session. In other words: The muscle grows!
However, if we do not allow our muscles to rest, they cannot grow. This is when we talk about overtraining.
Besides the muscles of our lower body, it is mainly the heart muscle that we target on the exercise bike, probably the most important muscle that we possess! We want to improve our endurance and strengthen our cardiovascular system. It is extremely important here, just as in building muscle in general, to allow the body some rest periods so that we can improve.
For the beginning of your exercise bike training journey it is sufficient to work out 3 times a week. For each individual training session, you’re good to go with a duration of about 20 minutes.
What You Have To Pay Attention To When Working Out With An Exercise Bike
The Flywheel Weight
Using the pedals, we perform a circular movement on the exercise bike. The points at the very top and very bottom of this motion sequence are the so-called reversal points. At these points, we lose momentum and have to expend more energy to regain momentum.
This results in an uneven distribution of load, which makes the entire movement appear out of round. And this is where the flywheel weight comes into play. It basically stores the momentum we generate ourselves and returns it to us at the reversal points just mentioned. This rounds out the movement and makes it appear more natural and fluent.
That’s why it’s important to choose a large flywheel weight. I recommend that you choose a flywheel weight of at least 25 lbs for your exercise bike.
How To Correctly Set Up Your Exercise Bike
The saddle height plays a decisive role in the correct set up of an exercise bike! To protect your knee joints, it is very important that the saddle is neither too high nor too low. But what is the optimal saddle height?
At the lowest point of the movement, the angle in the knee joint should be no more than 170 degrees. In this case, the leg is still slightly bent, and not fully extended. This is very important! Full extension puts a lot of stress on the knee joint and should therefore be avoided.
You can determine the optimal saddle height with the help of your heel. Sit on the saddle and place your heel on the pedal. If your leg is extended at the lowest point, you have found the perfect saddle height.
But wait a minute, didn’t I just say that the leg should not be extended? Right, but when exercising on the exercise bike we put the ball of our foot, not our heel, on the pedal. However, by doing the test to determine the saddle height with the heel, we find the saddle height that leads to the optimal, slightly bent posture with the ball of the foot.
At the same time, the saddle angle should be horizontal so that it’s parallel with your hip. If you pay attention to these two points, you have already completed the first and most important step in setting up your exercise bike.
The Proper Form On The Exercise Bike
As already mentioned, working out with an exercise bike is very easy. Nevertheless, there are a few points that you should pay attention to in order to really get the most out of your workout.
Bad postures, such as the infamous hunchback, is something that you see over and over again in people using the exercise bike. However, let me tell you that it’s crucial to keep your back upright and straight during your workout. A hunched back puts a strain on the spine and has an extremely negative effect on the health of our total body, so do yourself a favor, keep your back straight and extend your chest out in front.
Many people also bend their wrists when using an exercise bike. This may seem natural and comfortable at first, but in the long run, it damages the wrists and can also lead to numb hands. The wrists should be the extension of the forearm. This is the natural, and gentle posture.
The shoulders should be kept down and not pulled up. In fact, this tenses the neck muscles and can restrict blood flow, which in turn can also lead to headaches.
These are some small posture corrections with a big effect. If you pay attention to these points, you will be doing yourself a huge favor 😉.
The Heart Rate
Your heart rate is much more than just the frequency of your heartbeats. Unfortunately, the importance of your heart rate is still underestimated. The truth is it can help us increase the effectiveness of all of our sports activities dramatically.
In a way, our heart rate is an internal compass that shows us whether we are on the right track during our workout or not. It gives us live feedback on the intensity of the workout.
What most people don’t realize is that exercising in different heart rate zones elicits completely different training effects. While some heart rates promote general endurance, others specifically increase our maximum performance capacity.
In the following, I have compiled a little list showing you the different training effects for the respective heart rate zones:
Recovery Zone (50-65% HRmax)
Slowly getting used to exercise (beginners), stabilizes the cardiovascular system
Weight Control Zone (60-70% HRmax)
Improves general endurance, increases aerobic metabolism, reduces blood pressure, boosts fat metabolism, accelerates recovery
Aerobic Zone (70-80% HRmax)
Increases endurance, improves cardiovascular system/general physical condition, increases maximal oxygen uptake (V02 max)
Anaerobic Zone (80-90% HRmax)
Increases maximum performance capacity, e.g. preparation for a marathon (increases the anaerobic threshold), hypertrophy (growth) of the heart muscle
You can guess your own heart rate and measure it with your fingers on your neck or wrist, but this is inaccurate and definitely impractical in the long run. For a professional and effective training, it is therefore indispensable to use a chest strap or other proven methods of measuring your heart rate.
Luckily, this is already included in the scope of delivery of most exercise bikes. Some models even provide a heart-rate-controlled workout. This means that your heart rate is continuously measured and the exercise bike then automatically adjusts the intensity, i.e. the pedaling resistance. If your pulse is a little too high, for example, the intensity is reduced. This way you always stay within the desired heart rate range.
An Exercise Bike Workout Plan For Beginners And Advanced
THE optimal workout plan for everyone does not exist… Neither for training with an exercise bike, nor with any other fitness equipment. It depends on many individual factors, especially the experience plays an important role.
For beginners, for example, I would recommend a steady workout. After a 5-minute warm-up, you should maintain a certain intensity for about 15 minutes. I’d recommend sticking to an intensity of about 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. This is followed by another 5-minute cool-down.
After the first few weeks, you can gradually start to increase the intensity of your training sessions. Either you increase the duration, or you increase the intensity. It’s up to you! Just see which of the two methods you feel more comfortable with.
This exercise bike workout plan is especially suitable for beginners and seniors.
However, if you are more advanced, I would recommend interval training. This is much more intense and effective, and really gets your heart rate up. For beginners, on the other hand, it can sometimes be very strenuous. Also, people with heart diseases are certainly better advised with steady-state workouts.
I have put together a sample interval workout plan which you could use for your first few weeks of working out with the exercise bike:
|Cool Down||5||low||30-40% HRmax|
|Cool Down||5||low||30-40% HRmax|
|Cool Down||5||low||30-40% HRmax|
|5||very high||80-85% HRmax|
|Cool Down||5||low||30-40% HRmax|
What Is A Good Average Wattage On The Exercise Bike?
As you can see, I recommend working out based on your own heart rate. However, many people, especially cyclists, prefer power or watt-based training. That’s why I’m asked again and again how many watts are normal on the exercise bike and which values are realistic. Here I have compiled a few comparison values for you:
- A beginner cyclist reaches approx. 80-100 watts when cycling casually
- An advanced cyclist has a continuous power of about 150-200 watts
- Professional cyclists reach a continuous power of 300-350 watts
- The best cyclists reach powers of up to 500 watts
So what wattage is suitable for beginners? I would advise you as a beginner to use a power of about 80-100 watts. Advanced cyclists, on the other hand, can train beyond the 100 watts limit. Of course, this varies from person to person. At the end of the day, you know your own body best, so just see what wattage you feel comfortable with and slowly work your way up.
Which Exercise Bike Should You Use?
Alright, from now on you can impress your friends or workout partners with some decent exercise bike expertise. You are familiar with the most important aspects of working out with an exercise bike and can start right away. But wait… One thing is still missing: The right exercise bike.
In the previous sections, I mentioned the main points that are important when buying an exercise bike. Now it’s time for me to introduce you to the models that match the criteria. So, let’s go 😉.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll probably have noticed that I recommend one exercise bike over and over again. It is the YOSUDA Indoor Cycling Bike, which I recommend for a really good reason, which is, it matches all the criteria I mentioned above.
The YOSUDA exercise bike comes at a comparatively low price and has a unique price-performance ratio due to its very high quality. This model is the proof that you really don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a Peloton in order to work out in the comfort of your own home.
This exercise bike is very solid, easy to assemble, comes with a heavy 40 lbs flywheel weight and allows for a very quiet workout. Additionally, its built-in LCD monitor will let you keep an eye on your time, speed, distance and calories.
I could go on for hours talking about the YOSUDA bike but after all, I guess it’s best if you just take a look for yourself. Here you will find it.
Since the demand for home exercise equipment is constantly increasing, it might be that the YOSUDA bike is not always available. Another alternative that I can highly recommend as well is the Sunny Health & Fitness exercise bike.
Again, it’s not a Peloton, but for this price, it provides some very decent specs and will be a very good choice for your workout routine. Again, I would advise you to take a look at this model for yourself. Here you will find it.
Final Thoughts On Working Out With An Exercise Bike
Exercise bikes provide a very joint-friendly and effective home endurance workout. It is especially suitable for beginners, because it is easy and controllable and will also help you to make super fast progress.
With a few simple tricks, such as the correct adjustment of the saddle, or the use of your own heart rate, you can increase the effectiveness and joint-friendliness of your workout even more. Additionally, it’s important to choose a good exercise bike, like the one’s recommended above.
I hope that I could help you with this article. If however, you still have any further questions, feel free to write me an e-mail or just leave a comment below.
Otherwise, enjoy your exercise bike workout journey! 😉