What Muscles Does a Recumbent Bike Work

what muscles does a recumbent bike work

The recumbent bike is one of the most popular cardio equipment for both gym and home use. One advantage it has over the treadmill is that it is easy on your joints while supporting your back at the same time, which explains why it is the exercise equipment of choice for those who have back or joint issues. It is also very easy to use that you can even exercise using the machine while watching your favorite television show, the perfect low impact exercise equipment that you can use regardless of the weather outside.

But for the fitness enthusiast who wants a targeted work out, the commonly asked question is – what muscles does a recumbent bike work? In this article, we will be discussing the muscle groups targeted when using this exercise equipment as well as offer you some tips on how to get more out of your recumbent bike workout.

Targeted Muscles When Using A Recumbent Bike

At first glance, pedaling your recumbent bike might seem like a very easy task that involves only a very limited number of muscles. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some of the muscle groups that are targeted when you use the bike.

Gluteus Muscles (Glutes)

The recumbent bike is the one of the best exercise equipment to work out your gluteus muscles -  commonly referred to in fitness circles simply as glutes. Glutes are actually composed of three muscles; the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. But when using the equipment, there is no point in differentiating between these muscles since all three are used in a recumbent bike workout.

Basically, you use your glutes every time you move your thigh from a bent position where it is close to your body to a straight position, a movement that is aptly called extension. Of course, you execute extension (straighten your thighs) every time you push the pedal of the recumbe​​nt bike which explains why this equipment is good if you are specifically targeting your glutes and shape up your buttocks.

Quadriceps (Quads)

Quadriceps, which is more commonly known as quads, is that large muscle group located on the front of your thigh. You use your quads every time you straighten your legs, working in conjunction with your glutes. When you contract your quads, your legs will straighten at the knee joint.

quadricep muscle

Fitness enthusiasts can use the recumbent bike if they want to specifically target this group of muscles. With every push of the pedal you make, you are assured that you are putting your quads to work.

Gastrocnemius and Soleus (Calves)

This muscle group is located at the back of your lower leg, below the knees. The gastrocnemius is that bulging muscle directly beneath your skin while the soleus is the flat and smaller muscle beneath the gastrocnemius. Both muscles merge by the before reaching the Achilles tendon.

You use your calves every time you point your toes downward, a motion called plantar flexion. Of course, you utilize this type of movement every time you push on the pedal of the recumbent bike.


Your hamstrings are located at the back of your upper thigh, considered as the opposing muscle group for quads. While quads help you straighten your knees, hamstring does the opposite as its main function is to flex it.

You use your hamstrings every time you pull back your leg to a bent position after pushing the pedals of your recumbent bike. The makes the equipment a good choice for those targeting this muscle group.

Tibialis Anterior

Meanwhile, the tibialis anterior is the opposing muscle for your calves. While you use your calves to point your toes downward, you use the tibialis anterior when you retract your downward-pointing toes back to its normal position. This ensures that this muscle gets a good workout with every pedal you make.

Abdominal Muscles (Abs)

Don’t be surprised but, yes, you also use your abs during a recumbent bike workout. This is because you need to stabilize your body to keep it balanced as you pedal your way to fitness and that’s what your abdominal muscles are good at. Since you are already in a semi-reclined position, you will also use your abs to a certain degree every time you move your legs back to your body after pushing the pedal.

How To Involve Other Muscle Groups While Using A Recumbent Bike

As you might have noticed, we’ve only mentioned lower body muscles such as glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, tibialis anterior, and, to a certain degree, your abs as the targeted muscle groups when using a recumbent bike. However, it is actually possible to include upper body muscles into your routine.

One method is to use dumbbells in addition to the bike. Incorporate different types of arm workouts such as shoulder presses, upright rows, side raises, front raises and bicep curls throughout your recumbent bike workout. This ensures that you also use most upper body muscles as well, transforming your session into a full-body recumbent bike workout.

Final Thoughts

Recumbent bikes are one of the most effective exercise equipment when it comes to improving your cardiovascular health. But it can be more than that. You can use the bike not only for increasing your fitness level but also for improving your looks by targeting specific problem areas.

For instance, recumbent bikes are great for toning your leg muscles to give it a more elegant and well-defined appearance. Use it to improve your hamstrings, quads as well as our calves.

Your buttocks should be your best assets in the aesthetic department. Use the recumbent bike to highlight it even more. Tone those muscles and shape up your adductors, abductors, hip flexors and glutes.

Always remember that you don’t have to stick to some old and a bit boring recumbent bike routine. It’s up to you to use your creativity to spice up your regimen. For instance, by using dumbbells while exercising on your recumbent bike, you will also be able to work out your upper muscle groups transforming the session into an all-body workout. Come check out this page for recumbent bike guide and reviews if you are convinced that This cardio equipment is right for you.

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Christine Leeds - July 21, 2019 Reply

Thank you, for your very comprehensive website. I used my recumbent after 12 months absence due to inflammation response due to fire ant attack. My problem was in the knees and hubby’s was in his back. After 15 mins I noticed a huge deterioration to my circulation system (numb toes) and weakness in my right gastrocnemius. I have been to an exercise physiologist and if I don’t improve towards getting back to my 90 mins exercised per day ( regularly 30 x walk/ bike/ weights) + formal exercise when needed + other ‘active strategies’ to enhance a healthy lifestyle.

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