Elliptical vs Bike – Which Equipment Trains Harder?

A healthy and fit body is a goal many set but not as many people see it through. This is why having an indoor training equipment at home comes in handy. If you have a choice between the elliptical and bike, here are a few things to look into before you make the purchase.

Hi, I’m Sandra and I work as a fitness consultant. That’s how I get to meet and relate with so many people on a daily basis.

Most people seek to find out what they need to do, what equipment to train on and which posture to keep on whichever unit they love to train on.

I’m always happy to help because it is experiences such as these that have turned me into a training guru. Our client’s unique and diverse questions keep me on toes and we are always almost talking about this equipment or another.

So, they challenged me to write up a review of these two favorite gym units and here’s what I came up with.

Which fitness goal does the elliptical or bike handle better?

Fitness Goal
Best Equipment
Stronger Leg Muscles
Building Abs
Physical Strength
Least risk and danger
With terminal Illness
With muscle or joint injury
VO2 Intake
Calories Burned
Elliptical at 680 calories
Cardio Workout

How the Elliptical and Bike Differ

Muscles Worked 

When strength training, you have to work against resistance and this repetitive and forceful action develops and tones your muscles.

Your quads and hamstrings get stronger every time you hop on the bike.  It is an ideal toning and strengthening training because it focuses on the lower body.

When cycling on a stationary upright bike, the forward peddling motion works out the muscles on the front of the thigh and leg. These are the four muscles included in the quadriceps and the tibialis anterior muscle that is located at the front of your shin.

Also, cycling while standing and at an inclined angle allows your hip and knee extensors to get a good work out. Gastrocnemius and biceps femoris muscles at the back of your legs are also exercised on either an upright or a recumbent bike.

On the elliptical, you get a full body workout because of the movable handlebars which require you to pull on as you keep pedaling. This motion increases the resistance as your energy increases. Your chest, back, quads, core, arms, hamstrings will get a worthy stretch.

The most holistic training alternative between the four units is the elliptical because you get a full body stretch, tone and strengthening effect when you get on it.

Joint Impact

Different equipment require specific techniques or body posture. Those training types that don’t require your feet to be reverberating on the training surface are known as low impact exercises.

For high impact exercises, these require you to use your body weight against a surface or training equipment. They are beneficial in strengthening bones but also detrimental to your muscle, joint and muscle health.

The bike is a high-impact exercise equipment and due to the knee jerk motions made as you pedal quickly especially while standing will irritate an injured or ailing knee.

However, the recumbent bike allows you to sit back into a comfortable and cushioned back support that you to relax your back and neck muscles as you work out your hamstrings with controlled breathing and some measured resistance.

Ellipticals are best for minimizing joint impact or muscle pain. The strapped pedals help the user keep a sure footing which then reduces the stress of accelerating.

Calories Burned 

When two individuals decide to go cycling and they cycle at a 12-mph pace, the one weighing 130 pounds will lose about 500 calories compared to the one weighing 200 pounds who will lose about 800 calories per hour.

To burn the most calories within a workout session, you need to get all muscles engaged and flexing them hard. The more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. While cycling, use the FITT technique of training which will focus on your Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type of exercise.

The elliptical is the only training equipment that engages upper and lower limbs and this why training on it could help you burn more calories than the other three. If you weigh about 155 pounds and you choose to workout on the elliptical at a moderate intensity, you could burn up to 680 calories every hour.

With these equipment, you can get some calories shredded but to get the most out of your workout, you must maintain the right posture, speed, and accuracy in the movement to keep you from injury or strain. 


Having a versatile piece of training equipment in your home is one of the best luxuries you can afford yourself. There is no use buying a unit you never use so the more you can do on it, the more you will find use for it.

Stationary bikes are versatile in their training intensity and they also cater to cardio workouts. The idea that you can pedal while standing upright on your bike is awesome for most of us.

This is because you give your bum and back a break while working other muscles that are inaccessible while seated.

In this factor, the elliptical unit wins again. The elliptical gives you the ability to go backward and forwards either on a flat, shallow, or steep incline. You are also able to adjust the level of resistance which gives your body new, exciting, and challenging frontiers to conquer.

Verdict: So, which is better, Elliptical or Bike?

The Elliptical is not only versatile but it is also the only equipment that can work out both the upper and lower body. If you are in search of a full body training unit, the elliptical is it.

However, there are a variety of bikes you can choose from and they all work differently. If you fancy a recumbent or virtual bike, don’t hold yourself back.


Does Cycling Help to Build Abs?

Yes, cycling is a great core strengthener and toner and in reference to building abs, it does add to the effects. If you cycle outdoors, however, navigating tough terrain and sharp bends will call to your core strength for control though your leg muscles will do most of the work.

Working on the stationary bike allows your back and body more balance alleviating the need for more core control.

Cycling in the gym could be made a bit more challenging by putting the bike to an inclined angle simulating an uphill climb or the instructor could adjust your pedals’ resistance forcing you to push your muscles harder.

Is a Recumbent Bike Better Than a Regular Indoor Bike?

Yes, it is. Other than its ability to perform at the same capacity as a regular indoor bike, it adds to the comfort of a workout with the added backrest.

A regular upright stationary bike would be a great addition to your single apartment but if instead, you are buying workout equipment with family in mind, the best bike to get is the recumbent bike.

The convenient placement of the handles, pedals, and comfortable cushioned backrest will provide everyone a more stable angle from which to control their foot movements.