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Why You Should Skip the Treadmill and Try a Stationary Bike Workout

Planet Fitness club member working out on a bike machine
If you tend to opt for the elliptical or treadmill time and again, you're missing out on a sweat-tastic stationary bike workout. Here's why you should give this piece of exercise equipment a spin.

by Steven Auger

If you've become a regular gym-goer, it's likely you have a go-to cardio routine. Whether it's 10 minutes on the treadmill or 20 minutes on the elliptical, it's common to head for the same one or two machines when you get to the gym. But remember, trying a different cardio machine is a great way to mix up your workout!

If you tend to opt for the elliptical or treadmill time and again, you're missing out on an effective stationary bike workout. Here are a few reasons to give this piece of exercise equipment a spin next time you visit the gym.

1. Cycling Helps Develop Your Leg Muscles

Your legs encompass some of the largest muscle groups in the body — and a good workout on the bike will help develop them. Here are the five muscle groups responsible for turning those pedals and improving your fitness, according to Bicycling magazine:

  • Quadriceps: The muscles located on the front of your thigh supply 39 percent of the power created by your pedaling.
  • Glutes: These muscles help to extend your hips while providing 27 percent of your pedal power.
  • Calves: The gastrocnemius and soleus (aka your legs' "stabilizers") typically provide 20 percent of your pedaling power.
  • Hamstrings: The knee flexors in the back of your legs contribute around 10 percent of pedal thrust.
  • Hip Flexors: These muscles help raise the hip while contributing 4 percent of your pedaling power.

2. Cycling Workouts Are Quick and Effective

If you're craving a good stationary bike workout, Men's Journal has outlined three exercise routines that are sure to get those leg muscles — and sweat glands — working overtime.

The first workout involves a 36-minute ladder circuit, which is composed of three working sessions and two rest periods. To begin, start by cycling for 15 minutes. Then rest for three minutes. Ramp up your energy again and push for 10 minutes before resting for another three. Finish off the routine by summoning whatever fumes you have left for the final five minutes.

The last two workouts are very challenging — but if you're up for it, they are guaranteed to raise that heart rate. The second entails cycling fast for two minutes then resting for three (and repeating that pattern eight times). While the intensity of the exercise will vary depending on your fitness level, your heart rate should be near its max toward the end of each two-minute sprint.

If you prefer to break your workout down into seconds rather than minutes, try this last option: Sprint all-out for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. Do that 10 times to complete a set. Rest for three to five minutes before performing two more sets.

3. You Get All the Benefits of Cardio — Without the Impact on Your Joints

We all know there are some serious advantages to a cardio workout. Exercise releases adrenalin and endorphins — both of which are sure to improve your mood and help build confidence. As your health and fitness improve, your risk for heart disease and cancer drops. That's a totalwin-win. A good cardio workout can even help you sleep better at night and strengthen your immune system. Need we say more? And not only does cardio build muscle, but it gives your lungs a workout, too.

With a stationary bike workout, you can reap all of these benefits — but in a way that is easier on your joints than some higher-impact options like running on a treadmill. "Spinning is a low-impact exercise that places less stress on your joints, which makes it ideal for older adults with knee or hip issues or those recovering from orthopedic injuries," explains the Harvard Health Blog.

How to Reap the Benefits

Before climbing onto a stationary bike and starting to pedal, it's important to follow a few simple steps that can ensure you properly set up the equipment. First, take some time to adjust the seat so that its height is even with your standing hip height. Then tilt the seat slightly forward and align the handlebars so they're raised above the seat.

When it comes to your stationary bike workout, form is critical. When pedaling, use the whole rotation of the pedal. Instead of simply pushing down and letting your momentum complete the rotation, engage with the pedal throughout the whole movement. The amount of resistance you place on the flywheel is totally up to you.

So, next time you hit the gym, skip the treadmill and spice up your cardio routine with a stationary bike workout instead!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.