Elliptical VS Stationary Bike : Which one to choose?
It's not always easy to choose, not really clear what each machine brings more than the other and what are the differences. Is the elliptical bike more effective for weight loss than the stationary bike? Which machine to do some exercise and stay in shape? And for muscle toning? Or for rehabilitation? To help you make the right choice, follow our advice and discover the benefits of each cardio training machine!
1) Elliptical or Stationary Bike to stay fit?
The elliptical (also called cross trainer) and the exercise bike are both cardio exercise machines that offer the following benefits:
- They exercise your cardiovascular system (basically the heart and the blood vessels which are responsible for the blood circulation) and can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.
- They both improve your endurance, which is the ability to sustain an effort over a long period of time (one of the three major virtues for Socrates ;) ).
- The elliptical and the stationary bike workout are safe for the joints and are in this respect more recommended than running which can cause of hip, knee or ankle pain or injuries since the feet absorb two to three times the body weight with each stride.
Both cardio machines are appropriate for exercising and staying fit. No one is better than the other, they are just different. The elliptical machine is more demanding since it involves the whole body while the stationary bike is mostly a workout of the lower part of the body (see below the section about the muscles) and allows you to sit while exercising.
For older people willing to stay fit or for reeducation, the stationary bike is more suitable than the elliptical bike. For knee rehabilitation for example, the elliptical machine may be not recommended in some cases (see with your doctor in that case). For others, it all depends on your goals: weight loss, muscle toning? The answer below.
2) Elliptical vs Stationary Bike to tone your muscles?
The elliptical bike and the exercise bike are cardio machines, not strength machines! They will help you to tone legs and buttocks, but they won’t help you to double your muscle mass. These cardio machines are not made for body building!
- The stationary bike particularly work your thighs and calves. The arms, especially the biceps and triceps, are also training since they help you keep a straight posture on the exercise bike, essential to avoid back pain. If you want to work your abs, tighten the handlebars and contract your stomach muscles while cycling or during intensive phases of an interval training for example. To target your glutes, increase the resistance of your bike, stand on the pedals and come out of the saddle!
- The elliptical bike works the lower and upper body (80% of the body muscles). As for the upper body: the back muscles (latissimus dorsi), arms (biceps and triceps), chest (pectorals) and stomach (abdominal). As for the bottom muscles: buttocks, thigh muscles (hamstrings, located just below the gluteal and quadriceps), and legs (calves and tibialis anterior). When you hold the fixed handles in front of your elliptical and stop the movement of the arms, you eliminate the work of the muscles of the upper body and work more buttocks, thighs, legs and abdominals. It is advisable from time to time to pedal back to work other muscles.
To sum up, if your goal is to muscle your thighs and strengthen your buttocks, then both the elliptical and the stationary bike are suitable. However, if you also want to work your arms, then we would advise you to opt for the elliptical bike.
3) Elliptical or Stationary Bike for weight loss?
Both the elliptical bike and the exercise bike will allow you to effectively lose weight! The calories burned, both on the elliptical and the stationary bike, depend essentially on the intensity of exercise and the duration of your workout.
Which one enables you to burn more calories?
|1h of training||Calories burned|
|Exercise bike, low or moderate to vigorous||400 to 750 kcal|
|Elliptical bike, low or moderate to vigorous||455 to 830 kcal|
The elliptical trainer allows you to burn 15% more calories than the exercise bike. Indeed, one is permanently solicited at the level of the whole body on the elliptical bike while one remains sitting on a stationary bike. However, it is mainly the intensity with makes the difference as shown by the values above. You will burn a lot more calories by following a very intense workout on an exercise bike than practicing quietly on an elliptical trainer. In addition, it is always possible to stand up and ride out of the saddle (this position is called “danseuse”) and then you can exceed the elliptical trainer in terms of calories burned! What is important if you want to burn calories is to workout with a sufficient level of resistance (you will burn much less calories if the resistance of your bike is too low). This will also allow you to muscle thighs and buttocks!
In the end, the elliptical bike wins out over on the stationary bike in terms of calories burned. However, the difference is not huge and you will succeed with both fitness machines to lose weight if you workout regularly and intensely. You have to exert yourself if you want to burn calories! (See How to lose weight on a stationary bike).
4) Conclusion and other non-negligible criteria to be considered
As you can see, the elliptical trainer and the exercise bike are quite close: they both allow you to follow a cardio workout, maintain your shape and work your endurance without hurting your joints, burn calories and lose weight, and finally strengthen your muscles. However, there are two remaining criteria of choice and there the stationary bike wins: the place and the price! Indeed, an exercise bike takes up less space (1m long by 50 cm wide and 1m 30 high) than the elliptical trainer (1m 50 long by 60 cm wide and 1m 60 high). Believe me, it makes a difference! Finally, as for the price of high quality exercise bikes like those offered on this website for example;), they cost around 300 to 600 € (DKN AM-3i for example) and elliptical bikes are around 600 to 1000 € (DKN XC-140i for example). It is also important to take these last two criteria into account when making your choice! In the end, personally, I think I would take both;)
David Anderson is a professional coach with 15 years of experience in the sports and fitness industry. He has been writing about fitness and giving workout tips and advice since 2016.
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