Recumbent Bike Vs. Dual-Action Bike

Sportive woman doing exirsise on cycling simulator

Cardiovascular exercise engages the large muscles of the body with little resistance and it's done for an extended time. This is different than strength training which involves lifting heavy weights for a short duration. The recumbent and dual-action bike have similarities and differences. It's good to know which one serves your needs best before you use them on a regular basis.


Even though they are both bikes, they have a very different appearance. The recumbent bike has a bucket seat with backrest and the pedals are out in front of your body. It also has a set of hand grips on the sides of the seat and another set on top of the console. A dual-action bike has a seat with the pedals beneath you, and it has movable handlebars. The seat on the recumbent bike can be adjusted forward and backward, and the seat on the dual-action bike can be moved up or down.


Unlike a dual-action bike, the recumbent bike is operated from a horizontal position. After sitting back in the seat, place your feet on the pedals, grasp either set of hand grips and pedal. With the dual-action bike, sit on the seat, grasp the handles and move them back and forth as you pedal. In both cases, make sure your seat is adjusted to a point that your knees are just short of locking out when you pedal. With some dual-bikes, you also have the option of just moving your arms, or locking the handles and just moving your legs.

Muscle Involvement

A recumbent bike predominately works the lower body. Once you start pedaling, you recruit your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. The dual-action bike however, works these lower body muscles as well as several upper body muscles. When you push and pull the handles back and forth, you have to use your pectorals, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps and biceps. The pecs are the chest muscles, the delts are on the shoulders, the triceps are on the back of the upper arms and the biceps are on the front of the upper arms. With both bikes, you also have to contract your abdominals to generate force and maintain stability.

Metabolism Boosting

When you exercise on the recumbent and dual-action bike, you can easily change your speed by simply pedaling faster. You also have the option of changing your resistance. This in turn can increase the workload on your muscles and make your workouts more intense. Although these are predominately cardio machines, you can still build lean muscle. Whenever you build muscle, you also increase your resting metabolic rate. If you build even one pound of muscle, you can burn an extra 30 to 50 calories a day, according to the University of Michigan Health system.

Impact and Benefits

When you exercise on the recumbent and dual-action bike, there is little impact on your joints, but the dual-action bike can still cause stress to your spine. Users with mechanical low back pain sometimes find the back support and reclining position of a recumbent bike more comfortable, according to the Spine-Health website. Being that you are doing aerobic exercise, one of the main benefits you experience on both bikes is weight loss. Aerobic activity can also help you increase your stamina, reduce your disease risk, strengthen your heart, boost your mood and manage chronic conditions.