Using a recumbent bike works the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and shins from the lower body. The upper body muscles like the core, biceps and triceps are also worked when doing recumbent bike exercises.

Let’s learn more about recumbent bikes and identify the specific muscles these machines can target.

Leg Muscles

Most of the load during recumbent cycling is on your upper and lower leg muscles, similar to muscles worked on a stationary exercise bike. This exercise is a closed chain type, which means you will work your legs without lifting your feet off the ground or pedals.

The best thing about this is that you’ll strengthen your lower-body muscles without stressing your joints. This effect allows you to exercise more and recover faster.

The following section elaborates on the leg muscles with which recumbent bikes work.

1. Glutes

The glutes make up your butt muscles. This large muscle group has three subcomponents: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

During recumbent cycling, these gluteal muscles come into play as you bend your leg and push the pedal down. We call this the leg extension motion.

Constantly extending your hip joints and legs during exercise shapes the butt. That’s because regular cycling can help you lose weight and fat and, eventually, make your bum less jiggly.

2. Quads

The quadriceps are your front thigh muscles. Vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris make up this muscle group.

When you are biking, the main job of the quads is to extend your knee and assist the butt. Specifically, the quadriceps help the knee and glutes push the bike pedal down.

Once done, the quads will draw the leg back up to complete the cycling motion. During your biking session, your inner thighs, called the adductors, are also involved. Their role is to provide balance and support.

With a recumbent bicycle, you can work the whole front thigh muscle, giving its smaller parts equal attention.

Leg Muscles and Recumbent Cycling - recumbent bike muscles worked

3. Hamstrings

The hamstrings are muscles at the back of your thighs. These are the opposing muscle groups of your quads. The hamstrings have three subcomponents: the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus.

During recumbent cycling, their role is to assist the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. As you step on the pedals, the hamstrings assist the glutes and adductors in performing the hip extension.

When it’s time to pull the foot back up towards the butt, the hamstrings assist the quad during knee flexion.

Compared with the other upper-leg muscles, the recumbent bike does not work the back thigh muscles as much. Still, recumbent cycling is an excellent exercise to target this muscle group. Also, if you have injured hamstrings, you can do this exercise for healing and recovery.

4. Calves and Shins

The calves and shins are the muscle groups on your lower legs. Your calves are below the knees and comprise two subgroups: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

The primary function of the calf muscles during cycling is to extend and contract the forefoot. You activate them each time you push the ball of your foot to the bike pedal. We call this plantar flexion.

On the other hand, the shins have the tibialis anterior. When pedalling, these work as you pull your toes back towards your body. If you like to work these muscles more, go for recumbent bikes with straps on their foot pedals.

Upper Body Muscles

Most recumbent bikes have a hands-free design, with fixed handles on the sides of the seat.

Dual-action recumbent bikes are also available. These models have moveable handlebars, which work like those in elliptical machines. With this feature, you can turn your cycling routine into a full-body workout and work these upper-body muscles.

1. Core

Moving the recumbent bike handlebars activates the abdominals by performing a stabilising action. The abs keep you balanced as you work your upper and lower bodies.

Some recumbent bikes target the core muscles by adjusting the seat angle. When you move your bike seat closer to the pedals, you tend to exert more effort during cycling. In turn, your abdominal region becomes more involved in the exercise.

2. Biceps and Triceps

Using the moveable handlebars of a recumbent bike works your arm and shoulder muscles.

Specifically, your biceps let you pull the handle towards your body. The pectoralis muscles and anterior deltoid of the shoulders help in this action.

On the other hand, you activate your triceps as you push the handle away from you. This motion also activates your posterior deltoid and latissimus dorsi.

Arm Muscles and Recumbent Cycling


Recumbent cycling may look easy. However, studying every phase of the pedalling motion reveals that this exercise can activate several muscles.

Most recumbent bikes work on the muscles of your lower body. Some models with arm cranks allow you to target the upper body, too.

Generally, low-impact recumbent cycling may not be enough to build muscles. So, for better results, complement your biking sessions with strength training.

Also, check out these bike reviews and buying guides to see which suits your workout plan best.

1. How do I work my arms on a recumbent bike?

You can pedal at a steady pace, then use dumbbells, resistance bands or a medicine ball to move your upper body while biking. Non-equipment moves like bike push-ups and arm circles are good options, too. You may also work out on a recumbent bike with movable handles or pair your cycling routine with off-bike exercises like strength training.

2. Can a recumbent bike help with belly fat?

A recumbent exercise bike can help burn calories. Cycling consistently eventually leads to fat burn and belly size reduction. This process takes time, though. But keep doing your moderate-intensity exercise routine. Also, add a strength training regimen to build more muscles and boost your caloric burn.

3. How long should I ride a recumbent bike to lose weight?

Moderate cycling for 30 minutes five days a week is a good starting point. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this can burn 210 to 294 calories. You can even burn more when you shift to a vigorous pace. If paired with a healthy diet, either mode can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. When your body is ready, switch to an extended exercise time or higher workout intensity for continuous progress.