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Upright or recumbent exercise bike?
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d c
Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/24/2013 16:23:36 MST Print View

I've had plantar faciitis for the last 6 months. I have custom insoles, I stretch, ice, and massage my feet, but its still a problem. Its spring and as I increase my conditioning its getting worse. I guess I need to get off my feet for a while.

So my question is about upright vs recumbent bikes. Is one or the other easier on the feet? Given the position, I assume each also works the muscles a little differently - which works the muscles closer to those used in hiking?

sorry if this thread is in the wrong forum, I didn't see a forum for conditioning...

Edited by dc on 02/24/2013 17:28:42 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 00:24:08 MST Print View

Slightly off-topic, but I infer you want to minimize the time you are on your feet while staying/getting in condition.

The best thing I have found to condition for backpacking is to go up and down actual stairs. Not a stairclimber. But a staircase (or more) or stairs, up AND DOWN, continuously, for as little as 10 minutes, 3 times a week makes a HUGE difference once I hit the trail.

For longer, aerobic workouts, I have my road bike on a wind-trainer stand with my laptop in surfing/typing range. And there's definitely more weight on my butt, less on my feet.

But per minute, the stairs do much more for me.

d c
Re: Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 08:20:59 MST Print View

yes, trying to continue conditioning with minimum impact on feet.
My Dr says stair climbing is not good, he specifically said biking or swimming.
Does anyone understand the details of the muscles used between recumbent and upright and which might be better for hiking cross training?

Edited by dc on 02/25/2013 08:21:31 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 08:43:11 MST Print View

From personal observation I can suggest that "upright" works more of your core than recumbent. "Slouching" on a 'bent is almost a given.

The 'bent will certainly work your quads and some glute, but on a standard frame you also work your shoulder girdle and triceps. I believe the "forward lean" on a standard also engages More of your glutes as well as the "erectors" that support the lower spine and back. In short, you will get a better "all body" workout, engaging more muscles, and more CV loading.

You have more variations to cycle through on a standard - on the drops for more glutes, less arms for more lower back, to sitting up for more quads, etc. that will reduce the boredom of the one position of a 'bent.

Provided, of course, that you maintain good posture throughout your exercise session - back straight, shoulders back and down, etc. "You have to do the rights things right."

My 2ยข

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 08:46:30 MST Print View

Probably not a lot of folks with experience with both - do some research as best you can then go to a fitness store and try a couple out to see how they feel is the best advice I can give you.

Though not a bike, I'd also try out a good rowing machine. Better than a bike in that it works your legs and arms - better overall fitness, IMO, FWIW.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 08:47:13 MST Print View

Recumbent will use your glutes and hamstrings more than an upright bike.

if you have any back problems then i'd go with the recumbent.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 09:06:11 MST Print View

"Though not a bike, I'd also try out a good rowing machine. Better than a bike in that it works your legs and arms - better overall fitness, IMO, FWIW."

Indeed. There is no better exercise that works as fast as a metabolic conditioner. On the other hand, it does take a little more skill to use properly.

With respect to the bikes, a recumbent bike works the posterior chain more that an upright, but the difference is minimal. Either bike will have foot straps that engage the hamstrings similarity (the stroke becomes not just one of pushing but also pulling). However, the recumbent bike while easier to pedal and easier on the back, does not provide the same stimulus overall as the upright on the heart and cardiovascular system. At lower intensities, the effect is the same. At higher intensities, according to a 1989 study published in the Journal of Medicine in Sports and Exercise, the upright does noticeable better. From my recollection, it had to do with the position of the body and heart and the fact that the upright is simply harder to pedal at the same intensity (defined by how hard you are pedalling within a specific heart rate zone).

Both will be similar on the feet because you would be pushing the same to pedal. Gravity does not help with an upright because your weight is supported by the seat.

If you can row, then do it. The pressure on bike pedals would be similar to that on the stirrups of a rower. No body weight is on the feet but you still are required to push. If you can't effectively row, then a bike would be in order. If you have back issues at all, the recumbent bike is the way to go. If no significant back issues, then the upright provides the better results in a shorter period of time.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Upright or recumbent exercise bike? Which works the hiking muscles better? on 02/25/2013 09:57:39 MST Print View

"If you can row, then do it"

In the forward recovery position, at the start of the stroke, most people are on the balls of their feet.

It is easier on your knees if you avoid a very forward start. And you Can row "flat footed" but the tendency is to roll up. Just be aware. Or better yet, head to the gym to see how it works for you.

It is a killer workout.

Edited by greg23 on 02/25/2013 09:58:39 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Rowing on 02/25/2013 11:14:50 MST Print View

My wife is a competitive rower (we're going to World Masters in Italy in August). Every serious rower uses Concept 2 rowing machines. Older generation units on Craigslist might save you some money if you needed only the good mechanics without the modern electronics.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Recumbent and upright are the same on 02/27/2013 15:10:38 MST Print View

There will be no significant difference for you as a cross training exercise if you choose recumbent vs upright. The problem you will have is something called "specificity of training," which means, you guessed it, if you want to ride a recumbent bike very well, train on a recumbent bike; if you want to hike well, hike.

In your specific case, you basically need to maintain some level of cardiovascular fitness, which is why your doc suggested a bike or something. It will not really do much for you to keep your hiking muscles in shape - you'll just have to hike to do that.

Two things:
1) if you have access to a pool, that might be the closest you can get to mimicking hiking if you want to specifically work hiking muscles. Don't swim, per se, just walk, or run, etc. Basically hike in the pool.

2) if you really have plantar fasciitis, it really shouldn't be this hard to treat. Most cases, if handled properly, clear up pretty well within a month or so. Granted, you may have some mild pain leftover, but honestly nothing that should have to limit you. Have you tried the toe splints at night yet? (they hold your foot at a 90 degree angle while you sleep...helps keep the plantar fascia from tightening up overnight.) If you are still having trouble, find yourself a GOOD PT. I cannot stress PT should waste your time with ultrasound or electrical stimulation or iontophoresis or any of those types of modalities. The PT should be looking at the biomechanics of your foot and entire leg and addressing that - anything else is just placebo and ripping you off. We all know it, but so many clinics just keep doing it because that's what they always do...and the patients like it because it kinda feels good.

But in the meantime, don't fret about upright vs recumbent vs what you will actually do and at least somewhat enjoy. Just work big muscles until you sweat and get your heart rate up.

Feel free to PM with specific questions if you want...

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
training on recumbent exercise bike on 03/15/2013 10:17:47 MDT Print View

I ride a recumbent trike to work everyday, not having missed a day of commuting in 5 years. I'm assuming a recumbent exercise bike is similar to a recumbent bike/trike. I can say you can get a great workout on it. It's the only aerobic training I get before backpacks up to a week long. I'm 63.

You will greatly benefit from clip in shoes, with the Keen commuters (sandals) being a great one. Being positively linked to the pedal allows you to pull back hard and not have your foot fall off the pedal, which could lead to serious injury when out riding.

People who have shoulder, neck, butt, wrist, hand or back issues like recumbents for the absence of stress on those body parts compared to similar efforts on a diamond frame (DF) bike.

My ride includes an uphill section for about a mile and a half. If I am in training mode, I try to climb the hill while keeping my leg rpms at a constant and increasing pace. At present, I try to do the whole hill at about 80 rpms, regardless of the speed. Later, I'll try for 85, then 90. It is very tiring, and prevents me from "dogging it". I also do wind sprints in certain sections, and sometimes mix it up by climbing the hill using only "pulling back" muscles.

I don't know that recumbent bikes are better than DFs for a workout, but you can definitely get a workout on either. If you have issues with any upper body or butt parts, the recumbent will be quite aerobic and not stress those areas. If you are accustomed to riding an upright, it will take about 3 months before you get your "bent" legs, as the muscles used in recumbents are slightly different.

recumbent trike

Edited by rshaver on 03/15/2013 10:24:15 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Upright or recumbent exercise bike?" on 03/15/2013 20:00:11 MDT Print View

Don: you have plantar fasciitis and need to keep off of your feet.

I assume that you already know about all of the stretches etc. that you need to be doing.

Swimming is great. Obviously low impact. Swimming, though, does have a slow learning curve. On the upside, when you swim poorly, it really works your aerobic capacity! And then when you swim well, it does the same. Also, using a paddle board for kicks really works your legs. Try Zoomers--short fins--if you need to keep pace in the lanes. But, surprisingly, you will feel a bit of stretch in your feet and ankles when you use them. This may be good or bad for you, depending.

Elliptical machines in the gym are very good for being low impact on your feet while working your legs and heart. Like running with no impact.

I can't speak to bikes or rowers for your feet. These things are always more complicated than they might seem.

Nightly I stretch the bottoms of my feet on a wooden dowel with two sets of ridges near the center; a dowel that was designed for spinal therapy, if you can picture that. I just roll that puppy under each foot for twenty minutes or more while watching basketball. A massage, a stretch, a way to work into soreness. Feels great. So far, this has kept another occurrence of plantar fasciitis from coming back.

Good luck!