Today marks the beginning of the last week of Summer 2011. As you know a lot has happened! And I want to take a moment and thank each and every one of you who supported me during these past four months. I am happy to report, to you who continue to inquire, that I have gained back the 10 pounds I lost! All of it muscle! And I am not stopping there!
Now that the bar has been set, let’s “talk” about one of the most misused piece of gym equipment in the industry.
Over the many years I’ve been working in gyms, I’ve witnessed that the least popular piece of cardiovascular equipment is stationary bike.
Now while many of you know some of their limitations, exercise bikes (recumbent as well as upright) do have their place. So, today’s installment will focus on the pros and cons of exercising on these Soft-Seated Stepchildren of Gym Equipment.
First, the negative. Obviously biking mainly works the muscles of the legs. Duh! However, while one may think that working the biggest muscle group of the body, possibly even with a very high resistance, pushing the pedals of this One-Wheel Wonder, may be better than climbing the Stairway to Nowhere. Actually, that is not true at all. Believe it or not, your body will burn more calories and your heart will become more efficient quicker on a stair climber as long as you don’t hold on to the rails for support.
Now the pros. Exercising on stationary bikes are good for those with low back or knee pain. Biking provides a gentle, low-impact workout without putting too much stress on the spine. However, the client’s aliment will determine how to “attack” the bike workout.
For example, clients with spinal stenosis, leaning forward on an upright exercise bike is an ideal form of aerobic exercise, as they tend to feel more comfortable flexed forward rather than standing up straight or sitting back on a recumbent.
And those who have osteoarthritis will find that “stationary biking” reduces hamstring stiffness and strengthens the muscles that support the joints in the legs, therefore enabling the client to exercise comfortably with little to no impact.
While riding an exercise bicycle doesn’t specifically target the abdominals and muscles of the back, it is important to keep them in control while pedaling. This will help maintain correct anatomical position by aligning the pelvis and preventing back hyperextension. In fact, if the abs are isometrically contracted during the workout, back support may actually increase.
It is important to remember that there are two components of the biking stroke. There is the push as well as the pull. Both are equally important; as pushing down on the pedals requires the use of the quadriceps; and the pull works the hamstrings. Many people fail to work both muscle groups. It is often helpful to picture the foot going in a circle, pushing on the down-stroke and pulling on the up-stroke. Using correct form will also reduce the possibility of developing muscle imbalances in the legs – which, in turn, limits back pain.
So the next time you go for a ride, even if you are going nowhere, using correct form will get you somewhere!