Elliptical vs Stationary Bike: Which cardio trainer is best for you?

All cardio gym equipment give you the same result via different routes. This means that selecting the best cardio trainer should (in theory) be an easy exercise… but it isn’t. Different machines have different advantages and some people just end up buying all of them.

However, if you cannot afford to buy everything, or you simply don’t like this approach, or have narrowed down your research to choosing between an elliptical and a stationary bike, this article can help you understand how they both work, their similarities, as well as their differences, and also help you choose the correct machine to add to your home gym.

Elliptical vs Stationary Bikes: Quick Comparison Table

EllipticalsStationary Bikes
Elliptical vs Stationary bikesstationary bikes vs elliptical machine trainer
Area StrainedFull-body (upper and lower body).Lower body.
Impact None.Low.
Variability Yes.Less to none.
Storage SpaceSome pro models have larger footprintsTypically has a smaller footprint
Weight LossHigherLower.
Injury RateSomewhat higherLow.
Difficulty LevelRequires a slight learning curveABCD Easy
Durability SimilarSimilar
Max. Load 375 lbs.400 lbs.
Price $300 – $2000.$400 – $3000.

Why You Should Choose an Elliptical

An elliptical trainer is an exercise machine operating at a stationary position. You probably might have seen an elliptical machine in a gym, however, if you have not, it looks like a bicycle-treadmill hybrid workout machine. A typical full-bodied elliptical machine has separated foot pedals that rotate circularly and has a pair of handles charging the movements.

Like many other cardio machines, you can find an elliptical with several variations. There are regular elliptical trainers which have statinary handles, moving handles, or both; compact under-desk elliptical trainers that have no handles at all and can mostly only be used in sitting positions; and some hybrid elliptical glider and step machine that can do the regular elliptical rotatory motions as well as up-and-down notions.

Types of Elliptical machines

Since this article is about ellipticals in general, we focused on the regular elliptical machine with stationary and mobile handles that can only be used in a standing position.

These machines are non-impact trainers which means that they do not increase the stress on your joints as you exercise. For a cardio workout, an elliptical functions by affecting the muscles of the thigh, hamstring, calf, chest, arm, and back. And so it is a good means of gaining proper breath and cardio control.

In terms of burning fat and ease-of-use, the elliptical does a proper job, especially when used over-time.

For 👍

  • It gives a full-body workout (upper and lower body).
  • It has an adjustable speed and resistance.
  • It is a non-impact workout machine meaning that your knees won’t be stressed
  • It helps to increase stamina and balance.
  • It doesn’t require a power outlet. 

Against 👎

  • Back, shoulder, and hip pain can be a problem if you don’t use it properly.
  • Needs a bit of a learning curve for first-timers.
  • The models that give you full-body workouts are generally more expensive
  • Some users complain of numb feet.
  • Requires some maintenance

Why You Should Choose a Stationary Bike

A stationary bike (or exercise bike) is basically a wheel-less bicycle with pedals, handles, and a seat (some with backrest).  It gives the complete feeling of cycling, except… you’re going nowhere, and has completely morphed into a favorite cardio machine for many people mostly because of how easy it is to use and relatively little to no maintenance required.

Just like elliptical trainers, stationary bikes do not lack in varieties. So depending on your peculiar needs, you will have to choose between upright bikes, recumbent bikes (having backrests), and spin bikes. Although they have slight differences, these different stationary bikes serve the same purpose i.e to improve or maintain your fitness levels.

Types of Stationary exercise bikes

It is a low impact machine. While not the same as the zero-impact nature of the ellipticals, it exerts very little pressure and strain on joints over time. Compared to treadmills on the other hand, stationary bikes are miles ahead in terms of reduced joint impact.

One thing though to keep in mind is that they offer zero effect to the upper body and core muscles. A stationary bike will help to tone or build-up your hamstrings, calf, thigh, and slight abdominal muscles. This caveat aside, it is an excellent machine for cardio conditioning and breath control and helps users burn calories.

While stationary bikes are limited to a particular style of workout they are proven to be effective cardio machines.

For👍 

  • Strengthens the hamstring, calf, and quad (thigh) muscles.
  • It is a low impact workout machine.
  • Its speed and resistance can be adjusted.
  • Goor rate of calorie burn
  • Requires less storage space.
  • Easy-to-use. Even for a first-timer.
  • It doesn’t require a power outlet.

Against 👎

  • Can be expensive
  • Generally not as efficient in burning calories and weight loss
  • Overuse will lead to back and butt pains.

Injury Rate

Elliptical Trainer

The elliptical machine operates in such a way that there is a synergy between the hands and the legs while in use. Failure to have good balance while using this equipment will lead to quick back and leg pain; some might even strip and risk falling. For persons using this equipment at high speed, there are lots of things that could go wrong when there is an unbalance.

Stationary bikes

A stationary bike is a simple machine, requiring less instruction and guidance to use. However, the downside to the bike is the side effects of overuse. On a typical usage, few or no accidents could occur. Regardless, butt, knee, and back pain will be the result of an improper or long duration of usage.

Verdict

Injuries on an elliptical although uncommon tend to be more frequent than on stationary exercise bikes.

Durability

When comparing elliptical machines vs Stationary exercise bikes primary as cardio machines which machines are more durable?

Elliptical trainers

Elliptical machines are rarely ever faulty but can prove to be quite a handful once they begin to act up. This is because they have a much more complex mechanism and moving parts when compared to exercise bikes. When it comes to the number of calories being burned by an elliptical, the amount is usually high because it works out both the upper and lower body.

Exercise Bikes

Finding a fault on a stationary bike will usually be as a result of heavy usage and mostly limited to the pedal or resistance system. There aren’t as many moving parts as on an elliptical trainer, so it would most likely breakdown less when compared to an elliptical for the same amount of usage.

Verdict

You should understand that durability will mostly depend on the manufacturer and quality of materials used, but in an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison, a stationary bike should last longer than an elliptical trainer due to less complexity.

Elliptical trainer vs exercise bikes: Choosing based on your situation

The comparison of elliptical trainers vs stationary exercise bikes is a winless debate. You can only really have both of them or choose one based on what you’re trying to achieve as both these machines have their better sides. If you fit these person specifications, then you might be nudged to chose one over the other.

1. You have some muscle/joint injuries

If you have injuries or you’re just recovering from a bad injury and need a long term rehabilitation, then you should avoid an elliptical trainer at this point. Getting a stationary bike, especially a Recumbent exercise back which offers a backrest and very little impact has a lot more advantages for you.

Winner = Stationary Bikes

2. You’re trying to lose weight

Both a stationary bike and an elliptical will help you burn calories, but it’s a lot easier and faster on an elliptical. This is because a stationary bike works out mainly the lower body while most full-sized elliptical machines engage both the upper and lower body. For you to burn calories on an exercise bike at the same rate as an elliptical, you have to cycle much faster as well as decrease your intervals.

Winner = Elliptical trainers

3. You want a versatile machine 

This has to do with the ability to perform more than one operation on your machine. For this set of persons, the elliptical does it better for you. Offering you a range of movements and versatility, unlike the bike.

Winner = Elliptical trainers

4. You want to spend the least amount of money possible.

You can find decent ellipticals and exercise bikes for under $500. However, when it comes to the amount of machine you’re getting for your money, the stationary bikes seem to offer more bang for your buck.

Winner = Stationary bikes

Final Verdict 

The elliptical vs stationary bike debate will continue to linger but with the information here, you can choose what is best for your needs and exercise profile. Both machines offer slightly different perks to different people and if you left the choice to us, you would be better off having both (if you have the space and budget)

In summary, the stationary bike is cheaper, more durable, and suited to those looking to balance upper body days with a leg-only cardio machine.

The elliptical, on the other hand, offers full-body workouts, burns more calories, and is slightly less durable. This makes it a great low impact machine suitable for people on a weight-loss program.

We hope this guide helped you in making your desired selection.

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