Are Recumbent Bikes Suitable For HIIT?

You like using the recumbent bike and also want to do HIIT. Now you’re wondering if it’s possible or even a good idea. You’re not alone. Here is the answer you’re looking for.

Recumbent bikes are a great tool for HIIT provided the specific machine you’re using has a wide range of easily adjustable resistance levels. Recumbent bikes can provide both high and low intensity while at the same time it’s a machine that’s very safe to use even when you push yourself hard.

What makes recumbent bikes a great tool for HIIT? What would a HIIT workout look like? Keep reading to find out.

Looking for a good recumbent bike? Find out which one I recommend by clicking here.

Can You Do HIIT On a Recumbent Bike?

So what makes a recumbent bike suitable or not for a HIIT workout. Let’s see what a HIIT workout is and what you need for it and if a recumbent bike can be used for that purpose.

Can you use a recumbent bike for HIIT? Now we know what HIIT is, what does a machine need to do to be suitable for it?

  • Easily adjustable intensity
  • Built in programs are a plus although they might not exactly suit your needs
  • Safe to use at high intensity, low risk of hurting yourself
  • Safe to go to failure

Now let’s look at a recumbent bike. Does it tick all those boxes?

Easily adjustable intensity? This depends on the bike you’re using. Most modern recumbent bikes have magnetically adjustable resistance so you can easily change it with the touch of a button. Bikes that are adjusted with a turn knob are a bit more difficult.

The range of resistance is important as well. You want a wide range of resistance levels which many mid and higher range models offer. Of course resistance is not the only factor in intensity. The pedaling speed is another but that’s in your own legs. An exercise bike goes as fast as you pedal unlike a treadmill where you have to set the speed.

Read here which muscles a recumbent bike works. (click)

Built in programs. Many mid and high end recumbent bike models will have built in programs. Some of those will probably closely resemble HIIT programs. Again it really depends on the model you get. Possibly these programs are not exactly what you want and it could be better to just follow your own but that means you’ll have to do manual adjustments in resistance.

Safe to use at high intensity. This is where recumbent bikes are great tools for HIIT. Recumbent bikes are known for being safe for your back and joints, making it a suitable exercise tool for even seniors and vulnerable groups. When the intensity goes up, the risk of injuries does as well. Because the forces you’re exerting go up a lot during the high intensity sets, if anything goes wrong, the negative effects can be bigger as well.

Since many variables like seating position are taken care of with a recumbent bike, the risks are a lot lower and therefore there is less chance you can hurt yourself during high intensity intervals.

Read the 7 things recumbent bikes can do for your body (click).

Safe to go to failure. Most HIIT protocols call for repeating high intensity sets until you can’t do even one more. While not many people will actually go that far, it’s easier to go to failure if you know you’re safe when you do. This is again a very strong point of a recumbent bike.

Recumbent bikes have a seat with a backrest and handles for your hands. The main muscles you use are in your legs. You don’t need those legs to stop yourself from falling over however. Even in the case you go so far that your legs completely give out, there is no chance of hurting yourself (except a muscle ache of course). On a treadmill or elliptical, there is a chance you could trip and fall.

Can you pedal backwards on a recumbent bike? Click here to find out.

Conclusion. Yes, a recumbent bike is suitable for HIIT. It’s a safe machine to use for this purpose. To make it easy to use you’ll want a bike that has a wide range of magnetic resistance that’s easily adjusted. Built in programs can help make things easier but not all recumbent bikes have programs that are suitable for you.

If a recumbent bike is the BEST tool depends on you. HIIT requires a lot of mental strength to be able to push yourself to go as hard as you can for many times in a row. If you like to use a recumbent bike, that’s great. If you don’t, it’ll be much harder to push yourself every time. The best workout is the one you do. So if another way of doing HIIT makes it more likely you’ll actually do it, you should probably do that instead.

That said, a recumbent bike is one of the ways you can do HIIT that is pretty low risk of injury. Since injury will make you miss workouts while you recover, using a recumbent bike could give you more training longevity.  

Looking for a recumbent bike that is suitable for HIIT workouts with a wide range of easily adjustable resistance levels and built in programs? Check out which one I recommend here (Click).

Recumbent Bike Example HIIT Workout

HIIT is all about pushing yourself close to the limit for a short period and then recover for a short period. What the limit is, is of course very different for everyone. And on top of that, every recumbent bike is different so a certain resistance setting on one isn’t the same as on another bike.

Suggested: Can you lose belly fat by only using an exercise bike?

You’ll have to figure out for yourself which setting is high and low for your machine and training level.

HIIT has two types of interval; High intensity and low intensity or recovery.

The high intensity interval should be performed at a resistance setting that pushes you to 99% of your ability within the set time.

The low intensity interval is mainly for recovery. Keep your legs moving but at a very low resistance level.

Where workouts differ is in the length of the intervals and how many cycles you go through. And of course you will be able to push yourself harder the more you train. There are many ways you can change the length of the high and low intensity interval to create different trainings.

In general, if you’re doing it for fat loss, a High:Low ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 is effective. This means 30 seconds high to 30 or 60 seconds low. For a focus on muscle growth you can use a 1:5 or 1:6 ratio. This way you can rest more so you can push harder during the high interval.

Some simple examples of what a HIIT workout on a recumbent bike could look like;

  • Beginner:
    • Warmup: 5-10 minutes cycling at medium-low resistance and intensity
    • Intervals 1:2, 30 seconds high, 60 seconds low.
    • Start at 5 cycles for absolute beginners. Add one cycle every workout until you get up to 10.
  • Intermediate:
    • Warmup: 5-10 minutes cycling at medium-low resistance and intensity
    • Intervals: 1:1.5 30 seconds high, 45 seconds low.
    • Start at 6 cycles and work your way up to 12 cycles over time.
  • Advanced:
    • Warmup: 5-10 minutes cycling at medium-low resistance and intensity
    • Intervals: 1:1 60 seconds high, 60 seconds low.
    • Start at 6 cycles and work your way up to 12 cycles.

These are just some examples. As long as you push yourself and increase the difficulty over time you will improve.

If you have a heartrate monitor, that’s a really useful tool for HIIT. During the high intensity interval, you want to aim for 90-95% of your maximum heart rate . That way you have a quantifiable way of seeing how hard you pushed yourself.

If you want something shorter, check out Tabata. It’s basically 20 seconds high and 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. It’s quite intensive especially for beginners but a single workout only lasts 4 minutes. Almost anybody can suffer through that.

Suggested: Is 30 minutes on an exercise bike enough to see results?

What Is HIIT?

You might not be completely sure what a HIIT workout actually is. If we don’t know what it is, it’s impossible to say if a certain tool is suited for the job.

HIIT stands for; High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT is a form of interval training. It alternates very high intensity ‘sets’ with lower intensity sets in which you can recover for the next high intensity set. You do this until you’re too tired to do another high intensity interval. HIIT sessions don’t have a set total time or time for the intervals but in general they last less than 30 minutes. The duration depends on your current fitness level and the intensity you go at.

A good interval timer is going to make HIIT workouts much more enjoyable. Check out the GymNext Flex timer. It’s super easy to set up and control contrary to most other interval timers making the set up for any workout a breeze.

There are quite a few different protocols that prescribe different durations and intensities for the high and low intensity intervals. However, they all have the intervals with different intensities in common.

Benefits of HIIT:

  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Lowers insulin resistance
  • Improve fat oxidation
  • Might increase brain power

HIIT is a very effective way to increase your cardiovascular health, VO2 max and lose body fat. While longer duration low intensity exercise might be a bit more effective in burning calories and therefore body fat, it isn’t as time efficient or as good at increasing the cardiovascular health.

HIIT is so efficient not only because it doesn’t take up a lot of time but it also increases the calorie usage throughout the rest of the day.

HIIT isn’t suitable for everyone. People that are out of shape or people that should be careful with exercise in general, should probably shy away from very high intensity exercise until they improve their fitness levels.

So, HIIT is definitely worth doing over traditional low intensity cardio but you have to have a basic level of fitness and the mental fortitude to do it correctly.

Looking for a recumbent bike that is suitable for HIIT workouts with a wide range of easily adjustable resistance levels and built in programs? Check out which one I recommend here (Click).

Is HIIT good for muscle building? HIIT by itself might cause some muscle gains in untrained people and beginners but the muscle building effects will taper off over time. The improved cardiovascular health and endurance can help you have better weightlifting workouts because of an increased work capacity.

How long should a HIIT workout on a recumbent bike be? HIIT workouts should last less than 30 minutes in general. If 30 minutes isn’t tough enough, you probably don’t push yourself hard enough on the high intensity intervals. Shorter durations are OK if you push yourself hard enough to be exhausted at the end. You should aim for a minimum of 15 minutes.  

Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories

Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:

  • Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
  • Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
  • Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.

To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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