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Exercise Bike Vs Elliptical Trainer, Which Is Better?

Robbie Ferri
January 21, 2022

When you think about cardiovascular workouts, we all have a weapon of choice to hit our fitness goals. A common question we get asked is whether you should choose an exercise bike or an elliptical for your workout. I believe for all round fitness the elliptical trainer is better.

As a personal trainer, I have helped people hit their fitness goals for many years. A big part of what I teach people is how to use cardiovascular machines such as exercises bikes and elliptical.

Fat loss, muscle tone, and even comfort, which will be better? Find out below.

What Uses More Muscles, an Exercise Bike or an Elliptical?

When we jump on a cardio machine, we're looking for the best bang for our buck. What will give us the most value for the time we spend on it. We want to be working as many muscles as possible to bring that heart rate up and get the blood flowing.

Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes put a considerable amount of tension and pressure on the legs, as they are a lower body workout. Your hamstrings and quads work overtime while the rest of the leg muscles support and help them maintain control. To stay stable up top, we have the core nice and tight, with the arms and shoulders helping in support.

Elliptical Machines

The elliptical machine is fantastic because of the number of muscles it uses. Firstly, we have the legs controlling the footplates at the bottom, pushing them backward and forwards. The core is nice and tight, and the obliques are twisting throughout the motion of using the machine. Then we come to the upper body, and shoulders which are nice and tight. We’re firing the muscles in the chest and pulling with the back alongside the arms flexing to help everything stay under control.

The Winner

It has to be the elliptical trainer. You get so many more muscles working to make the movement happen and keep the machine under control. It’s all that upper bodywork that makes the difference. One of the best cardio machines in the gym is the elliptical for working the whole body.

Young model working out on elliptical trainer

What Is More Comfortable, an Exercise Bike or an Elliptical?

Cardio machines should be comfortable. The longer we stay on them, the more calories we can burn and the more we can train our muscles. Workouts should be fun, challenging, and enjoyable, not painful and problematic. That is why we must ask which is more comfortable.

Exercise Bikes

Stationary cycles are a fantastic tool when it comes to fitness. They are easy to use, you can spend a lot of time on them, and they are a very low impact cardio machine, unlike a treadmill. You are not hammering into the body and can sit for hours, provided you are well-fueled. The advantage is that it has a seat, and you have a couple of different positions that you can ride in, sitting or standing. 

Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines are different compared to a lot of other cardio machines. You are standing and doing a total body workout. They are a comfortable machine to use since when your legs get tired, you can use your arms more, and if your arms get tired, you can use your legs more. It’s an incredible workout. You are standing, though, and it does put a lot of pressure on the feet, and you do struggle when it comes to switching positions as you only have one.

The Winner

Exercise bikes are, in my opinion, the more comfortable of the two. You are sitting but also have the option of standing. You can drop the work rate and relax more on a stationary bike than on an elliptical machine. After years of working in a gym and using them both, I feel the exercise bike does offer more comfort.

Which Is Better For Weight Loss, an Exercise Bike or an Elliptical?

Weight loss  comes down to calories in and calories out. We generally use a cardio machine to get the heart beating faster, the muscles working more to get the body burning calories out of your system. The more calories we burn, the more the body takes them from the fat stores. To lose weight, we need to burn more calories or eat less and cardiovascular fitness can help the human body with this process.

Exercise Bike

An exercise bike is a fantastic tool for burning calories and losing weight, and it’s excellent because you can spend a long time sitting on it. After all, it's comfortable to use. You can adjust the work rate using the resistance lever. The harder you work, the more calories you will burn off. As a tool for weight loss, it is perfect, and you can even watch a film or TV show while on it because it keeps you reasonably still.

Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines have a lot going for it when it comes to burning calories. You can adjust the resistance to either work harder or easier. It's straightforward, and you can use many muscles, especially the upper body. It’s a fantastic workout.

The Winner

They are both perfect for fat loss, and I believe that both effective machines. It is entirely up to the user and which one they prefer to use. Provided you are working hard and enjoying it, they are equally good.

Black and Red stationary bikes

Which Is Better For Getting Muscle Tone, an Exercise Bike or an Elliptical?

Muscle tone mainly comes down to two things: dieting to remove the fat stores from around the muscles and building the muscles closer to the skin to be more prominent. The stationary bike and the elliptical can aid you in this process, but which one is better?

Exercise Bike

The exercise bike will be practical when working those legs and burning many calories. It will also keep your core nice and tight, and you will even get a little from the arms and chest holding you up.

Elliptical Machine

The elliptical trainer will burn calories at a similar rate, but you will work more muscle. This is vital when talking about toning because the more muscle we can work, the more we can build them and show their tone. 

The Winner

In my opinion, for toning the body, the elliptical is the winner. Not only are you burning calories, you are also building the muscle. You can achieve this on the bike, but cyclists aren’t known for their upper body tone.

What Is More Fun, an Exercise Bike or an Elliptical Trainer?

When we work out, we want to have fun and enjoy what we do. I believe that workouts should be fun.

Exercise Bike

Exercise bikes have a lot more going for them when it comes to enjoyment. You have hundreds of applications such as Peloton, iFit, JNRY, and Zwift, which will give you some fantastic bike-based workouts. These will keep you entertained. 

Elliptical Machine

The elliptical trainer doesn’t have as much going for it on the entertainment front. You don’t have many applications for elliptical trainer workouts as you do with the exercise bike.

The Winner

Exercise equipment like the Peloton for bike riding has changed what a stationary bike workout used to be. You get an intense cardio workout with a live instructor from your own home. Cardio exercise machines like these are the reason why a stationary bike is more entertaining. Although you might get a full body workout from an elliptical workout using your body weight, it won't keep you entertained half as much as an interactive low impact cardio workout.

What Is Best Overall?

It can be a tough call when it comes to purchasing an exercise bike or an elliptical trainer. They both do a similar job but in a different way. In my opinion, although the elliptical does use more muscles, the exercise bike is more comfortable to use, and people tend to spend a lot more time on it compared to an elliptical because they get bored of the same motion. Exercise bikes offer more variety as far as workouts go and are more fun.

What Is Best For People New to Fitness?

The best cardio machine for people who are new to fitness would be elliptical, and you use more muscles and generally get more of a total body workout. It’s a fantastic tool for getting the body warmed in and ready to build and grow.

What Is Best For People Who Want A Machine For Their Home?

You can use them both at home effectively, but you might find the exercise bike takes up less space. It comes down to personal preference.

What Is Best For People With Back Issues?

The elliptical is much better for people who might have back issues because it promotes better posture and is easier to use. With the bikes, you are leaning forward, which can worsen the lower back issue.

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Both machines are amazing and will help you with your fitness goals. They both get the heart rate up, burn calories, and get the blood pumping. Whichever you pick will benefit you.

Robbie Ferri
About the Author
I’m Robbie Ferri I’m a Cyclist from Norfolk UK. I have been cycling for many years and found myself in Time Trials, Ultra Cycling World Records, and Bikepacking Races. I have worked in a Bike shop and with some of the industry’s leading brands. I’m also an experienced Spinning Instructor and avid Indoor Cyclist. If I’m not cycling, I’m writing about it.
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