Recumbent bicycles are unusual-looking vehicles that place the rider in a reclining position to cycle. This position offers greater ergonomic comfort and better weight distribution than a traditional diamond frame bicycle, but can also make riders hard to see in traffic. Recumbent bikes work different muscle groups than an ordinary bicycle, including the lower abdominal muscles.
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Recumbent bicycles require the user to recline while pedaling, changing the way the stresses of cycling affect the body. Some bicycles may recline the rider only slightly, while others place riders in a nearly horizontal position. Recumbent bicycles rely less on the upper body and arms, and more on the lower body, including the legs and lower torso. According to 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet, recumbent bicyclists can get the greatest abdominal benefit by cycling with the seat set closer to the legs to target the lower abs.
With the seat set back and the legs lower, a recumbent bicycle can also relax the abdominal muscles. This offers deeper breathing that can help make a strenuous workout easier to finish, assisting people who have respiratory problems.
According to Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary, a recumbent bicycle is any vehicle in which the rider sits in a more or less horizontal position. Major types of recumbent bicycles include long wheel base types, which have efficient chains but poor weight distribution; compact long wheel base, which tuck the rear wheel under the seat to redistribute weight; and short wheel base, which place the front wheel behind the bottom bracket for maneouverability. Different recumbent setups may affect the abdominal muscles in different ways, with abdominal involvement increasing as the rider reclines more.
In addition to working the abdominal muscles more than a conventional bicycle, a recumbent model can also reduce pain in other parts of the body, allowing for longer cycling and a more intense workout. For instance, according to Gretchen Konrady, recumbent bicycles can ease hand and neck pain and help asthma sufferers breathe more easily while exercising. Recumbent bikes also tend to reduce stress on the knee and ankle joints, allowing riders with leg injuries to ride more easily. According to BikeRoute, recumbent cycles can also reduce the risk of impotence in male cyclists who engage in strenuous workouts.
Recumbent handcycles are often used by people with disabilities affecting their legs. These cycles are powered using the hands and arms. Some types, called trunk powered hand cycles, use the abdominal muscles for power. These are primarily used for racing, and make use of the weight of the upper body to power the stroke.
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- BikeRoute: Medical benefits of recumbent bicycles
- Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary: Recumbent
- Gretchen Konrady: Is the recumbent bicycle an option?
- MSN: Bike Dilemma: Regular or recumbent?
- Northwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury System: Fitness month: Skiing and cycling
- 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet: Which fitness recumbent exercise bike is for me?