Exercise Bike vs Elliptical Machine: Which is Better?

Social media platforms repeatedly make it known to us the indisputable fitness benefits of exercising frequently. However, despite our awareness, we seem to always find ways to put exercising on the back-burner.

Most people blame their busy professional lives for the lack of time and energy to work out. Also, I do think they’re in the right to feel that way.

However, what if the gym could be brought to you? What if you had easy access to gym exercise machines such as the elliptical machine and exercise bike?

Wouldn’t the idea of returning to your glorious self and ideal body weight, before the reign of the fats, propel you to sweat it out from the comforts of your home?

If so, you will have an important decision to make.

If you’re like most people, you won’t be able to afford both an exercise bike and an elliptical machine. So, how do you choose your preferred piece of equipment then?

After all, both fitness machines are excellent at boosting your cardiovascular system, improving your endurance, and relatively easy on the joints.

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Elliptical Machine

Also known as a cross-trainer, an elliptical machine can be best described as the hybrid of a ski machine and stair stepper.

This machine requires you to move your legs in a circular up-and-down motion while working your arms simultaneously on its movable arm handles. To make the movement more challenging, you can even increase the resistance and incline on the elliptical machine.

Exercise Bike

Meanwhile, an exercise bicycle, also popularly referred to as a stationary bicycle or a spinning bike, is a bike that allows you to cycle indoors. This exercise equipment comes equipped with the customary pedals, saddle, and handlebar.

Ellipticals vs Stationary Bikes

Now, let me help you make your choice between the two fitness machines.

Allow me to compare these two fitness equipment in terms of muscle toning, joint impact, variability, and fat-burning capacity. There are differences between the two that could help you decide.

Muscle Toning

Both the elliptical machine and stationary bike help tone muscles and increase muscle strength. After all, they are cardio machines.

However, the muscles they target differ from one another.

For example, exercise bikes usually focus on the lower part of the body—think buttocks, calves, hamstrings, thighs, and quads.

Meanwhile, an elliptical trainer gives you more of a well-rounded workout as it targets both the upper and lower body parts. In addition to targeting thigh muscles, hamstring, and buttocks, it also works out the upper body muscles such as the back muscles, arms, chest, and stomach.

At a glance, it may seem that the elliptical machine provides more value for money; however, it isn’t all that straightforward. 

Now, if your goal is to target as many muscle groups as possible including the upper body, an elliptical machine will be the more suitable choice as it can improve overall muscle tone. However, it can’t hold a candle to a stationary bike in terms of providing an effective quad and hamstring workout.

So, to make an inspired purchase, it is imperative for you to discover your fitness goals and objectives.

However, bear in mind that the elliptical machine and stationary bike will not help you increase muscle mass. These cardio machines will do little to help you with your mass muscle building aspirations.

Joint Impact

The elliptical trainer and stationary bike are widely advertised as fitness equipment that offer low-impact workout. Thankfully, the marketing heads aren’t off the mark with their marketing ploys. 

The elliptical trainer has been specifically designed to put less stress on your joints. This machine provides excellent rehabilitation to someone with arthritis and knee or hip injuries.

Many long-distance runners also use elliptical trainers for cross-training purposes as it provides a low-impact body workout and diminishes the chances of a stress fracture. With this cross-trainer exercise machine, you will not even need to take a step forward as your feet always remain grounded on the footpads.

Meanwhile, a stationary bike also does a phenomenal job of strengthening your core and legs without putting stress on your joints. As it mimics cycling with a road bike, an exercise bike also offers similar benefits and is particularly ideal for a person with osteoarthritis.

However, I would advise you to work out on exercise bikes with caution as your knees will move from a bent position to a straight line numerous times during your sessions. It would be foolish of me to suggest that the bikes don’t put some level of stress, though low, on your joints.

Additionally, an upright bike can also aggravate niggling back pain issues.

Here’s a piece of advice to ease joint pain while riding your stationary bike—consider adding comfortable padding to your bike seat.

Fat Burning Capacity

Both exercise bikes and elliptical machines are quite good at burning fat, triggering weight loss, and raising your heart rate. However, you knew that already, didn’t you?

What you are interested to find out is the answer to the million-dollar question—which one burns more fat and causes more weight loss?

Again, answering this question isn’t as straightforward as many would have you believe. After all, you burn the most fat in the machine you feel most comfortable using.

Additionally, the effort you put into the calorie-burning machine also plays a major factor in determining your total body fat loss.

Now, if I’m to assume that you’re equally adept at using both equipment, comfortable with either one of them, and able to put an equal amount of effort into them both, research indicates that elliptical machines or cross-trainers have more fat-burning weight-loss potential.

After all, this cardio machine targets more muscle groups. As a result, you will have to expend more energy to complete a movement in elliptical machines. 

However, the difference in calorie burn is not as significant as you’d think. 

Here’s a piece of advice for you to burn more calories and lose weight—incorporate interval training in your workout sessions to take full advantage of your fitness tools. Doing so will allow you to raise your body heart rate.


In terms of variability, I would give the advantage to cross-trainers. As you can perform a wide range of movements and change your programs frequently on an elliptical trainer, you’re less likely to hit a plateau on this equipment and quit it.

On an elliptical trainer, you can move forward, backward, and challenge yourself with a shallow or steep incline. If you are looking to push the boundaries, you can even increase the resistance.

On the other hand, exercise bikes will simply require you to pedal forward to work your leg muscles. Though you can increase the difficulty by switching up the resistance, a stationary bike is quite limited in terms of what you can do on it.

Granted that you can read your favorite book, listen to podcasts, and watch TV on the stationary bike, but will these activities help you improve your health and well-being? Nope, they won’t contribute one bit. 

As a result, a cross-trainer offers more chances or options for you to level up in your fitness journey.


The main takeaway for you from this article on ellipticals vs exercise bikes is that both the stationary bike and elliptical trainer will help you maintain your fitness objectives, give you a low-impact cardio workout, and help you build endurance without putting stress on your joints. 

Additionally, they are both equally good at helping you shed fat, lose weight, and tone muscles.

Both the stationary bike and elliptical trainer are better than a treadmill and have their fair share of health benefits. While an elliptical trainer does an excellent job of providing a complete full-body workout, an exercise bike specializes at working out the legs and other lower muscles of the body.

Comparatively, an elliptical machine puts less strain on the joints than an exercise bike. However, it takes up more space and costs more than an exercise bike, too.

In essence, you need to discover your objectives, figure out your fitness needs and requirements, and then choose a fitness machine best suited for your budget, workout frequency, health goals, and lifestyle. Of course, you can’t go wrong with acquiring both the machines if you have the budget.