The bicycle maneuver is one of the most effective ab exercises you can do. The American Council on Exercise found it trains the front of your abs an astounding 248 percent more and your side ab muscles 290 percent more than the classic crunch.
However, jumping on the bicycle machine at your gym is a completely different activity. Pedaling away on this stationary bike does build cardiovascular fitness and burn calories to help with weight management, but it doesn't directly train your ab muscles like sit-ups, crunches, planks or the bicycle maneuver.
Benefits of the Bicycle Machine
The indoor cycle offers a quality workout by raising your heart rate and training your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. As a result, you burn calories, which helps you manage your weight or drop fat, so that abs you develop with targeted exercises pop.
Cycling indoors means you can work out regardless of the weather, and may even multi-task by watching your favorite show or reading while exercising. For people who are more than 50 pounds overweight or who have joint issues, the bicycle machine offers a way to work hard without putting undue stress on the spine, knees, hips or ankles.
What the Bicycle Machine Can't Do
You certainly use the muscles of the thighs, calf, hips and butt when using the bicycle machine. Your abs also activate to stabilize your pelvis and to keep you from falling over while you're on the seat. Moderate workouts on the bicycle machine, however, don't really offer the type of overload on your ab muscles that builds serious definition.
What It Might Do
If you're looking to slim your middle and show some definition through fat loss, the bicycle machine could be for you. Abdomen-specific exercises, such as crunches, build strong muscles that can only be seen when you lose the fat covering them. These targeted exercises don't use a lot of sustained energy to burn calories, and burning calories is what leads to fat loss.
A 155-pound person who pedals at a moderate pace on the stationary cycle for 30 minutes burns 260 calories. The more you weigh, the longer you go and a higher intensity all affect that number. If you can create a 500-calorie deficit daily by exercising off an extra 250 calories and eating 250 calories fewer, you'll lose 1 pound per week.
Ab-Specific Bicycle Exercise
Along with the bicycle machine, do the bicycle maneuver, which does specifically work the muscles of your abs. It requires no machine or extra equipment.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and elevated over your hips. Place your hands behind your head.
Draw your right knee and left elbow together. Extend your left leg as you do the twist.
Repeat with the left knee and right elbow. Alternate slowly and deliberately for the desired number of repetitions.