What if there was a way to improve aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, burn fat while maintaining muscle mass, and that you could do all of this without running?
Performance coaches and fitness enthusiasts alike have found that short and sweet interval workouts performed on an exercise bike such as a spin bike or indoor cycle can be a great way to achieve fitness, conditioning, or body composition goals. Even better, properly performed bike intervals can achieve these goals without killing your fast twitch muscle gains like you would if you went for long, slow runs.
Who can high intensity interval training with bike sprints benefit?
- Any athlete: Sprinters, cyclists, sprint triathlon athletes, football players, etc.
- Competitive bodybuilding and physique competitors.
- Everyday people who want to stay in great shape while using their time efficiently.
The trick with these bike sprints is that they need to be long enough to challenge the athlete, but short enough to ensure that the intensity, RPM’s, and overall movement quality stay high.
How To Perform Bike Sprints
If your goals are related to sport, then you need to consider the amount of time that you put out high intensity efforts in your sport, and tailor the interval to those time frames.
For example, a 60 meter or 100 meter sprinter might focus on intervals ranging from 6 seconds to 15 seconds per sprint, whereas a 400 meter sprinter might go for 20 to 40 seconds.
Most sprinters can stick with relatively low resistance. The resistance level used should allow for more than 200 rpm’s, as well as completion of each repetition at that level of cycle frequency.
Example HIIT Bike Workout for Sprinters & Speed/Power Athletes:
- 3 minute warmup cycling
- 8x10 seconds
- 20% resistance, maximum RPM frequency
- 90 seconds easy spin between sprints
Endurance athletes who want to work on leg power and stimulate fast twitch muscle can likely use intervals in the 30 to 60 second range per sprint. Those who compete in triathlons and sprint triathlons can use moderate levels of resistance, particularly on the longer intervals. Endurance athletes can aim for 150-175 RPM’s, regulating resistance to allow for this RPM’s range for the bulk of the interval.
Example HIIT Bike Workout for Endurance Athletes:
- 3 minute warmup cycling
- 6x45 seconds
- 30% resistance, maximum RPM frequency that can sustain the entire sprint
- 240 seconds easy spin between sprints
For people whose focus is mainly related to body composition, cardiovascular fitness, or general health, bike sprints can be used similarly to sprint or endurance athletes, adjusting the workloads depending on your own capabilities. If you are someone who would rather do deadlifts or box jumps, perform high intensity interval bike sprints in a similar manner as a sprinter. If you’d rather do 60 second planks and go for a long run in the morning, you would be better off setting up your bike sprints similar to an endurance athlete.
Example HIIT Bike Workout for General Health/Fitness/Body Composition:
- 3 minute warmup cycling
- 2x4x20 seconds
- 25% resistance, maximum RPM frequency
- 60 seconds easy spin between sprints, 240 seconds between the 2 sets of 4x sprints.
How To Progress Bike Sprints
Since we want to use these bike sprints as a high intensity interval training tool, we want to keep them relatively short, very intense, and with high RPM frequencies.
We can progress these bike sprints by:
- Increasing the resistance load.
- Increasing the duration of each sprint repetition.
- Increase the number of repetitions performed in a row.
- Decrease the rest in between sprints.
- Reduce the resistance and increase the frequency.
If your goals are more related to speed, velocity, and power, then I would work on keeping the RPM frequency the same, but increase the resistance load slightly or the duration of output.
After adjusting duration or load, the goal should be to set an RPM personal best before progressing much further. If your RPM frequency begins to drop off, you have increased another variable too much and as such will need to wait before progressing the workouts further.
If your goals are more related to strength endurance, such as a sprint triathlete who needs to power up hills, then increasing the load and duration would likely be more important than increasing the RPM frequency.
Do your best to maintain or improve your frequency, but you will likely gain the most from being able to go the same speed against more resistance, or use the same resistance and speed but for a longer duration.
If your goals are more related to general fitness or body composition, then I would suggest working on first increasing the number of sprints you can perform, then start to go back and forth between increasing the duration or load. Emphasize getting a good burn during the sprints, recovering well between them, and then going back for another round.
What Spin Bikes Do I Recommend?
My favorite spin bike is the Matrix CXC, CXM, or CXP. It has an extremely smooth & quiet operation, high quality magnetic resistance, great finishes, and is commercial grade quality. Compared to something like the Life FItness iC7, the Matrix bike is more sturdy and has better overall material quality.
A cheaper alternative, which is my second favorite, is the Lemond Rev-Master Pro. It uses a leather friction brake, has the option for a cadence meter, is relatively affordable, and it’s handlebars allow for you to easily mount a tablet or phone if need be.
Lastly, if you have a bicycle, you can get something like the Sportneer Bike Resistance Trainer. Whatever model you get, make sure it has adjustable resistance and a handlebar mounted remote or resistance adjustment mechanism.