8 Best Indoor Cycling Workouts

Indoor cycling workouts

The high-structure and low-distraction that indoor cycling exercises provide can be the best method to increase your fitness level through short and effective training sessions. Winter is the ideal moment to start dialing into your indoor workout routine. A bike trainer could be the perfect training device to assist you with your indoor cycling workouts and stick to the training plan. 

So if you’ve got an exercise bike in the basement, we’d urge you to pull it out, dust it off, and try one of these simple and effective indoor cycling workouts that are guaranteed make you sweat.

#1 Go Further and Stay Longer – The Endurance Ride

In this endurance-based ride that you do, you’ll be pedaling continuously for a prolonged period at a lower level of effort, and eventually, longer as you get fitter. Although this may not be to be a lot of fun however, the process is extremely important. 

“Continuous pedaling really gives you the opportunity to focus on your form, focus on your technique and do it the right way so that when you get to those hill climbs and speed workouts, you’re prepared,” Jacque Crockford says (Jacque Crockford  has a doctorate in health science and exercise leadership and is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise). 

The Warm-up

You need to pedal continuously for 5 minutes

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

The Workout

Now you need 45 minutes of uninterrupted pedaling

  1. Cadence: 90-100 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

The Cool Down

5 minutes of uninterrupted pedaling with a lower cadence

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

#2 Boosts Performance – The Speed Ride

Increasing your speed is akin to increasing your revolutions per minute, which in turn strengthens the fast-twitch muscle fibers responsible for jumping and sprinting, Crockford says. Getting faster on a bike can help you in all sorts of ways–it can help you sprint after the bus you just missed, perform better in your recreational baseball league, or just keep up with your kids as they run around the backyard. “These indoor cycling workouts will get into the higher end of our cardiovascular zone,” Crockford says. “You’re getting a little bit more training past your lactate threshold for a shorter period of time, then coming down and recovering.” 

The Warm-up

5 minutes of continuous pedaling

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: Zone 1

The Workout

Repeat the folllowing sequence 10 times: 1 minute sprint, 2 minutes recovery

1 minute sprint

  1. Cadence: Up to 120 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 3

2 minutes recovery

  1. Cadence: 80 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

The Cool Down

Five minutes of continuous pedaling

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

#3 Strengthens Your Legs and Core – The Strength Ride

Training for strength is often butt-kickers but in the most effective way, Crockford says. The intervals are slightly longer, as is the recovery time between every interval. However, over time you’ll start to recover more quickly and will allow you to become more efficient and further on long endurance runs.

Crockford created this strength ride as an interval exercise with a traditional style. It is a series of alternate positions. You spend the time sitting on your pedals, getting out of the saddle and also sitting in the normal cycling position. Concentrate on using your hamstrings in order to pull up on the pedal in the reverse of each pedal stroke as described earlier. The bike’s resistance can be adjusted to keep the recommended RPMs staying in the HR range mentioned earlier. 

The Warm-up

5 minutes of uninterrupted pedaling

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

The Workout

Hill #1

Five minutes  (last minute of getting out off the bike)

  1. Cadence: 80 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 3

Five minutes on the saddle for 5 minutes

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

Hill #2

Five minutes (last minute to get out from the saddle)

  1. Cadence: 90 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 3

Five minutes on the saddle for 5 minutes

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

Hill #3

Five minutes (last minute of getting out off the bike)

  1. Cadence: 100 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 3

Five minutes on the saddle for 5 minutes

  1. Cadence: 70 RPMs
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

The Cool Down

Five minutes of continuous cycling

  1. Cadence: 70 rpm
  2. Heart rate: zone 1

#4 Kitchen Sink (1h 15m total).

It’s relatively short and not so sweet but it’s engaging with many intensity changes. 

  1. Ten minutes warm-up easy spinning, Recovery/Zone 1 with a couple minutes of Endurance/Zone Ten minutes at Tempo (zone 3, 80-90 rpm)
  2. Five minutes of Recovery (Zone 1).
  3. Ten minutes at Tempo (Zone 3, 80-90 rpm) but include a ten-second ‘sprint’ (non-maximal effort) at the end of each minute.
  4. Five minutes of Recovery (Zone 1)
  5. 3 sets x 5 repetitions of 30 seconds “on” (VO2 Zone 5) and 30 seconds “off” at Tempo (zone 3) with 5 minutes of Recovery (Zone 1) between each rep. Note, the “off” portion of the interval is at zone 3, NOT zone 1.
  6. Take 5-10 minutes of Recovery (Zone 1) to finish the workout.

#5 Micro Intervals Followed by Tempo Sprint (1h 00m total)

Need to incorporate this type of workout into my indoor training to prepare myself for the possibility of competing in group rides during the weekend. The accelerations are hard and replicate the micro surges that occur in a peloton that is rolling. The tempo in the final stretch is ideal to build endurance being a bit tired. Who does not like ending an exercise by sprinting?

  1. Ten minutes of warm-up, easy spinning, Recovery/Zone 1. and a few minutes of endurance/zone 2.
  2. 30 minutes of repeating:15 sec. at maximum VO2 strength (zone 5, zone 5) followed by 45 sec. of the Tempo (zone 3.). It is important to note that of Tempo (zone 3). Note, the “off” portion of the of the interval is in zone 3 and not zone 1.
  3. Five minutes of recovery (Zone 1.).
  4. 10 minutes in Tempo (Zone 3). Between 90 and 100 rpm. After the 10m run, sprint all out at 100 percent for 20 minutes.
  5. Do 5-10 minutes of rest (Zone 1) to complete the exercise.

#6 Pedaling Skills Work

Since you’re in the comfort of your pain cave, there are no potholes, no menacing cars, and no lane-hogging trucks to avoid. This freedom from spending mental energy on trying to avoid the perils of being on the road means more energy can be spent honing in on and focusing on posture, positioning on the bike, pedaling skills, etc. I like to include one-legged drills, over gear/low cadence drills, and fast cadence drills as a regular part of my recovery rides indoors. This helps make the time pass faster and beyond simply doing a recovery ride, gives your recovery workout added purpose and value.

#7 Threshold Step-Ups (40m) 

They are a variation on the tried and tested threshold  High Intensity Intervals. Each interval is comprised of three phases. Beginning by using Tempo (Zone 3.) lasting 3 minutes. Then, move to the lowest point of Threshold (Zone 4) for 4 minutes, and end the 10 minutes by spending three minutes on the upper end of Threshold (Zone 4). Repeat three times, with three minutes of recovery (Zone 1.) between each block of 10 minutes.

  1. Ten minutes warming-up and easy spinning, Recovery/Zone 1. followed by a few minutes of endurance/zone 2.
  2. A total of three minutes in Tempo (Zone 3) (80-90 rpm)
  3. 4 minutes at a low threshold (bottom of the Zone 4.) 90-100 rpm
  4. 3 minutes high threshold (top of the Zone 4,) at 100+ RPM
  5. Three minutes of recovery (Zone 1)
  6. Repeat three times in total.
  7. Do 5-10 minutes of rest (Zone one) to finish your exercise.

#8 One Legged Drills/Over Gear/Fast Cadence (57m).

A great recovery ride workout that focuses on pedaling technique and strength.

  1. Ten minutes warm-up easy spinning, Recovery/Zone 1 with a couple minutes of Endurance/Zone 2.
  2. Four repetitions of 30 seconds (for each leg) of pedaling with one leg. Unclip the unused leg and let it dangle, out of the way of your crankarm and pedal. Switch legs every 30 seconds to make each block of One legged Drills 4 minutes. Wattage is irrelevant, aim for a cadence of 80-100 rpm.
  3. Two minutes of Recovery (Zone 1).
  4. 4 x 30 second (each leg) One Legged Drills
  5. Two minutes of Recovery (Zone 1).
  6. 4 x 30 second (each leg) One Legged Drills
  7. Two minutes of Recovery (Zone 1).
  8. Two minutes of Over Gear. Wattage should be below Zone 4 and cadence should be 50-60 rpm.
  9. Two minutes of Fast Cadence. Wattage should be below Zone 4 and cadence target is 100+ rpm.
  10. Two minutes of Over Gear
  11. Four minutes of Recovery (Zone 1).
  12. Three minutes of Fast Cadence.
  13. Three minutes of Over Gear.
  14. Three minutes of Fast Cadence.
  15. Take 5-10 minutes of Recovery (Zone 1) to finish the workout.

The above these indoor cycling workouts can be done on either a stationary bike or an indoor bike trainer. Andy Applegate suggests doing one of the indoor cycling workouts above twice a week.  Finishing the last set of this indoor cycling workout is a truly wonderful feeling.

Indoor Cycling Workouts Tip

Before You Get Started

Before you begin any training program be sure to consult with your doctor or certified indoor trainer.

Consult with your doctor or certified indoor trainer

You’ll also find mentions of revolutions per minute (RPMs) that the majority of stationary bicycles follow. If it doesn’t, you should consider buying an Cadence Sensor or using music to establish a baseline.

It is common to discover songs based on their RPM through online searches and using music websites. A good playlist of music, played at the appropriate speed can be a great motivational factor that keeps your heart pumping. Make an eclectic playlist of tunes that have the perfect beat to keep your cadence consistent throughout your workout. 

 Indoor cycling workouts can actually be harder than riding outside because you’re fighting the resistance of the trainer, says coach Andy Applegate , pro-level coach at Carmichael Training Systems.

Set Up Your Space

Set Up Your Space
Set Up Your Space
  1. Water: You should expect to drink more alcohol than you normally would in the open. 
  2. Fans: Maintain the body (and that rear tire) cool.
  3. Rubber Mat: It’s likely that you’ll sweat and your trainer could slip when you hit the floor.
  4. Towel: Place it on top of the handlebar and frame to keep it dry from the elements.
  5. Book or Riser: You can purchase bike-specific risers to help level the wheels However, a thick book is also a good option.
  6. Entertainment: An iPad, TV or a phone companion can help avoid boredom.

Make sure you have these items near you during your workout.  

Find Like-minded People

The depths of winter are the perfect time to dial in your indoor training routine, and a turbo trainer or smart bike can be the ultimate training tool to help you nail your indoor workouts, follow training plans, and provide a virtual platform to connect with people.  Friends will help you achieve your goals.

Build your leg strength

To build leg strength and increase the force of your pedal stroke, warm up in an easy gear for 15 minutes, then set your bike’s resistance to high and pedal at 60rpm for six minutes. Rest and recover at 95 rpm for three minutes, and then repeat the process six times.

For the most part, when following structured training on a trainer or smart bike, your Adjusted Power or Normalized Power will fall in line with your average power pretty closely. 

See our article detailing the leg strengthening exercises.

Conclusion

Training indoors can take some more of you than riding outdoors, both physically and mentally. Whatever your fitness goals indoor cycling can be an easy workout that increases the endurance of your body and builds endurance. It’s suitable for everyone. Take advantage of our fitness programs that can help you get fit in just one hour.

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