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HIIT Cycling Workout | Improve Aerobic & Anaerobic Conditioning

A fitness trainer completing a hiit cycling workout.

After this HIIT cycling workout, you’ll feel like you’ve beaten the bunch sprint to take a well-earned stage victory. At the end of a couple of calm kilometres comprised of a series of low- to medium-intensity intervals, it’s a vicious dogfight to the finish line.


But you won’t just be left feeling like a grand tour pro at the end of this HIIT cycling workout.


In addition to enjoying a rewarding sweat session, you’ll bag a bundle of health and fitness benefits. It’s to them that we now turn.


HIIT cycling workout fitness benefits

Cycling is an effective aerobic exercise for developing cardiorespiratory endurance. Defined as a measure of ‘how well the heart, lungs, and muscles perform during moderate to high-intensity physical activity,’ cardiorespiratory endurance is beneficial for a wide range of reasons.¹


According to one leading online publisher, as well as enabling you to sustain aerobic output for extended periods, improving your cardiorespiratory endurance ‘can make it easier for you to carry out your daily tasks.'² For the person who is aerobically fit, climbing a flight of stairs, walking to the shops, or tending to the garden for a couple of hours are not physical activities to be avoided. Instead, they are additional opportunities to toast a few extra calories and top up your step score.


Related: Keep track of your activity levels with the Fitbit Charge 5

HIIT cycling can improve sports performance

In addition to making daily tasks easier, enhanced endurance can increase sports performance. For example, a rugby player with high aerobic fitness will remain more competitive in a match compared to a player that lacks that physical capacity. Of course, you can substitute ‘rugby player’ with many other sporting disciplines.


You might be questioning whether cycling could confer the type of fitness a rugby player needs. ‘X-Training,’ Shepherd tells us in The Complete Guide to Sports Training, ‘is a term used to describe exercises that have little obvious relevance to the athlete’s sport.’


Researchers have shown that athletes that incorporate X-Training into their regime remain equally as competitive as those that didn’t deviate from their discipline. Furthermore, it was discovered that athletes that engaged in X-Training provided their bodies with ‘greater time to recover from tough training/competitive training phases’ which improved ‘future injury reliance,’ (The Complete Guide to Sports Training).


HIIT cycling workout health benefits

It’s no mystery that cycling regularly and at varied intensities promotes many positive health outcomes. Studies abound showing a strong relationship between cycling and a reduced risk of stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It’s even been suggested that cycling could provide a protective measure against some cancers.


And to get your hands on the health benefits of cycling doesn’t require that you start training like an elite-level athlete. For example, a study cited in a Medicalnewstoday article demonstrated that people who commute to work by bike enjoy on average a 52% reduced risk of heart disease.³ But this begs the question, how far were these commuters cycling?


According to a survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average time taken to commute to work by bike is a mere 21.2-minutes.⁴ Maintaining a steady pace, 21-minutes roughly translates to between 2 to 4 miles.


Though this doesn’t seem a particularly impressive distance, it does equate to an additional 42.4-minutes of additional daily exercise. Calculated over five days, people who cycle to work could be getting as much as 212-minutes of exercise every week. This exceeds the NHS’s weekly exercise guidelines by a whopping 62-minutes!


This HIIT cycling workout exceeds the average daily commute

But what if you can’t commute to work by bike? How can you catch up to that peloton of cyclists enjoying a 52% reduction in heart disease?


The HIIT cycling workout below takes 60-minutes to complete. So, the duration of the workout exceeds the average commute time by nearly 20-minutes.


In addition, thanks to the complimentary mix of steady-state and high-intensity training, the workout can promote all the health and fitness benefits highlighted above.


Furthermore, because the workout has been adapted to accommodate any stationary bike, you can complete it at the gym or on your home trainer. This design feature opens the workout up to a wider audience.


Moreover, there is a multitude of ways that the workout can be modified. For example, the work/rest ratios and interval durations can all be tailored to suit your current level of fitness. Also, the comparative lengths of the training phases can be adjusted to align with your exercise objective. Together, these factors – accessibility and adaptability – make this workout an ideal go-to cardiorespiratory conditioner.

An image of an indoor stationary bike for the home gym one which could be used for this hiit cycling workout.

Other benefits of cycling

  • Helps support a healthy weight

  • Increases strength and endurance in all the muscles of the leg

  • Promotes improved cardiorespiratory capacity

  • Enhances heart strength

  • Can improve physical performance in a range of unrelated sporting disciplines


How to approach this HIIT cycling workout

Before embarking on a 180-plus-kilometre stage of the Tour de France, cyclists spend at least 20-minutes warming up first. It might seem unnecessary to warm-up before a 7-hour cycle, but pros and coaches know that a good warm-up improves performance and reduces injury risk.


But breathe a sigh of relief. The warm-up for this workout is only 5-minutes.


After warming up, which should integrate naturally into the workout, you will progress through a series of long low- to medium-intensity intervals. The intervals have been structured in a descending time/ascending intensity format. That is, the duration of the interval gets shorter while the cycling intensity – stipulated by revolutions per minute (RPM) – gets higher. This stage of the HIIT cycling workout is organised into three 10-minute blocks, each block is further broken into 5-, 3- and 2-minute segments.


Once you’ve completed the first phase of the workout, assuming you’ve not been dropped from the peloton, the intensity heats up as you enter the bunch sprint. For the final 15-minutes of the workout, you’ll be fighting tooth and nail through a series of short-duration high-intensity intervals.


The objective here is to maintain a cadence exceeding 110 RPM for 20-seconds. Each high-intensity interval is followed by a low-intensity recovery interval of equal duration. For the recovery interval, try to hold a cadence of between 70 to 80 RPM.


HIIT cycling key points

  • Complete the 5-minute warm-up before starting the workout.

  • The first phase of the workout consists of three 10-minute blocks. Each block is broken into 5-, 3- and 2-minute segments. Each segment has been assigned an RPM range. The objective is to try to remain inside the RPM range for the duration of the interval.

  • The second phase of the workout features a series of short-duration high-intensity intervals. Your objective is to oscillate between high- and low-intensity intervals for 15-minutes. Try to sustain a near-maximal intensity for all 20-second intervals.


Interval training warm up

  • 1-minute cycling maintain 60RPM (±5)

  • 1-minute cycling maintain 70RPM (±5)

  • 1-minute cycling maintain 80RPM (±5)

  • 1-minute cycling maintain 90RPM (±5)

  • 1-minute cycling maintain 100RPM (±5)

A session plan for the hiit cycling workout.

HIIT cycling workout personal experience

You might be wondering why there is a conspicuous absence of any mention of resistance settings. Why haven’t you told me how hard to set the resistance throughout this workout? The answer: it's highly unlikely that the resistance settings of the stationary bike that you use will match those of the bike that I used. Hell, none of the bike resistance settings at my gym are the same. What feels like Mont Ventoux on one is a mere false flat on another. Because of the irritating discrepancy of resistance settings, I leave this to your discretion. You decide how hard to set the resistance throughout the workout.


Even if we tried, we couldn’t escape the fact that this is a tough sweat session. One that will put your physical fitness to the test. With that in mind, don't make the mistake I made, and remember to top up your water bottle before hopping on the bike. But don’t just leave it in the bottle holder for decorative purposes! Actually drink the water and ensure to stay hydrated.


I can’t speak for you, but I personally derive a lot of motivation from engaging with a training plan during a workout. When I completed this HIIT cycling session, I propped the plan against the bike monitor and put a line through all completed intervals (indicated by the red boxes with little cyclists in). For me, this simple training strategy makes all the difference. Try it yourself and let me know how you get on (infor@hungry4fitness.co.uk).


 

Enjoyed this HIIT workout?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

The hiit cycling workout concludes with the This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.

 

The author bio concludes this hiit cycling workout. In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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