We’d wager that the majority of a gym’s stationary bikes get used in one of two ways: either as the cardio kit used to warm up for a weights workout and then to warm down after, or for standalone sessions of simple, effortless pedalling until boredom sets in.
But these bikes can be highly effective training tools so long as you don’t just hop on and go through the motions. Cycle smarter with one of these goal-specific sessions that will help you improve endurance, burn body fat or enhance your road-racing speed when you get back to the great outdoors.
RECOMMENDED: The Cyclist’s Home Workout
How To Set The Saddle
Stand next to the bike, then adjust the seat so that it’s the same height as your hip. Then sit on the saddle and make sure your leg is straight when your heel is on the pedal at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This position will ensure that there is a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the stroke when you’re cycling properly.
The handlebar position, if adjustable, is down to individual preference – try them level with the seat, then adjust them over time to find your sweet spot. Finally, your seat should be far enough away from the handlebars that the front of your knee sits directly above the middle of the pedal.
If you want to use the stationary bike to get faster on the road, you need to focus on high cadence – the speed that you turn over the pedals. The other key aspect is improving your ability to push harder for longer, then recover quicker, to push on again.
Warm-up: 10min at low cadence and low resistance.
0-10min: Sprint for 6sec every minute on the minute.
11-20min: 60sec hard effort followed by 60sec easy effort. Keep top effort level around 9 RPE or 80-90% MHR.
Warm-down: 10min, with the final 5min at low cadence and low resistance.
Fat Loss Workout
Don’t just sit and pedal in slow motion for 45 minutes, thinking you’re on your way to a better body by training in the so-called “fat-loss zone”. To shift your spare tyre you need to train hard and fast with high-intensity sprints that’ll shock your body into giving up its fat stores.
Warm-up: 5min at low cadence and low resistance.
0-5min: High cadence, low resistance.
5-10min: Low cadence, high resistance.
10-14min: Tabata sprints: 20sec all-out effort, followed by 10sec recovery, a total of eight times.
Warm-down: 5min at low cadence and low resistance.
The most accurate way to improve endurance is to train according to your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). Spending time in higher heart rate zones – those above 80% of your MHR – will drastically improve your aerobic energy system, which is where you derive endurance ability from. It does this by improving your ability to recover faster from bouts of harder, more intense activity.
Most stationary bikes are able to monitor your heart rate, either through metallic handles that measure your beats per minute or by wirelessly reading the heart rate monitor you’re wearing. If you don’t have this option, use the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale. This goes from 1 to 10, where 1 is extremely easy effort, 5 is moderate effort and 10 is all-out maximum effort.
Warm-up: 5min easy pace
0-5min: HR Zone 50-60% or 4-5/10 RPE
5-10min: HR Zone 60-70% or 6-7/10 RPE
10-15min: HR Zone 70-80% or 7-8/10 RPE
15-17min: HR Zone 80-90% or 8-9/10 RPE
17-25min: Let your HR drop to 60-70% then ramp it back up to 80-90%. Keep going until it goes over 90%. Then drop it back to 60-70% and repeat the process for a total of 10min.
Warm-down: 5min at easy pace.