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The air bike has many names: Beezelbub, The Dark Lord, Mephistopheles, Baphomet.

You must never speak its true name, lest it appear and beckon you to ride upon it.

Alistair Crowley’s favorite cardio machine has seen explosive growth in its popularity. The six best air bike workouts below don’t require you to be catechized, they just require a bike and an insatiable diet for self-flagellation. 

The Bodyweight Ladder

This is a nice air bike workout for a beginner. You get to self-regulate based on both your fitness level and drive for the day.

bodyweight air bike workout blue background graphic

AMRAP 30:

1 pull-up 2 pushups 3 bodyweight squats 10 calories on the air bike
2 pull-ups 4 pushups 6 bodyweight squats 20 calories on the air bike
4 pull-ups 8 pushups 12 bodyweight squats 30 calories on the air bike
2 pull-ups 4 pushups 6 bodyweight squats 20 calories on the air bike
1 pull-up 2 pushups 3 bodyweight squats 10 calories on the air bike

The goal here is to keep going up and down the ladder for half an hour. Rest when you need to rest, and go as hard or easy on the Assault Bike as you need to. Track the number of reps of each exercise you do and try to beat it the next time.

The Powerlifter Circuit

This is a bit of a callback to when the original 5×5 program was supposed to be done as a circuit. This can be used on an off day or as a full-body finisher. Be very conservative with weight selection; 30-40% of your max should be plenty.

air bike workout with weights black background graphic

5 Rounds:

:30 max reps barbell back squat :30 rest
:30 max calories air bike :30 rest
:30 max reps bench press :30 rest
:30 max calories air bike :30 rest
:30 max reps deadlift :30 rest
:30 max calories air bike :30 rest

Feel free to substitute in any variation for each lift, using a barbell or dumbbells. 

The Four-Seat Ladder Truck (Team Workout)

This workout is great in pairs, and even better with a team of four. The name comes from doing this with the entire complement of a working ladder truck.

These kinds of workouts frequently use calories as a unit of measurement, but I only have an old, broken, analog Schwinn Airdyne (mostly for the OG hipster cred), so the way we denote max effort is by keeping the power meter needle pushed up as high as it will go.

(You can also do this by figuring out ahead of time the RPM threshold each person has to stay above for the minute to count.)

four seat ladder team bike workout red background graphic
Person 1 rides for 1:00 in the red
Person 2 rides for 1:00 in the red
Person 3 rides for 1:00 in the red
Person 4 rides for 1:00 in the red
Keep cycling through until people drop. Change the rotation to 3 person, then 1-on-1
Winner has the other three pay for dinner.

The time doesn’t start until you actually have the power meter in the red. If you drop out of the red for any appreciable amount of time, the remaining three competitors should talk enough smack to make sure it gets back into the red or the person quits.

Tabata Bike Workout

Keep it sweet and simple with a Tabata, which is 20 seconds of working followed by 10 seconds of rest. 

best air bike workouts tabata black and white graphic
:20 max calories
:10 rest
Repeat for 8 times total (for 4:00)
1:00 walk
Repeat for a total of 5 rounds

Want to make this more difficult? Try doing this with an altitude mask (or something called a Blast Mask if you are interested in firefighting) ups the ante on the mental side of the challenge.The altitude mask doesn’t actually simulate altitude1, but it does force you to focus on controlling your breathing. You don’t need as much oxygen as you think.

The mask never comes off. If the rounds are too brutal you can swap the times and only work for 10 seconds and take 20 seconds of rest. 

The One For People Who Like Burpees

We’re going to bring down the intensity on the air bike sections for this cardio workout and use it for our “rest” phase. Keep the power meter around 70% of your all-out effort. This is another good workout for beginners since your fitness level will moderate the amount of work you can do.

burpess air bike workout blue background graphic
:30 max effort burpees
:30 moderate cycling
Repeat for 10 minutes

This is a decent warm-up for lifting weights if you know your body well enough to not go too far into the red.

Partner Challenge

If you’re like me, it can be so easy to blow off your cardio workout. Doing this type of workout with a training partner keeps you honest (even if neither of you want to do it, you won’t actually admit that to each other), and keeps the workout fun. All you need for this is an air bike and one kettlebell.

At the same time:

partner air bike workout red background graphic
Partner 1 performs 100 kettlebell swings
Partner 2 performs max calories on the air bike
When partner 1 finishes the last kettlebell swing, partners immediately switch places.
After both partners have performed both exercises, rest 3:00
Repeat for 4-8 rounds

The competition here is to always try to hit more calories on the air bike than your partner. The strategy can either be to wail away on the fan bike, or focus on doing the swings as fast as possible to limit the other person’s time.

You can also do this solo by performing 50 kettlebell swings and time yourself, then bike that same amount of time.

What Muscles Does an Air Bike Work? 

Just like a normal bike, the air bike is powered by the quads, hamstrings, and glutes working the pedals.

The air bike also has handles that the upper body’s anterior deltoids, pecs, and triceps push, then alternate with horizontal rows that work the lats, posterior deltoids, and rhomboids.

You get an all-in-one workout routine that taxes the lungs in addition to the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.

Benefits of Air Bike Workouts

The air bike is a great tool for getting in low-impact interval workouts. 

Just as it did with powerlifting and weightlifting, the fitness juggernaut that is CrossFit helped to popularize the air bike. Assault Fitness then came along and gave it a way cooler name, turning the Assault AirBike into the pedal-powered version of Kleenex. 

assault bike classic in use

In addition to being a staple of the CrossFit Games, Assault Bikes can be used when injuries prevent you from training with free weights or practicing on the field.

Builds Muscle

True resistance training (with barbells, dumbbells, etc.) is the most effective way to build muscle, but the resistance offered by the fan bike can also be useful for providing a unique stimulus for muscle development.

Unlike an elliptical, the fan bike pushes back against you relative to how hard you push into it. Doing sprint intervals moves your body through a great range of motion with enough “push back” to let you feel it.

Burns Calories 

HIIT workouts may burn more calories than steady-state2 work in general (note the proliferation of HIIT workout above), and products like the Rogue Echo Bike offer total body movement.

Since calories measure units of work, in which scenario do you think will more work be done; one muscle group moving, or the entire body moving? Is a construction crew of five going to do more than two?

May Aid in Weight Loss 

When we talk about weight loss, we want to focus on fat loss, not the removal of unnecessary organs or amputation. The air bike is safe enough that the latter two would be a big ask from it.

The air bike excels in efficient fat burning interval workouts3 with a very small footprint in a home gym (the corner of an office is still considered a home gym).

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Consistent use of an air bike is a great way to build up a strong aerobic base.  

The CDC still lists heart disease as the number one killer in America4. The government doesn’t specifically reference the air bike in its list of physical activities, but you could do a lot worse.

The convenience of having a bike at home may be the biggest aid to heart health5. Independent of the weather or how busy the gym is, you always have access to a cardio workout with variable difficulty.

Good for Mental Health 

Some people are psychopathic. The air bike will give them pleasure. These people also usually enjoy burpees, CrossFit, and everything ketogenic.

Aside from this minor niche (if you can call CrossFit “niche” these days), hard physical exercise has been shown to aid in mental health and clarity6.

Full-Body Workout

Unlike a conventional stationary bike, the air bike taxes your upper body in a horizontal push/pull fashion. Here is a math equation with which you may be unfamiliar:

Lower Body + Upper Body = Full Body

In a pinch the fan bike may be a substitute for a light resistance training workout, or as a full-body recovery modality the day after a heavy lifting session. 

assault classic bike in use next to assault pro assault elite

Low-Intensity

Having a fan for a wheel instead of a flywheel (like on the exercise bikes in the spin class your annoying friend keeps trying to drag you to) creates variable intensity based on your power output. 

This means the harder you push, the harder it will be to push. This also means the less you push, the less push back you will get from the machine. This lets you swap up from low-intensity to high-intensity just by dialing the amount you push up or down.

Best Air Bike Workouts: Final Thoughts 

The air bike has gone from being a niche piece of equipment needed for a handful of WODs (CrossFit lingo for “workout of the day”) to being a staple of many modern gyms. Pound for pound it may be the biggest calorie burning tool around.

And still the most hated.

Best Air Bike Workouts: Q&A

Is an air bike a good workout?

As long as your goal isn’t to actually enjoy the workout, then it can be considered good (kidding). The air bike is absolutely the most brutal cardio machine around, and you will be tempted to skip it whenever it comes up in your program.

How long should an air bike workout be?

There are lots of modalities every piece of fitness equipment can be used for, but the assault bike is best used for HIIT type workouts.

High-intensity interval training (short and fast) can’t be done for long periods of time. Steady-state type work (long as slow) on the air bike may be a good recovery tool since you can flush blood through your upper body as well as your lower body. If you are doing this it is important to keep your heart rate in Zone 1 or Zone 2, or else you’re just giving yourself one more stimulus to recover from.

Can you lose weight on an air bike?

You can lose weight, your wind, your sanity…

Look, you lose weight in one of two ways; burn more calories than you eat, or eat fewer calories than you expend with movement. The number of calories you take in is always important.

That being said, fan bikes offer an extremely efficient method of burning calories. With the push-pull mechanism up top, combined with the pedals down below, the Assault Bike creates a full-body calorie burning mechanism.

References

1. Porcari JP, Probst L, Forrester K, Doberstein S, Foster C, Cress ML, Schmidt K. Effect of Wearing the Elevation Training Mask on Aerobic Capacity, Lung Function, and Hematological Variables. J Sports Sci Med. 2016 May 23;15(2):379-86. PMID: 27274679; PMCID: PMC4879455.

2. Viana RB, Naves JPA, Coswig VS, de Lira CAB, Steele J, Fisher JP, Gentil P. Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Br J Sports Med. 2019 May;53(10):655-664. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928. Epub 2019 Feb 14. PMID: 30765340.

3. Maillard F, Pereira B, Boisseau N. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2018 Feb;48(2):269-288. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0807-y. PMID: 29127602.

4. Heart Disease Fact, Center for Disease Control.

5. Kemi OJ, Wisloff U. High-intensity aerobic exercise training improves the heart in health and disease. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2010 Jan-Feb;30(1):2-11. doi: 10.1097/HCR.0b013e3181c56b89. PMID: 20040880.

6. Manning JR, Notaro GM, Chen E, Fitzpatrick PC. Fitness tracking reveals task-specific associations between memory, mental health, and physical activity. Sci Rep. 2022 Aug 15;12(1):13822. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-17781-0. PMID: 35970908; PMCID: PMC9378644.

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The air bike has many names: Beezelbub, The Dark Lord, Mephistopheles, Baphomet.You must never speak its true name, lest it appear and beckon you to ride upon it.Alistair Crowley’s favorite cardio machine has seen explosive growth in its popularity. The six best air bike workouts below don’t require you to be catechized, they just require a bike and an insatiable diet for self-flagellation.  window.tude = window.tude || { cmd: [] };  » Read more about: The 6 Best Air Bike Workouts to Target Your Entire Body  » Read more