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Many people are looking for the most efficient method of exercise that will allow them to reach their fitness and health goals. A HIIT bike workout can check that box.

HIIT bike workouts can be as simple or complex as you want them to be, and it’s possible to complete an effective one in just minutes. In addition to workout versatility, these workouts can improve cardiovascular endurance and help with fat loss. Plus, whether you’re an avid cyclist or a beginner, there’s an option for you.

Below, find the background information you need to understand the “why” behind HIIT, plus four HIIT bike workouts for you to try.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training and it’s a type of cardio workout that involves a lot of work in less time. During HIIT, you’ll alternate between short periods of near maximal effort— or high intensity—intervals, and periods of low intensity—or rest—intervals. The amount of work time can be as little as 20 seconds, while the recovery periods will be just long enough so that the work can be repeated during the next interval—usually twice as long as the work period.

Coop riding the Schwinn IC4 Bike in a gym with a row of other exercise bikes in background

The aim is to train the body to recover with the least amount of rest possible while trying to match the previous work output. The intensity level can be measured through heart rate tracking and using a percentage of your maximum heart. HIIT training will be done between 80% to 95% of a person’s maximum heart rate.

HIIT is a very trendy type of workout nowadays, but in reality, most workouts labeled as HIIT should actually be considered interval training. A workout can only be considered HIIT when the work intervals are all-out effort, and this level of intensity can only be sustained for a very short period of time. 

There is no one set program structure for interval training. The variables of work/rest time and exercise selection can be manipulated to create an endless amount of training programs. True HIIT workouts will be done in under 10 minutes, and more general interval training can be done in 30 minutes or less. Utilizing this type of training can provide many benefits, like improved athletic conditioning and weight loss.

Why Should I Do HIIT?

HIIT has numerous perks, which we’ll detail here.

Cardiovascular Benefits

With the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles and the number of people affected by cardiovascular diseases, performing cardio is becoming even more vitally important. Aerobic capacity, or Vo2 max, is a strong predictor of future health and cardiovascular risks. 

In a recent study, HIIT training was shown to be more effective in improving Vo2 max than steady-state cardio over a six- to eight-week span. Improving Vo2 max means the cardiovascular system can more effectively utilize oxygen while exercising. By doing HIIT workouts consistently over time, the heart and lungs become more efficient, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Supports Fat Loss

HIIT workouts have been shown to burn more calories in the same amount of time than weightlifting or steady-state cardio. In fact, a study demonstrated that HIIT can burn as many as 4 additional calories per minute versus lifting weights, and about three additional calories per minute versus steady-state cardio. 

Plus, HIIT also produces greater excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the amount of oxygen your body needs to return to a resting state after an intense bout of exercise. According to research, increased EPOC can result in increased calorie burn for several hours after your workout ends.

Increased caloric expenditure can aid in achieving the calorie deficit necessary for weight, and fat, loss. Remember, though, that proper nutrition arguably plays an even more important role than exercise if weight loss is your goal. So, while an exercise bike can be a tool to help you lose weight, the combination of diet and exercise is most important.

Time Efficiency 

HIIT training is one of the most time-efficient styles of exercise. By alternating between max effort and low intensity, it can greatly reduce the amount of time needed to exercise while still providing the important benefits of cardio exercise. A true HIIT workout should be done in less than 10 minutes—this means that you’re working at maximum effort.

Coop riding a spin bike

HIIT Bike Terms to Know

While the benefits of HIIT are wide-ranging, so, too, are the benefits of exercise bikes. Combining the two can be an effective (and fun!) answer for your next HIIT session. But before we dive into the workouts, let’s take a look at a few terms you’ll want to know.

Cardiovascular: Relating to the circulation of blood and oxygen through the body via the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. When exercising, the cardiovascular system is stressed as it works to meet the increased demand for oxygen in the muscles.

Heart rate: This is the measure of how many times your heart beats in one minute.

Low-impact exercise: Activities that put minimal stress on the joints. They typically involve movements where the lower body remains in contact with the ground or machine in order to reduce the amount of force the body has to absorb.

Recumbent bike: This is a stationary bike that has a chair-like seat and the pedals out in front of the legs. It’s particularly effective for people with joint or injury issues as it puts the body in the most comfortable position with the lowest impact.

RPE: Rating of perceived exertion. This is a scale from 1-10 that measures the intensity level of the exercise, 1 being at rest and 10 being maximal intensity and effort that cannot be sustained long.

Stationary bike: A stationary bike is an indoor bike that can be pedaled while remaining in place. 

Vo2 max: This is the measure of the most amount of oxygen that the body can use during exercise. The higher this number is, the fitter you are. 

Nicole using the MYX II bike

Exercise Bikes to Use to Do HIIT

There are two types of exercise bikes that are particularly great for a HIIT bike workout.

  • Indoor cycling bike: These are the types of stationary bikes that are used in cycling classes and for indoor cycling. Special shoes can be worn to clip into the pedals, or some may also have toe cages so you can wear athletic shoes. The resistance can be adjusted—normally via a knob—through either a friction or magnetic system, depending on the bike. These are among the best exercise bikes for your home gym because they’re easy to use and accessible for all fitness levels. 
  • Air bike: These bikes have arms that can move back and forth to help work against the resistance that’s caused by a fan as the wheel. The resistance is caused by the fan pushing through the air. An air bike is a particularly great option for a HIIT bike workout, as being able to use the arms creates a full-body workout. The Rogue Echo is probably the most well known air bike, but here are plenty of other great options as well.

Warm Up

It’s important to get your heart rate up before a high-intensity stationary bike workout. This will help the cardiovascular system to prepare for the work it’s about to perform.

graphic displaying text 0-2 minutes: Pedal at a low effort, 3-4 on the RPE scale.   2:00-2:30: Pedal at a slightly higher effort of 5-6 RPE.  2:30-3:00: Drop back to the low effort for 30 seconds.   3:00-3:30: Spend the next 30 seconds at 7-8 RPE.  3:30-4:00: Drop back down to a low effort for 30 seconds.   4:00-4:30: 30 seconds at a maximum effort of 9+ RPE.  4:30-5:30: Drop back down to an easy pace for 1 minute.   5:30-8:00: Recover before starting the workout.

1: True HIIT Bike Workout

For those who are short on time—and those who are interested in a true HIIT bike workout—we’ve got some options below. Remember, true HIIT means all-out, maximum effort during the work periods, so the workouts are short. 

graphic that displays text

2. High-Resistance Interval Bike Workout

High resistance will fatigue the muscles faster and will improve leg strength and endurance. For this workout, you’ll need to be able to adjust the resistance level of the bike, so it would be best to perform this on a bike where you can easily and quickly change the resistance.

graphic that displays text Complete six to eight rounds of:  2 minutes at a low resistance level and high revolutions per minute (RPMs)—otherwise known as cadence—of the pedals. Your legs should be moving fast here! 30 seconds of a high resistance level. Try to keep RPMs as high as you can. This will feel like climbing a hill, and boy, will it burn! 30 seconds at a moderate resistance level. The RPMs here should be higher than at high resistance.

3. HIIT Bike Workout and Strength Training Combo

Bikes are great to incorporate with strength movements as a way to keep the heart rate up throughout the workout.

graphic that displays text Complete five rounds of:  10 squats with dumbbells 10 dumbbell push presses 10 bent over dumbbell rows 30 seconds max effort on the bike 60 seconds low-intensity recovery on bike

4. Pyramid Interval Bike Workout

In a pyramid workout, the intervals will gradually increase and then come back down.

graphic that displays text Round 1: 30 seconds at high intensity, 30 seconds of low intensity for three sets Round 2: 45 seconds at high intensity, 45 seconds at low intensity for two sets Round 3: 1 minute high intensity, 1 minute low intensity for one set Round 4: 45 seconds at high intensity, 45 seconds at low intensity for two sets Round 5: 30 seconds at high intensity, 30 seconds of low intensity for three sets

The high intensity should be the highest effort you can sustain for that amount of time, and it can be done against higher or lower resistance if you’re able to adjust. The low intensity should be the highest pace you can sustain that still allows you to perform the next interval. If you need to, it’s OK to rest completely.

Cool Down

The cool down should be three to five minutes of pedaling at an easy pace. If you can control the resistance, then bring it all the way down. Focus on controlling your breath in order to calm down the cardiovascular system and bring oxygen to the muscles after this bout of intense exercise.

Final Verdict 

HIIT training is an effective form of exercise that can be used for a variety of goals. When paired with any type of exercise bike, it can be very helpful in improving a person’s fitness levels.

  • HIIT workouts can be more effective at burning calories than lifting weights or even steady-state cardio in the same amount of time.
  • It can greatly improve Vo2 max and cardiovascular health.
  • There are countless ways to design interval or HIIT workouts so you will never be bored by them.
  • No matter how much time or equipment you have available, there’s a way to get in a HIIT workout.

HIIT Bike Workout Q&A

Is HIIT on a bike effective?

HIIT is very effective on a bike. The bike makes it easy to stick to work/rest periods, and ones that track metrics can help to give numbers to hit in order to keep intensity high.

How do you do HIIT on a bike?

Choose time intervals for work and recovery. The recovery can be at a low intensity or complete rest. Then determine how many rounds of the intervals you plan to complete. 

A good way to start is with a 2:1 rest-to-work ratio, such as 30 seconds of work and 60 seconds of rest. If you don’t know how many rounds to do, then set an intensity level to aim for while working. When you’re no longer able to maintain that intensity level due to exhaustion, the workout is done.

Is a 15-minute HIIT workout on a bike enough?

Yes, 15 minutes is plenty of time for a HIIT workout on a bike. It all depends on your effort level. If the intensity is high enough during the work intervals, then 15 minutes may actually be too long.

Does HIIT cycling burn fat?

HIIT workouts can burn a significant amount of calories, which when combined with a proper diet, can lead to weight and fat loss. What makes HIIT effective in burning fat is that it can burn the same amount of calories as an hour workout in a fraction of the time.

Further reading

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