This 10-Minute Stationary Bike HIIT Workout Can Improve Running

Training for a race? Just want to hate running less? This 10-minute cycling workout can help you improve.

Gearing up for your next big race? Or maybe you just want to run without hating every step? Well, one cardio machine might help, but it's not the treadmill.

Cross-training with a short, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout on a stationary bike can do wonders for your running performance, per a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, the researchers pinpoint an exact workout that gets results.

Learn about a short cycling HIIT workout that you can incorporate into your training plan to shave time off your personal record.

Stationary Bike HIIT Workout

First, the researchers asked 32 experienced runners to do a three-kilometer treadmill test to establish their stats. Then, they divided the runners into four groups. 

One group maintained their normal fitness routines. In contrast, the other groups cross-trained six times over two weeks. Those groups also did short sprinting intervals on stationary bikes, with 30 seconds, 80 seconds, or two minutes rest periods.

After two weeks, the runners did the treadmill test again. The only group with significant running performance gains was one of the cycling groups, whose circuit had the smallest rest period of 30 seconds. On average, that group shaved roughly 25 seconds off their times.

Benefits of HIIT Cycling

You needn't be an experienced runner to benefit from a cycling HIIT workout. 

"If you are looking to improve your running, but you don't really like running, this would work for you," study co-author John Babraj, PhD, a lecturer in exercise physiology at Abertay University, told Health. "Utilizing high-intensity training allows you to reduce your weekly mileage while still [improving] your running fitness."

The researchers attributed performance improvement following the cycling HIIT workout to cardiovascular and muscular adaptations.

Also, the researchers found that the non–weight-bearing nature and minimal contraction of leg muscles during stationary cycling minimized the risk of overuse injury.

Other researchers have replicated the benefits of a cycling HIIT workout. In a study published in 2022 in eLife, eight men did a cycling HIIT regimen three times per week for five weeks. The regimen included four to five four-minute intervals of cycling at a target heart rate of over 90% max. The men also took two minutes of active recovery. 

The men saw a 14% and 17% improvement in maximum oxygen consumption and incremental peak power output. Also, the men gained lean mass.

Specifically, evidence suggests that stationary bike workouts are easy on the joints while strengthening your leg muscles. Cycling requires moving your hips, knees, and ankles. Those movements activate and strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

Meet the 6-10-30 Workout

Ready to try the HIIT cycling workout from the 2015 study? Here's what you need to do:

  • Warm up on a stationary bike for three minutes by pedaling at a very low resistance at about 70 revolutions per minute.
  • Pedal at an all-out sprint for 10 seconds at a resistance of around 15 to 17.
  • Rest for 30 seconds. Then, repeat six times.
  • During the active recovery periods, maintain a speed of about 50 revolutions per minute against very light or no resistance.
  • Cool down the same way you warmed up by pedaling at a very low resistance and about 70 revolutions per minute.

You can complete the entire circuit in just 10 minutes.

How Often Should You Do the Workout?

If you're currently training for a race, perform the 6-10-30 indoor cycling HIIT workout three times per week to achieve that personal record. 

However, if you're only trying to improve your endurance, you can see benefits by adding the workout to your routine twice per week, said Babraj.

The right amount you should work out depends on your fitness goals, activity level, age, and more.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the ideal workout plan includes a mix of strength training and aerobic exercise during the week. 

The AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (five 30-minute workouts) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. The best weekly workout schedule for you is one you can be consistent with.

A Quick Review

You might not expect to improve your running performance by training on a stationary bike if you're a runner. Still, research has found that cross-training with a short, high-intensity interval training workout on a stationary bike can improve performance and time.

So, if you're training for a big race, try the 6-10-30 indoor cycling HIIT workout that helped people shave time off their personal records. And even if you're only trying to build endurance, the workout can help, too.

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  1. Kavaliauskas M, Aspe RR, Babraj J. High-Intensity Cycling Training: The Effect of Work-to-Rest Intervals on Running Performance MeasuresJ Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(8):2229-2236. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000868

  2. Hostrup M, Lemminger AK, Stocks B, et al. High-intensity interval training remodels the proteome and acetylome of human skeletal muscleElife. 2022;11:e69802. Published 2022 May 31. doi:10.7554/eLife.69802

  3. Kim SJ, Cho HY, Kim YL, Lee SM. Effects of stationary cycling exercise on the balance and gait abilities of chronic stroke patientsJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(11):3529-3531. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.3529

  4. American Heart Association. American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids.

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