All levels and all goals welcome.

By Lauren Bedosky
Updated February 11, 2020
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When it comes to cardio equipment, stationary bikes often get overlooked—unless you’re in an actual spin class. But that’s a big mistake. The cardio benefits, plus the fact that you can pedal at the gym or right at home (if you have your own bike), means you could miss out on some serious fitness gains by skipping over a two-wheeler.

“You might be inclined to jump on a treadmill for some cardio at the gym, but the stationary bike is an incredible workout,” says Kate Ligler, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, and MINDBODY wellness specialist. Not only is indoor cycling gentle on the joints, it strengthens the lower body, and is much safer than cycling outdoors, she adds. You’ll burn serious calories too—about 200 to 300 in 30 minutes if you're working at a moderate pace, and even more if you turn up that intensity.

You also don’t need to know exactly how to ride a two-wheeler to spin right into a workout. Whether you’re a biking newbie or an avid cyclist, experience the spin benefits first-hand with one of the following seven expert-designed stationary bike workouts. Just make sure you grab a timer to clock all the intervals.

1. The Bike Workout: All Levels Welcome

This beginner-friendly stationary bike workout is mostly aerobic (aka, steady, moderate intensity), but it incorporates short, challenging intervals to build fitness and burn calories, says Ligler, who designed the workout.

Start off with an easy warm-up and move into 3-5 rounds of 6-minute work sets that get progressively more intense. You’ll gauge the intensity of your work and rest periods according to your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (maximum effort), which means you work at a pace that works for your fitness level. That's why you won't see revolutions per minute or RPMs listed here—just listen to your body and get a feel for the bike.

Ligler recommends that beginners stick with 3 rounds of the main work block to get a 45-minute workout, while more advanced exercisers can do all 5 to bring it up to an hour.

2. The Bike Workout: Cardio and Strength for Higher Levels

This 45-minute routine builds three key elements all indoor and outdoor cyclists need to perform their best: cardiovascular fitness, leg strength, and an efficient pedal stroke, says Emily Booth, national education manager of indoor cycle for Life Time.

The workout starts with a 10-minute warm-up, then you’ll move on to the main event, where you’ll focus on nailing each skill during 3-minute work sets. For that main workout, make sure to repeat it for 2-4 rounds. Finally, you’ll finish off with a 5-minute cool down. Thanks to the length of the working sets, this workout is ideal for intermediate and advanced cyclists, says Booth.

3. The Bike Workout: Intro to Hill and Speed Intervals

This 40-minute workout is perfect for beginner-to-intermediate riders, says Lauren Kanski, NASM-CPT, a New York City-based trainer. You’ll take your heart rate through different zones, as you work on three intervals of various work-to-rest ratios. The result: boosted fitness and tons of torched calories—all while going easy on the joints. Instead of focusing on exact speed or RPM, just aim to hit your all-out effort on the work intervals.

4. The Bike Workout: Cycle Fartlek

Fartlek training is a fun way to mix HIIT with steady-state cardio, says Kristian Flores, CSCS, a strength and conditioning coach in New York City. And while many people associate Fartlek training with running, you can apply the principle of “speed play” to nearly any activity you choose—including this stationary bike workout.

Part of the appeal of Fartlek workouts is that they’re often unstructured—you go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and recover until you’re ready to go hard again. So really, the workout is all in your hands (er, feet). This also makes Fartlek workouts great for all fitness levels, as your effort and work-rest intervals are based on your current ability. But no matter your experience level, Fartlek training can help you build endurance and power, Flores says.

5. The Bike Workout: 25-Minute Intermediate Intervals

This 25-minute routine is structured according to effort level. While you don’t need to be a cycling pro to do this workout, it’s best to have some experience on a bike (especially doing intervals). That way, you’ll have a basic understanding of what different effort levels feel like for you, according to Jess Cifelli, master instructor at CYCLEBAR.

Here’s how to gauge your effort levels as you take this workout for a spin:

  • Low: This effort requires a light resistance; you should be able to carry on a conversation with the person next to you.
  • Medium: Crank up the resistance a bit; you should still be able to carry on a conversation, but it shouldn’t feel effortless.
  • High: You shouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation any longer, but you can handle the work; standing up in the saddle is usually the ideal position.
  • Maximum: Not only can’t you speak at this intensity, but you also can’t imagine working longer than 30 seconds.

6. The Bike Workout: Power Intervals

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts like this pack a punch in a relatively short amount of time, according to Lauren ‘Lolo’ Wilson, senior master instructor at CYCLEBAR who created the workout. This 45-minute routine can improve aerobic capacity (your body’s ability to use oxygen during exercise), build muscle tissue, and help you burn fat.

HIIT sessions like this work best for someone who’s been exercising consistently 3-5 days per week for at least 6 weeks, says Wilson. If you’re new to HIIT, or you’re not sure you’re ready for the full workout, start with 10 power intervals and add 2 intervals to each workout until you reach 20 total intervals.

Wilson recommends dialing back your intensity during the first few intervals so you don’t run out of gas during later rounds. You'll repeat the first interval for 4 rounds and the second for 20 total rounds—so pace yourself.

7. The Bike Workout: Advanced Conditioning

This 60-minute routine is for experienced cyclists who are confident working at near-maximum intensity. After a gentle warm-up that includes a series of mobility drills designed by Meghan Hayden, NCSF-CPT, a founding trainer at Performix House in New York City, you’ll jump right in with short, intense bursts. In the main workout, repeat those 20-second work periods and 40-second rest intervals for 7 total sets, before you hit your 3-minute recovery. Each modest rest period will help you recover between sprints, and ultimately build your anaerobic fitness. After you recover, you’ll move into a 20-minute moderate-intensity ride to help you work your endurance. Treat that time as a meditation and focus on your breathing—you’ve got a lot to gain with this workout.

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