High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular exercise that involves pushing yourself to the limit for short bursts and then taking an active recovery, before pushing yourself all over again – it really is intense! HIIT can involve any type of cardio exercise but today we are going to concentrate on HIIT using an exercise bike, also known as ‘HIIT cycling’.
How to do HIIT on an upright bike
As already mentioned, HIIT requires you to push yourself for short bursts. There are no set timeframes, around 30-180 seconds is normal.
There are two ways to do this on an exercise bike. One is to maintain a high cadence for the interval, something in the region of 100-130. The other way is to dial up the resistance. This will be relative to your personal comfort zone but an extra 2 or 3 gears is a good starting point.
This is extremely good for heart health as it forces your heart to work hard for the duration of the interval and then climb back down. When done regularly, it can make your heart more efficient and lower your resting heart rate. This helps to prevent heart disease and the risk of stroke.
What are the benefits of active recoveries?
Between intervals, you take an active recovery in which you work at a steadier pace while your catch your breath. The length of recovery can vary, we recommend beginning with a recovery that is the same length as your interval and then reducing this as you become fitter.
Active recoveries help keep the muscles warm and make the next interval seem easier than the previous. You can use this to your advantage by pushing yourself even further and by taking shorter recoveries as you move through your workout.
By the end of the session, you should have comfortably climbed up your cadence and gear levels and have shortened your recovery period.
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HIIT and fat burning
Raising your heart rate puts a demand for energy on your body that will help you to shed excess pounds, so it should come as no surprise that the intensity of a HIIT cycle session is a great way to burn fat.
Is HIIT on a bike effective?
Does cycling faster burn more calories?
What is particularly good about HIIT cycling though is that you burn a high number of calories in a short space of time. A 20-minute session is enough to see some respectable numbers. Depending on your size and how hard you push yourself, you could be looking at 200-400 calories. This is what gives HIIT cycling the edge over a standard spin class and makes it a good option for someone who wants to get on and off their bike ASAP.
Does HIIT on a bike build muscle?
HIIT cycling engages the muscles in the lower body and the core; however, this in itself is not enough to build muscle. While the gears add resistance and therefore stress the muscles, leading to more tone, HIIT cycling is not going to build muscle mass. If you are looking to add bulk, you need to focus on strength training exercises that incorporate heavyweights.
HIIT cycling builds endurance muscle, which is more functional than aesthetic. In addition to this, HIIT cycling is a low-stress exercise that is particularly beneficial for lubricating the joints. This supports knee health in particular and can help to reduce pain and stiffness.
How often should you cycle at high intensity?
One of the major benefits of HIIT cycling is that you can cram the benefits of a 40-minute workout into 20 minutes. This makes it ideal for people who do not like working out and people who have very busy lives, as it is a functional approach to fitness. You get in, you bash out the session, you get out.
Exactly how many you should do will depend on your goals. Weight loss is a matter of calories in versus calories out, so the more sessions you do a week the quicker your excess fat will melt off. On the other hand, if you are just wanting to take care of your general health then 3 sessions a week will be enough to reap the benefits.
The best time to work out is the one that suits you. A lot of people find that working out first thing in the morning is a good way to ensure that it gets done. We recommend this approach, as coming home after a long day at work, potentially with kids around you, makes an intense 20-minute workout seem like a more significant challenge – both mentally and physically.