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Five HIIT bike workouts to try out at home

Woman doing HIIT bike workout
(Image credit: Getty)

HIIT bike workouts are a great way to ramp up your cardio sessions, while also boosting heart health and aerobic fitness. 

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, involves working at a vigorous level then backing off for a short recovery period. You repeat this again and again, with sessions typically lasting between 10 and 30 minutes. You can pump these sessions out doing bodyweight work – but you can also jump on one of the best exercise bikes (opens in new tab) for a HIIT session.

“HIIT bike workouts offer a lot of bang for your buck if you’re time poor as they burn a lot of calories very quickly,” says ex-professional cyclist Richard Lang, founder of cycling training app Spoked (opens in new tab).

“HIIT is mentally challenging and a great stress buster,” he says. “The intensity forces you to focus and stay in the moment, and by boosting cardiovascular health it can also decrease blood pressure.”

There are plenty of exercise bike benefits (opens in new tab) when using these machines at any pace, but crank up the intensity and perks include weight loss, increased muscle mass, higher metabolism, aerobic capacity and the “afterburn effect”.  Indeed, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (opens in new tab) journal found that participants burned almost 200 extra calories in the 14 hours after their HIIT workout. 

Ready to try it? Richard Lang has created five HIIT bike workouts exclusively for LiveScience. Make sure you check out our handy guides to the different kinds of exercise bikes (opens in new tab), rowing vs cycling (opens in new tab) and VO2 max (opens in new tab) before you begin.

But first, a quick warning – HIIT bike workouts can place a lot of stress on the body, so limit rides to three a week. It also puts a lot of strain on the heart, so avoid it if you have any doubts, or speak to a medical professional first.

Target effort

Man on exercise bike

(Image credit: Getty)

To help judge your desired target effort, use this 1-10 scale based on your ability to hold a conversation:  

  • 1 to 2 - can easily hold a conversation
  • 3 to 4 - can hold a conversation 
  • 5 to 6 - can speak a few sentences at a time 
  • 7 to 8 - can speak a couple of words at a time 
  • 9 - can only speak one word at a time
  • 10 - all out, can’t speak 

Workout 1: Sprints

Woman with prosthetic arm using exercise bike at gym

(Image credit: Getty)

A sprint-focused session that will start to bite over time. It’s important that you pace each sprint, as it’s the accumulation that will make it hurt. Use the time during the warm up to mentally prepare yourself for the session and if you need more time, take it. You want to be ready when the first 15-second sprint starts.  

Warm up: 15 min
DurationTarget effort Cadence target (rpm)What to think about
2 min1 to 280 to 100 rpmSlowly get ready for the workout.
7 min3 to 780 to 100 rpmOver the next 7 mins, slowly increase your intensity. By the end you should be starting to sweat a little.
1 min1 to 2 60 to 80 rpmTake a deep breath, the workout is going to begin. You can do this.

Workout: 15 min
DurationTarget effort Cadence target (rpm)What to think about
15 sec 8 to 9 100 rpmDuring each sprint, focus on riding the same cadence (the number of revolutions of the pedals each minute) at the same resistance.
15 sec1 to 270 - 80 rpmFocus on your breathing

Repeat the above workout eight times, for a total of four minutes, then rest for one minute (gently cycle while drinking some water). That should take a total of five minutes, including resting time. Finished resting? Hop back on your bike and repeat the whole thing two more times, which should give you a total workout time of 15 minutes, including a rest at the end of each set.

Cool down: 5 min
DurationTarget effort Cadence target (rpm)What to think about
3 min3 to 480 to 100 rpmReflect on how well you rode this workout.
2 min1 to 260 to 100 rpmSpin the legs to flush out any remaining lactic (sting you feel).

Workout 2: One minute attacks

Woman using Peloton bike at home

(Image credit: Getty)

A minute of effort within a HIIT workout feels like five normal minutes, so you need to be prepared for this workout. The first few one minute efforts might feel ok, but it will catch up with you. Remember not to sprint too early within these efforts.  

Warm up: 11 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
2 min1 to 280 to 100 rpmSlowly get ready for the workout.
8 min3 to 780 to 100 rpmOver the next 8 min, slowly increase your intensity. By the end you should be starting to sweat a little.
1 min1 to 260 to 80 rpmTake a deep breath, the workout is going to begin. You can do this.

Workout: 14 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
1 min7 to 880 to 100 rpmFind the resistance and cadence that matches the 7 to 8 effort level - this will be your go-to for each effort.
1 min1 to 270 to 80 rpmFocus on your breathing. This 1 min will be going quickly. In the last 10 sec, start preparing yourself for the next 1 min, so slowly start moving to the resistance target.

Repeat the above workout seven times, for a grand total of 14 minutes.

Cool down: 5 mins
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
3 min3 to 480 to 100 rpmReflect on how well you rode this workout.
2 min1 to 260 to 100 rpmSpin the legs to flush out any remaining lactic (sting you feel).

Workout 3: Progressive punches

Man using exercise bike at home

(Image credit: Getty)

This can be a tricky workout to get right as the step down from the first 30 seconds to the second round is challenging. It’s important to make a note of the cadence you ride, as this cadence will become your benchmark to help you get your pacing right.  

Warm up: 9 mins
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
2 min1 to 280 to 100 rpmSlowly get ready for the workout.
6 min3 to 780 to 100 rpmOver the next 6 min, slowly increase your intensity. By the end you should be starting to sweat a little.
1 min1 to 260 to 80 rpmTake a deep breath, the workout is going to begin. You can do this.

Workout: 6 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
30 sec9 to 1080 to 100 rpmA full gas effort where you’re holding the pace for the full 30 sec. You don’t want to be dying in the last 10 sec, push all the way to the line.
30 sec7 to 880 to 100 rpmAim to ride the same resistance as for the first 30 sec effort, but adjust your cadence. For example, ride the first 30 seconds (9 to 10 effort) at 100 rpm, then ride the second 30 seconds (7 to 8 effort) at 90 to 95 rpm.
2 min1 to 270 to 100 rpmSpin the legs nice and easy.

Repeat the above workout four times, for a grand total of 16 minutes,

Cool down: 5 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
3 min 3 to 480 to 100 rpmReflect on how well you rode this workout.
2 min1 to 260 to 100 rpmSpin the legs to flush out any remaining lactic (sting you feel).

Workout 4: Riding down the steps

Exercise bike on sale: Woman working out on an exercise bike in her living room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As you move through the workout the efforts become shorter, but so does the recovery in between. You’re looking for consistency within your efforts, so you don’t want to let go of the resistance or cadence in the last 30 seconds.  

Warm up: 10 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
2 min1 to 280 to 100 rpmSlowly get ready for the workout.
7 min3 to 780 to 100 rpmOver the next 7 min, slowly increase your intensity. By the end you should be starting to sweat a little.
1 min1 to 260 to 80 rpmTake a deep breath, the workout is going to begin. You can do this.

Workout: 16 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
4 min9 to 10 80 to 100 rpmAim to ride the same cadence and resistance you’ve picked for this 4 min effort for the remaining efforts.
3 min1 to 270 to 100 rpmKeep it super easy. Don’t make your recovery hard, this allows you to dig deeper into the efforts.
3 min9 to 10 80 to 100 rpmPacing is key, as you don’t want to drop your cadence with the resistance you’re riding.
2 min1 to 270 to 100 rpmFocus on your breathing, keep the effort level low and mentally prepare yourself for the next effort.
2 min9 to 10 80 to 100 rpmThe end is now in sight. If you have any extra energy you can start these efforts more aggressively.
1 min1 to 270 to 100 rpmFocus on your breathing, keep the effort level low and mentally prepare yourself for the next effort.
1 min9 to 10 80 to 100 rpmLast effort of the workout, dig deep. You’ve got this.

Cool down: 4 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
2 min3 to 480 to 100 rpm Reflect on how well you rode this workout.
2 min1 to 260 to 100 rpmSpin the legs to flush out any remaining lactic (sting you feel).

Workout 5: Various sprints

Does bike riding work your abs? Man riding exercise bike in the gym

(Image credit: Getty Images)

These sprints are going to test you. Start off with long sprints and throughout the workout they’ll become shorter. It’s key to ensure your time in-between the sprints provides real recovery. In the last five seconds of your recovery before the next sprint, make sure you’re ready to go again.  

Warm up: 10 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
2 min1 to 280 to 100 rpmSlowly get ready for the workout.
7 min3 to 780 to 100 rpmOver the next 7 mins, slowly increase your intensity. By the end you should be starting to sweat a little.
1 min1 to 260 to 100 rpmTake a deep breath, the workout is going to begin. You can do this.

Workout part 1: 5 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
30 sec8 to 990 rpm +You’re riding 5 x 30 sec sprints, so you need to be aware of your pacing. We’re looking for 5 consistent 30 sec sprints.
30 sec1 tp 260 rpm +Spin the legs and prepare yourself for the next sprint.

 Repeat x 5 (5 mins). This is one set. Complete 10 x 30 sec efforts before you move onto the below

Workout part 2: 5 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
20 sec 8 to 990 rpm +You can ride these sprints more aggressively than the 30 sec effort. Again, you’re looking for consistency.
40 sec 1 to 260 rpm +Spin the legs and prepare yourself for the next sprint.

Repeat the above five times (for a total of five minutes)

Workout part 3: 5 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
10 sec9 to 1090+ rpmThe last set of the sprints. Kick hard and hang on.
50 sec1 to 260+ rpmSpin the legs and prepare yourself for the next sprint.

Repeat the above workout five times, for a total of five minutes.

Cool down: 5 min
DurationTarget effortCadenceWhat to think about
3 min3 to 480 to 100 rpmReflect on how well you rode this workout.
2 min1 to 260 to 80 rpmSpin the legs to flush out any remaining lactic (sting you feel).

Maddy is a freelance journalist and Level 3 personal trainer specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Women's Health. Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them).