5 HIIT Tips For Cyclists

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, has been declared as one of the major physical fitness tendencies around the globe this year according to the data collected in the annual survey of the American College of Sports Medicine.

This intense and efficient training style is not merely a trendy exercise; it has been ranked as the best workout by the ACSM for the past 13 years and has been among the top three for five years.

Why? Because it works, and it works fast. No matter where you are with your fitness level, from being a beginner to continuing at a professional level; high-intensity interval training can greatly improve your health and get you in better shape, as well as make you a faster cyclist.

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HIIT sounds very scientific, but it’s really very simple. It consists of quick periods of vigorous cardio activity–which could range from 10 seconds to five minutes–interrupted by short rests.

How hard is hard? The level of intensity of the effort will be determined by the duration of the session, but whatever it is, the goal is to work as hard as possible. If you do Tabatas, you should make sure to put in your maximum effort for 20 seconds, then take 10 seconds to recover.

When carrying out extended 3-5 minute intervals, your target should be achieving a VO2 max zone while operating at around 95% of your maximum heart rate, which would be equivalent to a level 9 on a scale of 1-10.

The length of time you rest in between intervals is determined by what you are aiming to achieve. Intervals of only a brief duration are typically combined with rest periods of the same duration, or maybe even less, for your body to become accustomed to the exertion of the greatest magnitude done repeatedly.

Your heart rate remains elevated throughout the rest periods, giving your aerobic system a workout.

In some cases, like super high-intensity sprints, it is ideal to maximize every effort, so adequate recovery of four to five minutes should be given between each set.

The Benefits of HIIT

There is a frequent cover of the newest findings about the advantageous aspects of HIIT. For instance, here is an article from the November 2018 version of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

It was discovered that a mere two minutes of sprint interval training (which includes four thirty-second maximally intense sprints and four and a half minutes of rest totalling twenty minutes) had the same effect on improving mitochondrial function as either thirty minutes of moderate exercise in a group of both male and female participants who were already physically active. Mitochondrial function is an indication of both robust health as well as successful exercise performance.

This means that carrying out a short, intense workout for two minutes can give you the same health advantages as working out at a consistent, moderate rate for half an hour.

It isn’t unexpected that HIIT exercise is remarkable for enhancing one’s heart health.

Studies indicate that depending on starting level of physical fitness, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has the potential to increase VO2 max by as much as 46 per cent within 6 months from starting. In addition to this, 8 weeks of HIIT can cause a 10 per cent boost in stroke volume and a marked decline in resting heart rate.

Your body is transformed into a fat-burning machine. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been demonstrated to increase the manufacture of growth hormones that help with the preservation of muscles and the burning of body fat for a considerable amount of time after Physical exercise, as well as decreasing insulin sensitivity for better regulation of glucose levels.

And it does more than benefit your body. HIIT is also good for your mind. Studies demonstrate that performing hard physical exercises boosts mental capacity and increases the amount of BDNF greater than less taxing workouts.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is fundamental for the processes of learning, keeping memories, and managing emotions and the brain relies on it for fixing and taking care of nerve cells.

The great thing about it is that it permits the same—and even superior—rewards as regular periods of light aerobic exercise in much less time.

HIIT for Cyclists

Most of us already do a great deal of cycling since, being endurance athletes, that’s seen as our primary activity.

Even if you are in excellent condition, you can still make great gains by incorporating HIIT into your exercise program, explains Paul Laursen, PhD, an expert in exercise physiology and mentor, writer of The Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and contributor to HIITscience.com.

For cyclists who enjoy lengthy trips, Interval Training (HIIT) can be an effective tactic to use as part of a comprehensive foundation-building approach. Laursen explains that the foundation of your capability is based on the power of your mitochondria.

A longer and less intense workout can up the number of mitochondria in cells, prompting the majority of individuals to take on extended, steady, endurance training activities to create a strong foundation. He mentions that strenuous exercise performed habitually can initiate the formation of mitochondria and make them more effective.

The investigation revealed that when highly proficient cyclists took part in two interval sessions per week for a period of three to six weeks, their VO2 max, prime aerobic power output, and durability had increased by a degree of 2 to 4 per cent.

Studies done in Australia have shown that doing high-intensity interval training in the evening does not corrupt your sleep and may even decrease your cravings later on.

How To Do HIIT

Larsen states that there are three primary tools to utilize when working with high-intensity interval training (HIIT): 1) long intervals ranging from one to four minutes done at a VO2 rate, 2) quick intervals that range from 10-60 seconds set at a 120% VO2 max with equivalent recovery periods, and 3) fast sprints, both lasting for very short periods (three to six seconds) or longer (20 to 30 seconds), conducted with maximum effort.

You can have a broad-spectrum approach and rotate through all three possibilities. Pick the layout that best suits your area of difficulty. If you tend to lose energy quickly when working for extended periods, try extending the length of your high-intensity interval training intervals. He recommends that if you are deficient in the 10 to 30 per cent limits of power, then do sprints.

For overall fitness gains, interval times ranging from 30 seconds up to five minutes at a very tough level of intensity can strengthen your aerobic system while also engaging some of your fast-twitch muscle fibres, making your power-producing muscles more able to withstand long-term fatigue, according to Laursen.

He states that achieving impressive outcomes can be reached by engaging in three to six of these activities, with one to two minutes of rest between each.

You can integrate HIIT intervals when playing your regular sport, or engage in them as part of a cross-training activity to gain a metabolic hike while providing your body with a rest from the usual activity, according to Laursen.

He states that this is very helpful for joggers and team athletes who occasionally must lessen their influence when caring for a minor injury or ache. They can do a High-Intensity Interval Training workout on the bike to keep their cardiovascular health while lessening the strain on their muscles and nerves.

HIIT Cycling Workouts

1. A solid warm-up

In this introductory session—as well as in other spinning classes—you’ll rely on your rating of felt effort (RPE) to decide if you need to increase your intensity, lower it, or keep the same level.

On the RPE scale, level 1 is very low exertion, while 10 is when you are putting in the maximum effort possible. The amount of force the bike puts on your feet as you pedal is indicated by labelled resistance levels that mimic outdoor terrain variations.

Generally, riding with low resistance will be similar to coasting down a hill, moderate resistance will feel like cycling on level ground or a gentle slope, and high resistance will create a sense of riding up a large, steep incline.

The amount of strain you feel when cycling will depend on both the level of difficulty of the gear you are using and how quickly you spin the pedals – the number of times the pedals go around in a minute.

  • 3-5 minutes of easy pedalling at an effort level or 4 or less
  • 30 seconds of fast pedalling (90+ revolutions per minute, or rpm) at a low resistance
  • 30 seconds of easy pedalling
  • 30 seconds of fast pedalling (90+ rpm) at a low resistance
  • 30 seconds of easy pedalling
  • 30 seconds of fast pedalling (90+ rpm) at a low resistance
  • 1 minute of easy pedalling
  • 1 minute at an effort level of 5 out of 10 with moderate resistance
  • 1 minute at an effort level of 6 out of 10 with moderate resistance
  • 1 minute at an effort level of 7 out of 10 with high resistance
  • 1 minute at an effort level of 8 out of 10 with high resistance
  • Pedal easy as long as it takes for you to catch your breath.

2. Fast-pedaling drill

This exercise increases your cardiovascular strength without causing much pressure on your muscles or joints.

The key? Light resistance. Whenever you pedal hard and fast during an exercise routine, you must have minimal opposition; however, it must not be so slight that you feel like you are bouncing while seated in the saddle, as Clyde Simms of Rev’d Indoor Cycling Studios in Boston pointed out to SELF.

To provide assistance, decide on a song that has a consistent pace that is simple to pedal with a 6-level intensity of effort.

Simms advises applying enough opposition to stay on pace. Carry out three to four sets of brief sprints starting from that point.

  • Ride at song tempo (70-90 rpm)
  • 30 seconds of fast-cadence pedalling (90+ rpm)
  • 30 seconds back into pedalling on the rhythm
  • 30 seconds fast-cadence pedalling
  • 30 seconds back into pedalling on the rhythm
  • 30 seconds fast-cadence pedalling
  • 30 seconds back into pedalling on the rhythm
  • Pedal easy for 5 minutes. Repeat two to three times.

3. Consistent resistance intervals

Create a compilation of lively tunes with paces that you can competently bike to. If you would like to be exact, you can utilize this BPM counter to pick out tracks within a particular range, or tracks that are different from each other.

Select a goal wattage or resistance level on your bike’s monitor that would make pedalling at that speed feel like strenuous labour. Be responsible for your own pace, and change the difficulty by altering the resistance level.

This was one of my preferred strategies for instructing a tune lacking distinct breaks or modifications in intensity in the classroom. Listening to a playlist while driving alone is an excellent way to maintain your attention.

  • 30 seconds at high resistance, riding to the beat
  • 15 seconds at low resistance still riding to the beat
  • 30 seconds at high resistance, riding to the beat
  • 15 seconds at low resistance still riding to the beat
  • 30 seconds at high resistance, riding to the beat
  • 15 seconds at low resistance still riding to the beat
  • 30 seconds at high resistance, riding to the beat
  • 15 seconds at low resistance still riding to the beat
  • 5 minutes of easy pedalling/active recovery. Repeat once more.

4. A speed, strength, and power combo

Instead of doing the same routine again and again, D’Ercole’s favourite sequence emphasizes a different kind of task each time around. For the beginning part of your workout, you should make your heart pump by doing a fast-paced cycling activity, striving to make the pedals move the fastest they can without jerking the bicycle seat.

For the second exercise, which is to work on strength, make sure to turn up the resistance as high as possible while still keeping a cadence of 60 rpms or higher; make sure to use the full scope of the pedalling motion.

In the last set of exercises, you will concentrate on strength derived from using a combination of speed and power.

D’Ercole points out that it is not necessary to have the same resistance level or speed as you had during the strength or speed set because you will produce more power anyway.

Set 1: Speed

  • 30-second speed interval at light resistance (max 120 rpm)
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds speed interval
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds speed interval
  • Pedal easy for 3 minutes.

Set 2: Resistance

  • 30 seconds pedalling at high resistance, low cadence (60-70 rpm)
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds high resistance, low cadence
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds high resistance, low cadence
  • Pedal easy for 3 minutes.

Set 3: Power

  • 30 seconds pedalling at medium-high resistance and medium cadence (90-100 rpm)
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds pedalling at medium-high resistance and medium cadence
  • 30 seconds pedalling easy
  • 30 seconds pedalling at medium-high resistance and medium cadence

5. Tabata-style intervals

Tabata intervals signify a pattern of 20 seconds of activity, followed by a 10-second rest period.

For sprints that don’t last long, it is easier to go by your perceived exertion rather than any stats your bike gives you since the numbers may take too long to appear, according to Axell. She uses them to assist her athletes to get accustomed to the quick, consistent sprinting that races usually need.

Instead of giving her pupils specific heart rate objectives or resistance targets, she tells them to push themselves to the point of breathlessness so they know what numbers 8, 9, and 10 out of 10 effort should feel like.

The ideal revolutions per minute (rpms) to aim for with these should be somewhere in the range of 80-105. Axell suggests that you maintain a regular rhythm while exerting as much effort as possible and increasing the intensity during each period.

Generally, by the completion, you cannot do anymore; you are thoroughly exhausted. This exercise regime, as Axell informs, involves eight repeating actions, but if you are unfamiliar with Tabata, you can start with a lower number of reps and gradually increase them when you become more experienced.

  • 20 seconds of hard effort that makes you breathless
  • 10 seconds of easy pedalling
  • Repeat for a total of eight rounds, then pedal easily for 5 minutes. Repeat the entire sequence once more.


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