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4 Non-Boring Spin Bike Workouts for Strength and Speed

Just because you aren’t on the open road doesn’t mean your ride should feel like a slog.

soulcycle at home fitness bike with test editor jordan smith photographed in january 2021
Jordan Smith

Sure, nothing compares to the feel of smooth road or bumpy gravel under your tires. But no matter how much you love riding outside, there are times when you’re going to be limited to spin bike workouts inside—especially since the sun is setting earlier and earlier, and the temps are seriously dipping. And that’s a good thing!

“Not only is indoor cycling a constant and always available when the climate or conditions become inconsistent, but it’s also a smart way to train using metrics such as torque, RPMs, and wattage to measure intensity,” explains Jared Poulin, a NASM-certified instructor at Bowflex. “With the controlled consistency of indoor cycling, you can really strengthen your muscle fibers and overall fitness level, which will undoubtedly translate to a higher success rate on the road.”

The goal of the workouts Poulin created below is to provide a variety of ways to improve your cardiovascular health, endurance, and overall fitness level. “They’re also great routines to burn calories and fat and increase your metabolic rate,” he adds.

But before you start spinning, make sure you’re set up for success—whether you’re on your own at-home indoor cycling bike or on a bike at the gym.

Choose Your Bike

At-home indoor cycling bikes aren’t cheap, but if you’re someone who rides straight through the winter or lives where it’s not always easy to ride outdoors, it could be a good investment. And now, many of them come with subscriptions to streaming and on-demand classes, providing a community vibe even when you’re riding solo.

Set Your Indoor Cycling Bike Up Right

Give yourself a few minutes before your ride to make sure that your bike’s properly set up for your body—that’s going to determine whether you actually get the benefits from your workout.

“A good rule of thumb when setting up your bike is to stand next to the bike and adjust the seat to hip height,” says Poulin. Once you’re clipped in and in the saddle, “make sure that when your knee is at about a 90-degree angle, the kneecap is directly over the ball of the foot or just below the toe line,” he says. When the legs are fully extended, there should be a soft bend or give in the knee, just like there should be a soft bend in the elbows when touching the handlebar. “The height of the handlebar largely depends on your preference,” says Poulin. “If you have lower back issues, I recommend keeping the bar on the higher side to alleviate pressure in the lumbar region.”

Know the Lingo

Many indoor cycling instructors reference different positions on the bike, as you’ll see below. First position is often seated in the saddle with your hands on the handlebar. Second position is usually standing tall upright—sometimes referred to as “running”—with your hands resting lightly on the bar closest to you for balance. This position emphasizes the “pulling up” portion of pedaling, similar to doing a high knees drill on solid ground. Third position is like a standing sprint: stand up out of the saddle with your hips back over the saddle and hands on the ends of the bar furthest from you.

The Indoor Spin Workout for Speed

No hills here: This 30-minute workout was designed for high accelerations at low to moderate resistance. “It’s ideal for a fantastic calorie burn,” says Poulin.

  • 3-minute warm-up at light to moderate pace in the saddle and third position
  • 30-second sprint followed by 30-second easy cycle; alternate for 6 minutes
  • 3 minutes at moderate pace in saddle or third position
  • repeat previous 2 steps for a total of 3 rounds
  • 3-minute cooldown at an easy pace

    The Tabata Indoor Spin Workout

    In this type of HIIT workout, the intervals are intense and quick with a small recovery window. “The results are geared towards maximum calorie burn and fat loss, and this 30-minute sequence is ideal for either beginners or veterans,” says Poulin.

    • 5-minute warmup at light to moderate pace
    • 8 x 20-second push in third position with moderate resistance followed by 10-second recovery
    • 1-minute recovery in saddle at low to moderate resistance and speed
    • Repeat above intervals and recovery one more time
    • 1-minute recovery in saddle at low to moderate resistance and speed
    • 4 x 40-second push in saddle with light to moderate resistance, followed by 20-second recovery
    • 1-minute recovery in saddle at low to moderate resistance and speed
    • Repeat above intervals and recovery one more time
    • 60-second push at maximum effort
    • 5-minute cooldown

      The Endurance Indoor Spin Workout

      Having endurance is the ability to push forward even when fatigued—so this 45-minute ride is aerobic and designed to build stamina. “Don’t think about being breathless, think about being uncomfortable while maintaining specific RPMs,” says Poulin. This one’s a little tougher, and meant for more advanced riders. For beginner riders, use the two workouts above to build up to this one.

      • 5-minute warmup at light to moderate pace
      • 60-second push in the saddle between 80-100 RPMs at moderate resistance (should feel like 60 percent of your max effort)
      • 30-second recovery
      • 90-second push in the saddle with a little more resistance than the previous interval; maintain 90 RPMs
      • 30-second recovery
      • 120-second push with a touch more on the resistance; maintain at least 80 RPMs
      • 5-minute recovery
      • Repeat drill sequence and recovery 3 more times
      • 5-minute cooldown

        The Spin Workout for Muscular Endurance

        Another challenging workout, from former Bicycling editor and certified Spinning instructor Riley Missel, features high cadence muscular endurance intervals that have you gradually increase either your cadence or the bike’s resistance. When pedaling at a higher cadence, Missel notes, try grounding yourself through your sit bones and keep your upper body quiet.

        • 8-minute warmup at light to moderate pace
        • 2-minute cadence increases; start at 90 RPMs and increase your cadence 5 RPMs every 20 seconds, aiming to end at 120 RPMs
        • 6-minute resistance increases; spin at 90 RPMs and increase your resistance one level every 30 seconds (if you dip below 90 RPMs, stop increasing resistance and hold until end)
        • 3-minute recovery
        • Repeat drill sequences and recovery 2 times
        • 5-minute cooldown
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