We often mention high-intensity interval training in our exercise bike reviews, as it’s a popular form of cardio workout for fat loss. But what are the benefits of a HIIT workout? And how do you use this type of exercise on a stationary bike? Keep reading to find out.
HIIT has become increasingly popular over the last few years – and for good reason. Unlike some bloggers, we don’t think steady-state cardio is “evil” or “useless.” But there seems to be mounting evidence that you can achieve faster results with interval training.
The downside is that a true HIIT workout is tough. While it sounds great to get the benefits of a 60 minute workout in a third of the time, the reality is you’ll need to work three times as hard!
But if you’d rather go full-blast for a shorter time than sit on your bike for a full hour, here’s our guide to HIT workouts on exercise bikes.
What is HIIT?
High-intensity interval training is a type of cardiovascular exercise involving switching between high and low intensity exercise. The obvious benefit of this type of cardio is that it’s less boring. Unlike steady-state cardio, your pace and intensity is constantly changing, which adds variety to the workout.
More importantly for most people, there’s also evidence that HIIT can burn more fat in less time.
You might be wondering why HIIT is so effective for burning fat. After all, years of advertising hype and gimmicks have led us to believe there’s no such thing as “a lose weight fast” system.
The first reason is HIIT workouts can burn more calories in less time. This mainly just due to the increased intensity of the workout – many people exercise below the level required to really challenge them during a steady-state workout.
It’s not just about calories though. There are a few other reasons why HIIT is thought to be great for burning fat – although not all of these have been proven:
- HIIT tends to suppress appetite for a period after the workout
- It can increase your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours
- HIIT may increase muscle insulin sensitivity
There’s a caveat though. During a HIIT workout, the high intensity periods should push you to your limits.
That means working out almost as hard as you can for short bursts.
Ideally, each high-intensity burst should bring you to the point where your breathing is laboured. If you’re finding it too easy or the intervals are finishing before you get to this point, you either need to change the interval length of work harder.
The easiest way to visualise it is that the high-intensity bursts should be a sprint instead of a fast jog.
As you can imagine, this makes HIIT on an exercise bike a gruelling form of exercise.
But the results are worth it.
HIIT on an Exercise Bike
An exercise bike is great for a HIIT workout. It’s safe, controlled and easy to adjust your intensity. Also, unlike sprinting, an exercise bike is low-impact.
To get the most out of your workout, it’s important to create the right programming for your current fitness level though. Here are the main considerations.
The biggest decision when creating a HIIT workout routine is the length of the high-intensity intervals. For beginners, 30 second bursts are a good start, but there are routines (such as Tabata) which have shorter bursts.
But it’s not just the length of the bursts that’s important – it’s the ratio of high-intensity to low-intensity periods.
When you start out, it’s a good idea to have low-intensity rests that are double the time of the high-intensity bursts. This gives your body time to recover so you can put everything into the next burst.
As you improve, this ratio can become closer to 1-1.
A HIIT workout isn’t about building strength. So choose a resistance level that challenges you but that isn’t too high.
If you find the resistance level is stopping you going at full speed, it’s probably too high.
Also, while you can vary resistance for the high-intensity bursts, it’s better to focus on varying your speed.
One of the great things about HIIT workouts is that they allow you to burn more fat in less time.
Unless you’re training to improve your endurance, 20 minutes of HIIT is usually enough. This doesn’t include warm-up and cool down times though.
As you improve, your body’s ability to handle the exercise will also increase. This is great – but it also prevents you from burning as much fat.
For this reason, it’s important to gradually increase the difficulty of your workout.
The most obvious way to do this is to increase the length of the high-intensity bursts. You can also use a higher resistance or decrease the ratio of high/short intensity bursts.
Example Beginner’s HIIT Workout on a Stationary Bike
- Warmup. Set the resistance of the bike to a medium difficulty and warm up for around five minutes. You shouldn’t feel too tired by the end of the warmup, but go hard enough for your muscles to be ready for the HIIT workout.
- 20 Minute HIIT Workout. Set the resistance to a suitable difficulty. Exercise at high intensity for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of low intensity. Repeat this four times. Then repeat the entire cycle two more times but with a 2 minute gap between each.
- Cool-Down. Set the resistance back to a low/medium difficulty and cool-down for 2-3 minutes.
HIIT workouts, when performed correctly, are tough on your muscles. For this reason, make sure you have a day of rest between workouts – especially when using the same piece of equipment. This gives your body time to recover and reduces the chance of overuse injuries.
Also, be sensible and use the advice on this page at your own risk. If you feel any pain during a HIIT workout, stop until you know what’s wrong.