Bicycle Exercise: Benefits, And Workout Plans

Benefits, and Workout Plans

In case you didn’t know by now, bicycling is one of the very best forms of exercise you can undertake.

Although there are plenty of reasons to love riding a bike that have nothing to do with exercise, it is an unavoidable benefit that works to your advantage in several ways.

Bicycling is a preferred exercise for millions of people, and it’s something you can do regardless of your age, skill level, or fitness regimen.

However, for those that are able, there are ways to use a bicycle to experience targeted weight loss, improved endurance, increased leg strength, better cardiac health, and more.

Whether you’re into half-day rides that cover tens of miles at a time, or someone that likes doing short, high-intensity in between your days at the gym, bicycle exercise has something to offer.

This guide will highlight some of the more prevalent forms of bike exercises you can do, and also provide an overview of the biggest physical benefits you can experience from routinely exercising on a bike.

Major Health Benefits of Bike Exercise

Riding a bicycle offers some significant health benefits that can be realized in just a few weeks of consistent riding. There are actually several health benefits we could go over, but we’ll limit it to the most noteworthy ones for now.

Cardio

The most obvious health benefit you can get from biking is an improvement of your heart and blood circulation. Cycling works to strengthen your heart muscles, which leads to a lower resting pulse and also reduces blood fat levels. This has a very positive effect on your overall health.

In fact, your cardiac health is the main key to improving your fitness level. A stronger heart gives you more energy during the day, while also increasing your endurance and vitality when doing other physical activities.

Cycling to strengthen your heart muscles

While it’s true that there are numerous ways to get a good cardio workout, there is nothing that is as low-impact as cycling. Running, aerobics, sports, and other cardio exercises can take a toll on your joints and lower body.

If you are someone recovering from injury, or have pain in your feet or joints, bike exercising is a much more viable workout that involves almost no impact whatsoever.

Cycling is also effective in reducing your risk for cardiovascular diseases. Heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks can all be reduced with consistent cardio exercise on a bike.

Lower Body

Bike exercising not only improves your lower body strength, it also helps tone your leg as well. If you are looking for an effective way to tone your thighs and calves, but don’t want to rely on high-intensity workouts and machines at the gym, cycling is a great alternative.

Cycling may not be a full body workout, but your lower body is constantly engaged, whether you’re making your way up a steep incline, or just keeping a solid pace on flat portions of road. Your legs may not bulk up all that much when biking, but they will definitely get stronger, more toned, and refined.

Weight Loss

Despite what you may have been told, weight loss really isn’t all that complicated. Losing weight is simply burning more calories than you take in. Although many different types of exercises can burn calories, riding a bicycle is actually one of the most effective ways to do so.

Weight loss bike training.

Cycling is an aerobic exercise, so your heart rate is constantly elevated while your body is engaged. Sustained rides for over 30 minutes can really get your metabolism going, burning away calories even after you’re done riding.

For those that aren’t so fond of doing exercises like running, lifting weights, or whatever else, biking is a highly effective workout that can start trimming the inches off in as little as three weeks.

The more you cycle, the better your coordination gets.

Popular Bike Training Types

Cycling gives you plenty of leeway when trying to focus on certain training types. You are certainly free to custom tailor your riding to meet certain fitness goals and needs, but these two training types are among the most popular.

Endurance Training

Endurance training refers to an act of exercising that works to increase your endurance. The term endurance training is usually meant to signify aerobic system training, as opposed to anaerobic.

Whether you participate in other sports and activities, or just want a way to ride your bike for longer periods, endrance is the key to optimal performance. When your endurance is increased, you can have more efficient workouts, play a sport for longer periods with peak performance, and have increased energy throughout the day, mainly due to not tiring as easily.

Endurance can be divided into two categories including: general endurance and specific endurance. General endurance training incorporates multiple parts and functions of the body, while specific endurance focuses on one area. Cycling is a form of specific endurance training.

Endurance Training

Endurance is built up by conditioning the heart to slowly increase its efficiency. This is done by increasing plasma levels, and actually decreasing the heart rate needed to sustain your physical activity.

The best way to think of this would be comparing how fast and hard your heart is beating after riding as fast as you can for a mile, and then doing it again a month later after a consistent endurance training schedule. Your heart will not beat as fast, and you won’t be as out of breath as your were the month prior. This is how you know you’ve increased your endurance.

Endurance Training Workout Plan

Proper endurance cycling can involve 20 to 30 hours a week on a bike, and often with very long, sustained rides that require a mid-level speed. While this is highly effective, and the best way to slowly increase your endurance in a tangible way, not everyone has the time needed.

Bicycling.com contributor Selene Yeager developed an excellent endurance regimen for those that lack the hours and hours needed each week to slowly build it up.

Endurance training is all about monitoring your heart rate. You will need a cycling heart rate monitor, and preferably a cyclocomputer as well. Here’s a quick key that will help you understand the terms used in the plan, and the heart rate thresholds.

Heart Rate Zones and T Power

  • Threshold Heart Rate (HR): Average HR or power for a 20-minute time trial or 1-hour hard group ride
  • Threshold Power: Average power for a 20-min.
  • Threshold (T): 95-105% of T HR/91-105% of T power
  • Active Recovery: <68% of T HR/<55% of T power
  • Endurance: 69-83% of T HR/56-75% of T power
  • Tempo: 84-94% of T HR/76-90% of T power

Workout Terms

  • Fast Pedaling: Spin quickly while keeping proper form. Active and recovery periods are the same duration. (Improves pedaling efficiency and increases workout intensity.)
  • Big Gear Tempo: Ride a bigger gear at a specified cadence in the Tempo zone. If knees begin to hurt, decrease the gear and increase the cadence to do regular tempo work instead. (Improves muscular endurance and increases training stress.)
  • Tempo: Ride intervals at 90+ rpm in the Tempo zone. (Increases aerobic fitness, muscular endurance and training stress.)
  • Endurance: Ride for two to five hours in the Endurance zone at a comfortably high cadence. (Boosts muscular endurance, aerobic fitness and fat-burning capacity.)
  • Hills: Ride in the Endurance and Tempo zones on hilly terrain using gearing and cadence to control effort. (Improves muscular endurance and overall strength.)

Training Plan

This endurance training regime is intended to be done in cycles of four weeks.

WEEK 1

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 1 hour w/ 5 sets of 5x15-second Fast Pedaling intervals
  • Wednesday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • Thursday: 1 hr. w/ 3x10-min. Big Gear Tempo intervals at 50-70 rpm
  • Friday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • Saturday: 2-3 hrs. in the Endurance zone
  • Sunday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone

WEEK 2

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 1.5 hrs. w/ 4 sets of 5x30-sec. Fast Pedaling intervals
  • ​Wednesday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • ​Thursday: 1.5 hrs. w/ 3x15-min. Big Gear Tempo intervals at 60-80 rpm
  • ​Friday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • ​Saturday: 3-4 hrs. Hills
  • ​Sunday: 1.5-2 hrs. in the Active Recovery zone

WEEK 3

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 2 hrs. w/ 3 sets of 5x1-min. Fast Pedaling intervals
  • ​Wednesday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • ​Thursday: 2 hrs. w/ 2x20-min. Tempo intervals
  • ​Friday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • ​Saturday: 4.5 hrs Hills
  • Sunday: 1.5-2 hrs. in the Active Recovery zone

WEEK 4

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 1 hr. of easy pedaling
  • Wednesday: 1.5 hrs. w/ 5x30-sec. Fast Pedaling intervals and 1x10-min. Tempo interval
  • Thursday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone
  • ​Friday: Off
  • ​Saturday: Group or solo ride
  • Sunday: 1 hr. in the Active Recovery zone

By the end of the 4 weeks, you should notice a sizable improvement in your overall endurance, and also your heart rate for the various workouts. A plan this long requires some added motivation, so make sure you plan ahead to accompany the time it takes to complete

If you have to skip a day, pick up on the day you rescue with the corresponding workout, don’t try to make anything up.

High Intensity Cycling Interval Training

Also known as HIIT, high intensity interval training is rapidly increasing in popularity for all types of athletes and weekend warriors. The reasons are pretty clear: it works, and it works well.

HIIT is an anaerobic exercise method, as opposed to aerobic. It’s basically the opposite of endurance training. This doesn’t mean that it’s better however, as both have their advantages and uses, and are best when intertwined together if possible.

Cycling Interval Training

Rather than sustained, long workouts at medium intensity levels, HIIT is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise method that alternates short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods in between.

These intervals can be anywhere from 15 seconds, to 15 minutes, depending on the actual exercise.

Here are three different HIIT exercises you can do on a bike. While perfectly fine on their own as part of your regular workout routine, these can be done in conjunction if you are physically able.

Hill Climbs

Climbing when cycling is already the most intensive scenario you can encounter, but doing it repeatedly over the course of a HIIT workout will reap massive benefits

Start by finding a short, steep hill, that offers no more than a minute or two of climbing. As you approach the hill, speed up as you approach, and switch to lower gears to attain maximum speed.

Hill Climbs

Power up the hill as hard as you can. Once you reach the top, coast back down, and repeat the process again for 4 to 6 times.

Sprints

Start off by riding around at a moderate pace for about 20 minutes. Once you’ve done so, sprint for 15 seconds as fast as you can, followed by three to four minutes of gentle pedalling for recovery.Do this 5 or 6 more times, or as long as you can keep maximum effort and speed each time.

Shock Intervals

The point of these intervals is to “shock” your body into adaptation. This improves your overall speed, and aerobic capacity.

Spend some time riding normally to get warmed up. Once you’re ready, perform 5 sets of 3 minutes intervals, pedaling at the highest pace you possible can. Allow 3 minutes of recovery in between the intervals, softly pedaling while regaining control of your normal breathing patterns.

Conclusion

Bicycle exercise is one of the most efficient (and fun) ways to get in shape, and stay that way.

Bicycle exercise in winter.

You don’t necessarily have to follow any of these workouts to get on the path to better health. All that matters is that you ride regularly, ideally with at least a few intense periods of pedaling. For just around 2 to 3 hours a week, you can easily experience the many benefits of the bicycle exercise.

Have any workout tips you’d like to add? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below!

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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