3 Indoor Cycling Workouts to Boost Power & Speed



After spending hours on your bike on the road, you might assume your indoor rides should mimic those long treks. But good news: You don’t always need to spend as much time training indoors as you do outside. And you can still build strength and speed without spending hours riding.

“You’ll build your aerobic energy system—in less time.”

That’s because indoor cycling workouts can actually be harder than riding outside, as you’re fighting the resistance of the trainer, coach Andy Applegate, pro-level coach at CTS tells Bicycling. For that reason, he recommends short, hard efforts with indoor bike training. “You’ll build your aerobic energy system—in less time,” he says.

To improve performance for when you get back outside, we have three indoor cycling workouts that you can do on a stationary bike or an indoor bike trainer. But before you start pedalling through the workouts, set yourself up for success with our tips.

Choose Your Indoor Bike Trainer

First, be real about your budget. If money is no object, Applegate recommends rollers, which best simulate outdoor riding. Otherwise, go with a resistance trainer.

“Fluid trainers are the smoothest, but they’re more expensive than magnetic,” Applegate says. You can also equip your space with a stationary bike instead of a trainer.

Before buying an indoor bike, you will need to assess how much space you have—some indoor trainers and bikes don’t easily tuck away in a closet. Others are more compact or fold for simple storage. Some trainers (including wind trainers) are very loud, so give them a try and do research before you buy if that will hold you back from riding.

Set Up Your Indoor Bike Training Space

indoor cycling workouts, indoor bike training

Zach Kutos

Get set with these essentials:

  1. Water: Expect to drink more than you would outside.
  2. Fans: Keep your body (and your back tire) cool.
  3. Rubber Mat: You’ll drip sweat, and your trainer might skid as you hammer.
  4. Towel: Drape it over the frame and handlebar to protect it from moisture.
  5. Book or Riser: You can buy bike-specific risers to level the wheels, but a thick book also works.
  6. Entertainment: A TV, iPad, phone, or training buddy will help prevent boredom.

3 Indoor Cycling Workouts

Applegate suggests doing one of the indoor cycling workouts below twice a week; choose a different one for a third hard day if you can’t get outside. After three weeks, try one of the more challenging variations. Allow one day of rest, cross-training, or easy riding between sessions.

Each workout includes a 10- to 15-minute warmup and a 10-minute cooldown.

The workouts below were designed for an indoor bike trainer, but you can also perform them on a standard spin bike. You will need to adjust the resistance, though.

1. Speed Intervals

This workout will improve your power and speed and help you recover from repeated hard efforts. For the fast pedal intervals, use an easy gear and as high of a cadence as possible, but keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) low: 5 out of 10.

indoor cycling workouts

Zack Kutos​

Total time: 47 to 59 minutes

Make it harder: Add one on/off interval (30 seconds at 95 percent effort with 30 seconds of easy spinning) up to 20 intervals total.

2. Climbing Bursts

This workout is designed to help you attack hills. Simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel or adding resistance. Stand and attack for the 15-second intervals. A rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 (level 8 in the workout) is about 90 to 100 percent of threshold power, and RPE 10 (level 10 in the workout) is 115 percent of threshold.

indoor cycling workouts

Zack Kutos

Total time: 83 to 88 minutes

Make it harder: The main workout is 3 x 10 minutes (total) with 15-second stand and attack intervals every 2 minutes. For a challenge, try 2 x 15 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery, then 3 x 12 minutes total with 6 minutes recovery, then 2 x 20 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery.

3. Ladder Intervals

This workout simulates the demands of racing. A rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 (level 8 in the workout) is about 90 to 100 percent of threshold power, RPE 9 (level 9 in the workout) is 100 to 110 percent of threshold, and RPE 10 or level 10 is 115 percent of threshold.

indoor cycling workouts

Zack Kutos

Total time: 72 to 87 minutes

Make it harder: Add 30 seconds to each rung (levels 8, 9, and 10) of the ladder, then add 1 minute.

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