The Best HIIT Workouts for Cyclists

Do these high-intensity interval routines when time is tight to get fit fast - on and off the bike.


Selene Yeager |

By now you’ve heard all the (well-earned) hype surrounding high intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. These short, very intense workouts boost your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, improve insulin sensitivity, and burn off fat all while helping you maintain lean muscle mass, and of course make you faster and stronger on the bike.

They’re also clutch for when you’re strapped for time and have to make every second count (and have no fear, you’ll be counting the seconds when you do these!). You also don’t even need a bike to get them done (though, of course, a bike is best since training on a bike is the best way to get fitter and faster on a bike). Here are the best HIIT workouts for both on and off the bike to help you get started.

On the Bike HIIT

Here are two quick HIIT workouts you can do on your bike. Twice a week is plenty for these hard-hitting sessions because your body needs the time to recover so you can come back stronger. If you’re super strapped for time, you can cut out one interval set to make it even shorter. Grab your timer and go!

Quick and Dirty 30s

Thirty seconds is the ultimate HIIT duration – just long enough that you can really ramp it up full throttle, but not so long that you fizzle out before it’s over. Experienced riders can follow the Dirty 30s as they’re prescribed here; beginner cyclists should extend the rest interval to 90 seconds. (Advanced riders can shorten the rest interval to 30 seconds.)

Warm up for 10 minutes.
Perform an interval training set:

  • Push your effort as hard as you can go for 30 seconds.
  • Pedal easy for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times.
  • After the final interval, pedal easy for 4 minutes.
  • Repeat the entire sequence 2 more times for a total of 3 interval sets.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

Descending Miracle Intervals

Olympic coach Gale Bernhardt, author of Become a Fat Burning Machine prescribes a type of HIIT interval she likes to call “miracle intervals” – not because you need a miracle to finish them, but because they deliver the high intensity, fat-burning, top-end fitness benefits of traditional HIIT bouts without completely flogging you. “I like giving longer recovery intervals because you can really generate high, all-out power for each ‘on’ interval,” Bernhardt says. This workout is 45 to 55 minutes.

Warm up for 10 minutes.
Perform this Descending Interval set of 5-minute blocks:

  • 45 seconds all-out fast (4:15 easy)
  • 40 seconds all-out fast (4:20 easy)
  • 35 seconds all-out fast (4:25 easy)
  • 30 seconds all-out fast (4:30 easy)
  • 25 seconds all-out fast (4:35 easy)
  • 20 seconds all-out fast (4:40 easy)
  • 15 seconds all-out fast (4:45 easy)
  • Cool down another 5 to 10 minutes if needed.

Off the Bike

Research conducted by the American Council of Exercise found that HIIT workouts using kettlebells were “off the charts” in terms of their potential to raise your heart rate, burn calories (20.2 per minute!) and improve maximum and explosive power – all in about 20 minutes. Bonus: Kettlebell workouts produce an impressive “afterburn” effect, so your metabolism stays elevated for hours after you’re done. Here are two workouts you can do when you don’t have the chance to saddle up and ride.

The Swing & Push

This full-body “Tabata-style” or roughly one-minute workout combines high-energy swings with military-style pushups to hit every single muscle in your body and keep your heart rate high.

Warm up with a few easy calisthenic moves (such as jumping jacks).
Perform a “Swing & Push” interval set:

  • Do kettlebell swings for 30 seconds.
  • Rest for 15 seconds.
  • Do pushups for 30 seconds.
  • Rest another 15 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times.
HIIT WORKOUTS
Mitch Mandell

How to:

Kettlebell Swing:
Stand with feet wide apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands, arms hanging down in front of you. Keeping your back straight, squat back, seding your hips way back and swinging the kettlebell between your legs and behind your hips. Stand up, pressing your hips forward and swinging the ‘bell up to chest level.

Pushup: Start in a high plank position, wrists beneath shoulders; legs extended, feet about hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor until your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Keep core tight and don’t let hips lift or dip. Press back up to starting position.

Snatch, Pull and Press, Pushup, Side Plank

This dynamic combo targets all your major cycling muscles as well as many of your smaller supporting muscles. Plus, it’s absolutely killer for your core, to boot.

Warm up with a few easy calisthenic moves.
Perform a Snatch, Pull and Press, and Push Plank interval set:

  • Do snatch, pull and presses for 30 seconds.
  • Rest 15 seconds.
  • Do push planks for 30 seconds.
  • Rest another 15 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times.
HIIT WORKOUTS
Mitch Mandell

How to:

Snatch, Pull and Press: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out about 45 degrees, holding a kettlebell with both hands. Squat down and place the kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Stand up and lift the weight to chest height. Grab the sides of the handle and push the kettlebell straight overhead. Lower it to your chest and assume the original grip before placing the kettlebell on the grain and returning to the starting position.

HIIT WORKOUTS
Mitch Mandell

Pushup to Side Plank: Start in a high plank position, arms extended, hands beneath your shoulders; legs extended, feet about hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor until your shoulders and elbows are in line. Push back to start, then immediately roll to the right, reaching to the sky with your left hand, so your body forms a side plank. Roll back to push-up position. Repeat to the left. Alternate throughout.

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