This indoor cycling routine introduces Tabata-inspired intervals in a friendly, nonthreatening ride that provides a great workout for both beginner and advanced cyclists.
The intervals—20 seconds of all-out effort, alternating with 10 seconds of rest—help to increase both aerobic and anaerobic capacity and may keep metabolism elevated for a longer time period when compared with low-intensity, steady-state training. The quick bursts and short recoveries are a perfect fit if you have access to bikes that can accelerate and decelerate quickly; however, Tabata can be difficult to implement in classes with riders of varying experience and fitness levels.
This class offers a flexible method of Tabata training that allows participants to work at their own level. Encourage riders to listen to their bodies and control intensity by altering their tension knobs or skipping intervals to allow longer periods of rest.
Tabata for Every Rider Details
Total Time: 60 minutes
Goal: to improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity
Equipment: indoor cycling bikes
Music: One song represents each phase of the workout. Playlist selection is flexible, but it should reflect the work in the interval, so use your discretion. For the intervals, stick to approximately 4 minutes and select very quick, motivational beats (many songs are already labeled “Tabata”). The recovery intervals are around 3 minutes and vary depending on the preceding workload.
Warmup (10 minutes)
Ride at a quick clip, 80–90 revolutions per minute with a knob tension that feels like you’re riding on flat ground with some gear on the bike. Lead light upper-body stretches as you introduce the ride. Explain that the class will be made up of intervals and that the recovery will be half as long as the all-out effort. Talk about the aerobic and anaerobic benefits; let participants know that they may not feel fully recovered or ready for the next interval and that the short rest is just a small boost to keep them going while preventing total burnout.
Alternate the intervals with recovery songs to allow preparation time for the next work phase. Mention that you’ll include options with each interval so that participants can choose the level at which they’d like to work.
Start with a tension that allows riders to stand and feel as if their knees are supported. Select a speed of around 65 rpm. This “standing tension” target will be used in several other intervals during the ride. Add tension every 30–60 seconds, completing a small hill climb. Toward the end of this song, reduce tension, return to seated and find a good flat sprint (90–110 rpm). Tension should be heavy enough to keep participants from bouncing in the seat. Prepare for the first set.
Tabata Sets (42 minutes)
SET ONE: FLAT SPRINTS
Ride at 90–110 rpm, 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, 8x, 4 minutes. Give the option of completing every other sprint interval, 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off, 4x.
FIRST RECOVERY, 3 MINUTES
Recover at any tension level for 1 minute. Then increase tension to standing tension (65 rpm), 1 minute. Increase speed to 80 rpm or a little faster than comfortable for the final minute.
SET TWO: STANDING-TENSION SPRINTS
Stay seated at standing tension and sprint “all out.” Ride 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, 8x, 4 minutes. Give the option of completing every other sprint interval, 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off, 4x.
SECOND RECOVERY, 3 MINUTES
Recover at any speed for 1 minute. Then increase speed to 65 rpm and climb a hill, increasing tension every 30 seconds.
SET THREE: SLIGHTLY HEAVIER SPRINTS
Take off some tension from the second recovery hill, but keep more than in the second set. Ride seated, 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, 8x, 4 minutes. Provide option of returning to flat tension, but challenge riders to complete all intervals, skipping some only if needed.
THIRD RECOVERY, HILL, 3 MINUTES
Recover at any speed for 1 minute, then increase speed to 65 rpm and climb a hill, increasing tension every 30 seconds.
SET FOUR: HEAVY SPRINTS
Keep all tension gained in third recovery hill. Ride standing or seated, 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off, 5x, 4–5 minutes. Give the option of decreasing tension. Allow riders to skip intervals and take a longer rest if needed. Ask participants to make a note of tensions used in this set for heavy sprints and recovery, as these heavy/lighter tensions will be the focus of the fifth set.
FOURTH RECOVERY, 3 MINUTES
Decrease tension and recover at any level for 1 minute. Next, increase to 65 rpm for 1 minute and then to 80 rpm or a little faster than comfortable.
SET FIVE: HEAVY VERSUS LIGHT SPRINTS
Use the same heavy tension from set four, 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. Decrease to standing tension and ride, 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. Repeat heavy and lighter 3x, total 6 minutes. Give the option of riding all sprints at recovery tension and resting if needed.
FIFTH RECOVERY, 8 MINUTES
All of the hard work is done. Time for a recovery ride that will slowly bring riders’ heart rates down from the last peak effort:
- 2 minutes, 65–80 rpm
- 2 minutes, decrease tension, 90 rpm
- 2 minutes, 80 rpm
- 2 minutes, decrease tension, 80 rpm (ease off)
Cooldown (8 minutes)
Ride at “easy road” speed while stretching chest, triceps, deltoids, lats. Stop pedaling and exit the bike to stretch hamstrings, quads, calves and gluteals. Congratulate your class on a job well done!