There are exercise bikes, and then there is the Wattbike. When it launched in 2008, the Wattbike quickly became the go-to indoor option for elite cyclists and it is now widely available for us mere mortals to ride as well. While you might not want to stump up the £2,250 it costs to buy your own Wattbike, they are found in several gym chains including Virgin Active and Fitness First, as well as boutique studios.
You can find your nearest Wattbike-equipped gym on the Wattbike website (opens in new tab) – and you should, because it takes indoor cycling to another level. The Wattbike tracks and displays a huge amount of info on your ride, and can actively help improve your technique by telling you if you have an imbalance in how much force you’re putting through each pedal, or if your stroke isn’t as smooth as it could be. The Wattbike also offers as realistic a ride as you can hope to find on an indoor bike, so training on it will easily translate to outdoor success, and a range of resistance that goes up to an eye-watering 3,760W to accommodate even the toughest of workouts.
Once you’ve located a Wattbike, try one of these workouts to boost your endurance or strength on the bike, or simply to burn a boatload of calories.
Building up your endurance when you have less than an hour to spend on the exercise bike can be a tough task, but it is possible, and this 40-minute session called Eat The Elephant is a great place to start. The workout starts with a seven- to eight-minute warm-up, then goes into a solid 30 minutes at a moderate intensity well below your functional threshold power (or how hard you can go for somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour), followed by a warm-down until the time is up. You won’t fall off the bike a broken man like you might after a savage intervals session, but the endurance benefits of the sustained effort will become clear when you breeze through your next sportive.
“This is a time-efficient aerobic endurance training session that is primarily about cultivating a deeper aerobic base,” says Adam Daniel, master trainer for Wattbike. “It includes all the physiological adaptations inherent in long, steady, low-intensity riding like improved fat metabolism, better oxygen delivery and glycogen conservation, lower heart rate at higher power outputs, and improved work efficiency.
“When done regularly this session will also mean you’ll require less food, especially carbohydrate, to fuel your effort during your events.”
You can find the Eat The Elephant workout on the free Wattbike Hub (opens in new tab) app (App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab)), and if you link it to the Wattbike you’re using, you’ll be guided through the workout to ensure you’re working at the correct level throughout.
Maintain an average power output and cadence for 30 minutes. Record the average power and total distance covered.
“This is a staple cycling session for cardiovascular endurance,” says Virgin Active's Andy Birch. “As your body gets used to the demands of this session it will become more efficient at supplying your muscles with oxygen. So if you start to find that it becomes easier, don’t gloat. Instead, increase your power and aim to cover a greater distance to keep your cardio climbing.”
Form tip: “Use the Wattbike’s Polar View display to perfect your cycling technique. If it displays a figure of eight or peanut shape you’re losing power through your pedal stroke. Imagine there’s mud on the sole of your shoe. Now with each downward stroke try to scrape that mud off. This will engage your hamstrings and should make the display look more like a sausage shape.”
Goal: Fat loss
Intervals of 20 seconds sprinting and 40 seconds recovery for 20 minutes. For each sprint period aim to maintain an average power output (similar to maintaining a speed on a regular exercise bike).
“High intensity interval training (HIIT) kicks your metabolism into overdrive. It increases EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) – or what’s sometimes referred to as ‘afterburn’ – resulting in an elevated fat loss state for up to 24 hours after you finish your workout. The greater the intensity, the longer your body burns fat.”
Form tip: “If you’re having to engage your upper body to drive through the stroke you may have too much resistance. If you’re bouncing in the saddle, there may be too little resistance.”
Four 300m sprints as fast as possible with one minute of rest between each. Record your maximum power output on each sprint.
“You won’t be able to maintain your maximum speed for long but these short bursts of all-out power will have a similar effect to weight training. They’ll cause a surge in your human growth hormone and testosterone levels and increase the number of fast-twitch fibres in your leg muscles. The result: stronger, more powerful quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.”
Form tip: “Use the Polar View display to make sure you’re cycling evenly with each leg and not over-reliant on one. Aim for a 50:50 balance for even muscle development. And resist standing out of the saddle as this takes the tension away from your legs and reduces the muscle-building benefit of the session.”
Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.
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