4 Stationary Bike Workouts That Burn Fat
Unless you’re in a pounding-beats, heart-pumping group class, stationary bike workouts don’t exactly scream excitement. No matter where you are—from a health club to a dinky hotel or apartment complex gym—you’re bound to find at least one stationary bike. If you’re inclined to walk right past that lone bike and hop on the treadmill instead, consider giving it a chance next time. Done right, stationary bike workouts are no joke.
“Stationary bikes are great for everyone of all fitness levels,” Jennifer Tallman, indoor cycling instructor at New York Sports Clubs, tells SELF. “Workouts on the bike build your cardiovascular endurance and strength in your legs, which translates to benefits off the bike, too.” Since biking is a relatively low-impact workout, these machines are helpful for those recovering from injuries—just be sure you get fitted properly to help avoid knee issues, and always check in with your doctor if you’re dealing with a specific injury. With very few bells and whistles, they’re also great for beginners or anyone looking to simply add some diversity to their fitness regimen.
If group workouts aren’t your jam, you don’t have to join a class at your gym, or book a spot in a SoulCycle or Flywheel class to log great stationary bike workouts. You can ride solo and kick your own butt on the machine, too. Since you can control the speed and resistance levels on the bike, you can decide how to challenge yourself—it’s completely customizable to your fitness level and goals.
Working out regularly is great for your body and mind, and is and should be a goal unto itself. But if you have another specific goal—like losing weight, or lowering body fat percentage, or building muscle—you’ll need to pair your workout routine with a strategic and healthy nutrition plan. For certain goals, like weight loss, that means creating a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume in a day), which requires making sure to eat quality caloriesand watching portion sizes.
For anyone who has a history of disordered eating, even if you’re in recovery, you should speak with a doctor before you pursue any weight-loss goal, including starting a new exercise routine. And even if you don’t have a history of disordered eating, it’s really important to have realistic expectations and make sure you’re pursuing weight loss or body composition changes in a healthy way. The truth is that weight loss, fat loss, muscle building, or other body composition goals are never just about one thing—in order to make changes, you need to look at your life and habits in a holistic way. And it can take a lot of time to see results. Many factors come into play—like getting good sleep, managing stress levels, genetics, health conditions, and the medicines you take. And your fitness routine itself has to be varied and include both cardio and strength training for real change to occur.
Whether you’re looking for a good low-impact workout to burn calories, are trying to develop a steady fitness routine, or simply need a new way to beat gym boredom, try these four trainer-recommended indoor cycling workouts.
1. Crush this 20-minute interval workout that alternates between easy, moderate, hard, and all-out levels of exertion.
Tallman suggests doing intervals, rather than cycling at a steady state, to get the biggest fat-burning payoff on a stationary bike. “Working on a scale of your own perceived exertion (easy, moderate, hard, all-out), and utilizing the resistance, is going to get you the most bang for your buck.” She provides some notes on what each “perceived exertion” level feels like below, so you can get an idea of how much to push yourself in each part of this workout.
Easy = This is a flat road (with a slight base resistance) and you’re moving at a pace you could hold all day.
Moderate = This will start to feel like work but is still maintainable. You’ll notice that your breathing will get a bit heavier, too. “You could talk here but not in full sentences.” You should use enough resistance that you feel like you’re on a slight incline up a small hill.
Hard = You are working! “Breathing is heavy and it feels hard to hold this. You could say a word or two, but you wouldn’t want to!” You should be using medium to heavy resistance at this point.
All-Out = Give an everything-you’ve-got level of effort, using the heaviest resistance you can handle, while still being able to push your legs. “You shouldn’t be able to speak during this, you want this to be OVER!”