High intensity interval training (HIIT) is no longer a rising trend in the fitness community. It has become a staple exercise format.

Many experts and athletes praise practicing these short, yet very intense bouts of exercise as a way to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, burn off fat, maintain muscle mass, increase your strength, and improve speed. All these benefits clearly show practicing HIIT workouts can be an integral part of your training as a cyclist.

But finding the perfect routine to complement your regular rides isn’t always easy, especially with the countless options out there. So here, we have the best HIIT workouts you can do both on and off the bike. Keep in mind, it’s best to incorporate HIIT workouts into your training once or twice a week.

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The Science Behind HIIT Workouts

There is a mountain of research to back up the health and fitness benefits that experts claim you gain from practicing HIIT workouts. For example, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found triathletes who followed a five-week HIIT-based running plan saw improvements in athletic performance, measured by their swim, ride, and run times.

HIIT training can also improve health, according to research. One study published in the Journal of Physiology found completing one HIIT session can help lower risk for colon cancer.

HIIT workouts come in all shapes and sizes, too, and you don’t always have to do them on a bike to gain the benefits. 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. Another study found that incorporating kettlebell snatches into your workouts can improve VO2 max (how efficiently you consume and use oxygen). Bonus: Kettlebell workouts produce an impressive “afterburn” effect, so your metabolism stays elevated for hours after you’re done.

HIIT Workout To Do Off the Bike

Here are two workouts you can do when you don’t have the chance to saddle up and ride. Follow along in the video above with certified personal trainer Frank Baptiste so you can learn the proper form.

Mini HIIT Workout 1: The Swing & Push

This full-body interval workout combines high-energy swings with military-style push-ups to hit every single muscle in your body and keep your heart rate high.

  • Warm up with a few easy calisthenic moves (like star jacks, mountain climbers, or jump squats)
  • Perform a “Swing & Push” interval set:
    • Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
    • Rest for 15 seconds
    • Push-ups, 30 seconds
    • Rest another 15 seconds
    • Repeat 4 times

How to Do a Kettlebell Swing

  • Stand with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, with a kettlebell between feet
  • Send butt way back, hinging at hips, and bend knees slightly to grab the handle with both hands
  • Keeping back straight, drive feet into ground and engage glutes to send hips forward in line with shoulders, as you explosively swing the kettlebell up to chest level, stopping at shoulder height
  • Let gravity pull the kettlebell back down between legs so thumbs come to glutes
  • Repeat

How to Do a Push-Up

  • Start in a high plank position, wrists beneath shoulders; legs extended, feet about hip-width apart so body forms a straight line from head to heels
  • Bend elbows and lower chest toward the floor until shoulders are in line with elbows, keeping core tight and avoiding hips lifting or dipping
  • Press back up to starting position
  • Repeat

Mini HIIT Workout 2: The Combo Exercise Set

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.

  • Warm up with a few easy calisthenic moves
  • Perform a sumo pull to press and push-up to side plank interval set:
    • Sumo pull to press, 30 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
    • Push-up to side plank, 30 seconds
    • Rest another 15 seconds
    • Repeat 4 times

How to Do a Sumo Pull to Press

  • Stand with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out about 45 degrees, holding one kettlebell with both hands
  • Squat down and place the kettlebell on the floor between feet
  • Stand up and lift the weight to chest height with elbows out wide, flipping grip to grab the sides of the handle
  • Then push the kettlebell straight up overhead
  • Lower it to chest and assume the original grip before squatting and placing the kettlebell on the floor
  • Return to the starting position
  • Repeat

How to Do a Push-Up to Side Plank

  • Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders; legs extended, feet about hip-width apart
  • Bend elbows and lower chest to floor until shoulders and elbows are in line
  • Press back up to start, then immediately roll to the right into a side plank, reaching to the sky with left hand
  • Return push-up position
  • Repeat to the left
  • Continue alternating side planks with a push-up in the middle of each
  • To make the move more challenging, add a set of light- to medium-weight dumbbells as shown above.

HIIT Workouts to Do On the Bike

Here are three 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 outlined here; beginner cyclists should extend the rest interval to 90 seconds. (Advanced riders can shorten the rest interval to 30 seconds.)

HIIT workout
Colin McSherry

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.

HIIT workoutpinterest icon
Colin McSherry

Race-Winning Intervals

These intervals were created by Hunter Allen, founder of Peaks Coaching Group, and simulate exactly how an athlete must ride to win a race. “You must attack hard enough that no one gets on your wheel, and you establish a gap,” Allen says. This is why intervals incorporate both in- and out-of-the-saddle pushes. To close out, the final sprint simulates the final sprint to the line. Each interval is measured in rate of perceived exertion (RPE), on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being easier than a soft pedal while 10 is an all-out effort.

HIIT workout
Zack Kutos

Images: Julia Hembree Smith and Ian Tuttle; Video: David Monk

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selene yeager
“The Fit Chick”
Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, Pn1 certified nutrition coach, pro licensed off road racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.