Interval training involves working out at higher intensities than you would in a steady-paced cardio workout. As a result, you end up exhausted. The purpose of interval training and working yourself to exhaustion over and over with bursts of high intensity is to burn more calories, lose more fat and build more muscle in less time. Whether you want to see improvements in fitness or weight loss, add high-intensity intervals to your stationary bike workouts.
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High-Intensity Interval Training
Do high-intensity interval training workouts on a stationary bike according to your fitness level. Pedal at a pace about 50 to 60 percent of your maximal intensity for four to six minutes before doing an intensity interval. If you're new to high-intensity intervals, increase your intensity by pedaling faster or increasing your resistance for 30 to 90 seconds, going at 75 to 90 percent of your maximal intensity. Then, slow down to your steady pace for another four- to six-minute interval. Once you improve, try doing shorter intensity bursts at a higher intensity or at your maximal intensity. Start with three intensity intervals per workout, and work your way up to doing five or six.
A Tabata is an intense interval workout that only takes four minutes to do, and can be done on a stationary bike or spin bike. It's a lot safer than doing it outdoors, since you'll be pedaling at your maximal intensity. You should only do Tabata workouts once you've been doing high-intensity interval training on stationary bikes for a while. After warming up for five to 10 minutes, cycle at your maximal intensity for 20 seconds, then go at a slow recovery pace for 10 seconds. Repeat another seven times to get to four minutes to complete a Tabata.
Stationary bikes get your heart rate up fast while building your leg muscles. According to "Bicycle" magazine, cyclists whose training workouts consist of high-intensity intervals instead of steady-paced rides reach their VO2 max faster than the endurance riders, which means they get a more efficient cardiovascular workout in less time. High-intensity intervals improve the oxidative capacity of your muscles, meaning your muscles get more efficient at using oxygen. As a result, you'll become a faster cyclist and improve heart and lung health.
Switching from steady-paced cycling to doing intervals will help you lose body fat, burn more calories and build more muscle. As a result of these factors, intervals improve your weight-loss effort. A 2001 East Tennessee State University study examined a group of people doing high-intensity interval training and a group doing steady-paced cardio workouts. The high-intensity interval training group reduced their body fat by 2 percent in the eight-week study, whereas the steady-paced folks didn't lose any body fat. They also burned an extra 100 calories more after each workout than the steady-pace group. That's because the higher your intensity, the harder your body has to work during the workout and to recover afterward.