So you’ve become a fan of riding your bike indoors, and you’ve created a sweet indoor cycling gear setup. Now it’s time to up your game, and to start reaping the biggest training benefits from your indoor rides. But where should you begin? Always remember that a pedaling session on an indoor trainer can play a key role in your overall training plan, and you should approach it as a building block of your fitness and/or racing goals, just like you would any other ride. If you’re working with a coach, we recommend you consult with them for the best workout schedule for your needs. And, of course, before you engage in any strenuous riding—indoors or otherwise—always consult a medical professional.
That said, we wanted to put together a list of fun and challenging workouts that would appeal to most cyclists. And who better to aid us than the athletes of the TWENTY24 Pro Cycling team? They’re some of the biggest supporters of indoor riding and they’re leaders in the exciting realm of virtual bike racing. So whether you’re looking for specific strength and endurance gains, or you’re simply eager to shake up an otherwise bland indoor riding session, consider these options. Note: Some of these workouts will require familiarity with training with a power meter, as well as a knowledge of your FTP (these are pro-recommended efforts, after all).
“One of my favorite workouts I love to do on a trainer involves ‘sweet spot efforts,’” says Charlotte Backus. “They are really great for improving aerobic ability and FTP. This is because they train right along your threshold and increase in duration over time whilst having either shorter rests in between or low tempo rests in between. This helps push that adaptation and load to become better and more efficient with power and recovering faster.”
Your “sweet spot” is around 85% to 95% of your FTP. After properly warming up, ride in your sweet spot power range steadily for 10 minutes. Then rest with an easy recovery spin for three minutes. Repeat five times.
To become a fitter and faster bike rider, you’ll need to train to pedal harder for longer durations of time. It sounds obvious, but it’s difficult to put into practice. That’s why this type of workout—also known as low-cadence intervals—is great for an indoor trainer. You can focus on your chosen effort without worrying about traffic, stop lights, or navigating road hazards. It’s all about focus and laying down the power. These intervals can be easily varied in length of time and repetition, so if you’ve never done them before, we suggest starting off slowly with 1-2 sets of 5-8 minutes each. Once you get a feel for how your body reacts to this type of slow yet hard pedaling effort, you can increase the duration and number of sets over time. The key to maximizing the benefit from this workout is focusing on maintaining a steady, low pedaling cadence.
“These low cadence efforts occur anywhere within 100-120% of your FTP, depending on the length of the intervals,” says Jasmin Duehring. “I keep my cadence around 75 rpm, although many athletes like to even bring that down to 65-70 rpm. When trying to decide what cadence is right for you, make sure to listen to your body and increase cadence or stop the efforts if you experience any knee pain.”
“My three favorite workouts to do on an indoor trainer—and especially on Zwift—are the aforementioned sweet spot intervals and strength endurance intervals, as well as high cadence intervals,” says Shayna Powless. “High cadence intervals are easy yet tough at the same time since you have to keep your power low but the cadence high. I love this workout because it forces me to work on keeping my upper body steady while simultaneously working on my pedal stroke efficiency.”
High-cadence intervals can also help improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, since they place less emphasis on leg strength, and more emphasis on pedaling at a higher speed. This can pay dividends in many ways, including keeping your legs fresher towards the end of a long ride. Here’s a simple way to engage in a high-cadence interval workout:
Start by warming up steadily for 15-20 minutes. Then get into a gear that will allow you to maintain a cadence of 100-110 rpm throughout the session. Note that this workout is generally done in Zone 3, or around 75-90% of your FTP. Pedal at this cadence for 10 minutes, then slow your cadence and shift to an easier gear for a light recovery spin of 5 minutes. Repeat this three times in total.
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