This HIIT Bike Workout Will Get Your Heart Rate Up Without Killing Your Joints

Ditch your burpees and follow this HIIT bike workout to build stamina and gain muscle — no jumping required.

Woman performing a HIIT bike workout
Photo: SimonSkafar/Getty

For people who despise spending a huge chunk of their free time on cardio machines at the gym, high-intensity interval training workouts can easily be considered a panacea. They improve your aerobic capacity, burn a ton of calories, flood you with mood-boosting endorphins — and do it all in less time than lower-intensity workouts.

No matter how much you love those jump squats and burpees, though, your body (or neighbors) might not be too pleased with the constant impact of these moves. “If you’re doing HIIT-style running or cardio movements that aren’t on a piece of equipment, like a bike, you can end up feeling really sore or get pain in your knees or in other joints,” says Ashley Davies, a certified group fitness instructor and former Flywheel cycling instructor.

But high-intensity workouts don’t always need to be high-impact. One solution: HIIT bike workouts. With quick rounds of sprints and recovery periods followed by a few minutes of steady-state cycling at a "jogging" pace, HIIT bike workouts give you the same perks as plyometric-centric interval training while being easy on your body. “The bike reduces so much of that impact, and you can still get your heart rate up without all the stress,” says Davies.

HIIT bike workouts can also elevate your strength in a way that idly pedaling around on a stationary bike can’t. If you’re riding at a slow, steady pace throughout your entire workout every single day, your body is going to acclimate to that intensity and your fitness level will eventually plateau, explains Davies. On the flip side, a HIIT bike workout that continuously challenges you will lead to muscle breakdown, and with proper recovery, allow them to build back to be even stronger, she explains. Plus, by keeping a steady pace for a few minutes following each HIIT-recovery period — rather than coming to a complete stop and suddenly starting up again — you’ll also build stamina, she adds. The result: Major muscle gains and the ability to power through a cycling class without feeling completely wiped.

BTW, if standing up out of the saddle whilst pedaling freaks you out, you’ll be glad to know that snazzy choreography isn’t necessary to get a killer HIIT bike workout. While these moves do challenge your core, they also require *a lot* of focus, and you may not be able to reach the same high speeds or use the same resistance as you would with your booty firmly planted, which can make for a less intense workout overall, says Davies. So when you're powering through one of the high-intensity intervals, stay put and just focus on pedaling with all your might.

Ready to give HIIT bike workouts a shot? Follow Davies’ plan two to three times a week to get all its perks — just remember to supplement the workout with yoga or other types of concentrated stretching to keep your body balanced, she says. “HIIT is just super strenuous on the body,” she explains. “There’s mental transformation because it's challenging, physical transformation because the body’s shocked by the constant changes, and it transforms your performance by increasing your stamina and ability to go harder and faster and longer. But because it does all those things, it is a lot of stress on the body and you need to help it recover.”

21-Minute HIIT Bike Workout

As you power through this HIIT bike workout, aim to reach Davies' recommended revolutions per minute (RPMs) — but if you can't, don't stress it. Instead, use your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to guide your speed and, if you're adding it, resistance. During the steady state ride, feel free to come out of the saddle if you want to add some light core work, just aim to stay within the low end of the recommended RPMs. (

21-Minute HIIT Bike Workout Graphic
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong
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