Something magical happens when you get on a bike—the world seems to melt away and you’re able to focus on the present moment. It’s no wonder indoor cycling has a fleet of devoted enthusiasts. Whether you're a newbie, a seasoned cyclist, or just looking for a fun way to stay active, this guide is packed with everything you need to know about indoor cycling workouts, from the incredible health benefits of indoor cycling to technique, form tips, and injury prevention, plus how to build a cycling workout routine.
From perfect posture and bike setup to understanding resistance and cadence, our guide has all the clear instructions you need to refine your form and become an indoor cycling pro. And with the diverse range of indoor cycling workouts on the Peloton Bike and Bike+ and the Peloton App, you'll always be challenged and motivated. (More on that below!)
If you’re ready for improved cardiovascular health, increased strength, more flexibility, and a total body workout that'll boost your physical and mental wellbeing, read on about indoor cycling and get expert tips from Peloton instructor, Hannah Corbin.
Indoor Cycling Workouts
The popularity of indoor cycling has grown substantially over the last decade (OK, we’ll take a little credit.) Indoor cycling workouts are an engaging and efficient way to improve cardiovascular health, build strength, and burn calories. Workouts on the bike are not only a fun and accessible way to exercise with numerous physical health benefits, but they also help to boost your mood.
These are some of the many reasons why so many people have become major indoor cycling enthusiasts.
Training for Overall Fitness
Many riders join an indoor cycling workout class or invest in equipment like a Peloton Bike or Bike+ to improve their overall physical fitness. Indoor cycling is a great way to increase your heart health and build endurance and strength. Studies show that cycling can also improve your mood and mental well-being.
Off-Season and Race Training
If you live in a climate where the weather isn’t always nice enough for an outdoor bike ride, indoor cycling is a great option. There are various class types you can take on an indoor bike to provide a similar stimulus and challenge to what you might get on the road, no matter the weather. For those training for a road race, indoor cycling can also sometimes be a more convenient way to squeeze miles into an otherwise busy schedule.
Cross-Training and HIIT Cycling Workouts
Indoor cycling can really benefit anyone looking to cross-train, whether you spend most of your time running, strength training, or playing a sport. Those looking to cross-train often gravitate towards Peloton’s HIIT workouts, designed to give you a maximum cardio workout in 20 to 30 minutes, or longer rides on days when you need a bit more endurance training.
Being Part of a Community
Another reason people take to indoor cycling is the opportunity to make connections with a community, either in person or online, or ideally, both. (Just ask the #8ampelomomcrew, #mochaspindocs, or the Sundays with Love crew.) The possibilities for camaraderie are endless, and it can feel great to find instructors whose classes you go back to time and again. Hearing your favorite trainer cheer you on can motivate you as you power through your cycling achievements.
As Hannah shares, "I love to see all of the tags from people's workouts, across the globe. Transformations are all across the board, but my proudest moments are when others clear their mind of 'can't' and step into the confidence that might have been temporarily lost along the way. Being better than your best excuse is no small feat, but here at Peloton, we choose it every day."
Indoor Cycling Benefits
That said, indoor cycling provides a wealth of benefits to a person’s day-to-day life and health beyond community building and cross-training. It's also a joint-friendly, science-approved way to boost your cardiovascular health. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research explored indoor cycling's amazing benefits and found that it actively contributed to better aerobic capacity and lowered blood pressure. No wonder it's become the go-to choice for a healthier lifestyle. Below is a comprehensive list of advantages you’ll enjoy as part of your indoor cycling journey:
Full Body Workout: Indoor cycling targets various muscle groups, from your core to your lower body, ensuring a well-rounded fitness regimen.
Boosted Endurance: Consistent indoor cycling sessions help improve your stamina and resilience, empowering you to tackle everyday challenges with greater ease.
Increased Muscular Strength: Indoor cycling workouts enhance muscle tone and strength, particularly in your legs, glutes, and core.
Enhanced Calorie Burning: Indoor cycling has been shown to support enhanced calorie burning both during the workout and afterwards, facilitating weight loss and management.
Low-impact Exercise: Indoor cycling is easy on your joints, making it an ideal workout option for individuals with joint concerns or those seeking a low-impact alternative.
Reduced stress levels: The engaging atmosphere of our sessions uplifts your spirits and eases tension, promoting enhanced mental well-being. Combined with the widely recognized impact of physical activity on stress reduction, indoor cycling serves as an excellent mental health resource.
Increased flexibility: Indoor cycling workouts incorporate stretching and mobility exercises, promoting enhanced flexibility and range of motion.
Customizable resistance: Unlike cycling outdoors, indoor cycling gives you the option of increasing or reducing your resistance when you feel like it, enabling a tailored workout experience that caters to your individual fitness goals and progress.
When it comes to a well-rounded workout, indoor cycling certainly has it’s advantages.
The Indoor Cycling Bike
Let's take a closer look at what both the Bike and Bike+ have to offer.
Access to to thousands of Peloton classes: Your All-Access Membership gives you access to everything Peloton has to offer.
High-quality pedals: Feature toe cages and SPD-compatible cleat options, catering to casual riders and cycling enthusiasts alike.
Customizable resistance levels: Offer a personalized workout experience, from easy rides to challenging climbs.
Adjustable seat and handlebars: Ensure a comfortable, tailored riding position for every user.
Built-in water bottle holders and dumbbell racks: Support a full-body workout by accommodating essential equipment.
High-definition touchscreen: Connects you to an immersive world of expert-led classes and a supportive community.
One of the superpowers of Peloton’s Bikes is their ability to track and show real-time metrics like cadence, resistance, and heart rate. This data lets you keep an eye on your progress, set personal goals, and fine-tune your workout intensity. Plus, the interactive nature of our platform creates a fantastic sense of community among users who can join group rides, compete on leaderboards, and celebrate milestones together.
When it comes to building your fitness with Peloton, setting and tracking achievable goals is key. Here's what our expert Hannah had to say about it:
“The best thing about Peloton (aside from the incredible community) is the variety! That also applies to measuring progress. For the competitive brains, there are numbers to track from output, to power zones to your capacity within heart rate zones. For the I'm-in-the-mood-to-have-fun days, there are music and themed classes where I encourage members to step back and measure their success by how much fun they're having!"
Setting Up Your Bike
Setting up your bike correctly ensures a comfortable and efficient workout experience. Here are some tips for adjusting the various components of your bike:
Seat Height: Adjust the seat height by loosening the seat post adjustment knob and raising or lowering the seat to align with your hip bone when standing next to the bike. Re-tighten the knob securely once the correct height is achieved. A quick test is to sit on the bike with one foot on the lowest pedal position; your leg should be slightly bent, not fully extended.
Seat Fore/Aft Position: Loosen the seat slider adjustment knob and slide the seat forward or backward to find a comfortable position. Ideally, when you place your feet on the pedals and bring the cranks parallel to the floor, your front knee should be directly above the center of the pedal. Tighten the knob once the proper position is found.
Handlebar Height: Adjust the handlebar height by loosening the handlebar post adjustment knob and raising or lowering the handlebars to a comfortable level. A higher position can provide more comfort for beginners, while a lower position can offer a more aggressive and race-like feel. Ensure your back remains straight and shoulders relaxed when gripping the handlebars, then re-tighten the knob.
Handlebar Distance: You may be able to adjust the handlebar distance (fore/aft). If possible, loosen the adjustment knob and slide the handlebars forward or backward to find a comfortable position where your elbows are slightly bent when holding the handlebars. Tighten the knob once the proper position is found.
Pedals: Make sure the pedals are securely fastened to the bike's crank arms. If using cycling shoes, adjust the cleats on your shoes so that they align with the pedal's clip-in mechanism, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit.
By taking the time to set up your bike correctly, you can maximize your workout efficiency, minimize the risk of injury, and enjoy a more comfortable and engaging exercise experience.
Who is Indoor Cycling For?
The simple answer? Everyone! Indoor cycling hosts a diverse community of riders that includes long-time fitness enthusiasts and beginners alike, all who share a common goal: improving their health and fitness. By adjusting resistance and speed, you can personalize the workout intensity to suit your needs. And the best part? Science backs it up!
Research by the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that indoor cycling can significantly improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. Participants in the study also experienced a reduction in body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass.
For riders looking to hit a specific fitness goal, indoor cycling is a versatile solution. Want a great calorie burn? A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a 45-minute indoor cycling session can burn between 350 to 600 calories, depending on the workout intensity. For those looking to improve athletic performance, indoor cycling helps build muscle strength and endurance, especially in the lower body. It's also a valuable cross-training tool for various sports, like running, offering cardiovascular endurance and lower body strength without added joint impact.
In a nutshell, indoor cycling is an adaptable and effective form of exercise that offers countless health benefits. From its low-impact nature to the convenience of at-home workouts, cycling provides a well-rounded solution for individuals seeking to improve their fitness and overall well-being.
The Importance of Injury Prevention and Recovery
An important consideration when training on an indoor stationary bike is injury prevention and recovery. As our instructor Hannah wisely points out, "Overtraining and not taking time to stretch/foam roll are common mistakes. Going from 0-100 in the first weeks and months can be harmful. Instead, listen to how your body is feeling 'today.' You can't rush greatness. Show your tired, hard-working muscles some love off the bike. Stretching and foam rolling are a must to stay injury-free and live as pain-free a life as possible."
Prioritizing safety is crucial. By following your instructors' advice on proper form and technique and listening to your body, you can mitigate the risk of injury. Adjusting exercises and resistance levels according to comfort is also essential. It’s important to find a balance between pushing yourself too hard and not enough. Following a program is a great way to get acclimated more safely, especially as a new cyclist. For example, the You Can Ride program gives you a glimpse at beginner-level classes and helps you move into the next category of difficulty.
Another important safety factor? The warm-up and cool-down. Incorporating warm-up and cool-down exercises into your workouts further helps minimize injury risks. Warm-ups enhance blood flow and flexibility, promoting safer workouts, while cool-downs alleviate muscle soreness and stiffness, easing your body back to its resting state.
Remember, recovery is as crucial as injury prevention. Adequate rest and recovery, as recommended by the National Institutes of Health, allow your body to repair tissues, build strength, and prevent overuse injuries. Prioritize sleep, hydration, and rest days, while incorporating stretching, foam rolling, and massage to alleviate muscle tightness and soreness. Hannah added, “Hydration is key when losing as much sweat as you do in indoor cycling. I always say to start by drinking a minimum of half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day and go from there.”
As a low-impact exercise, cycling is also ideal if you’re dealing with any issues in the knees, hips, and ankles and are cleared by your doctor for exercise, as it enables you to maintain cardiovascular fitness without aggravating existing issues, especially around the knees, hips, and ankles. The Arthritis Foundation highlights the benefits of using a stationary bike for knee injury recovery, as it strengthens surrounding muscles and improves joint stability without risking further damage.
Indoor Cycling and Cross-Training
Indoor cycling and cross-training go hand in hand. Cycling as a method of cross-training is great if you focus primarily on workouts like strength training and yoga. It’s also a great central cardio option, pairing well with everything from barre to Pilates to boxing.
If cycling is your main form of exercise, integrating cross-training can help prevent overuse injuries, reduce boredom, and promote well-rounded physical development. Below are some common cross-training methods you can start to add to your routine:
Strength Training: Strength training exercises help develop the specific muscle groups used in cycling, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. Incorporating strength training can improve your cycling endurance, power output, and overall performance.
Yoga: Yoga enhances flexibility, balance, and core strength, all of which are essential for cycling. Regular yoga practice can help prevent injuries, improve posture, and promote better breathing techniques, leading to more efficient cycling.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by recovery periods. These sessions can improve cardiovascular fitness, increase power output, and boost overall endurance, which is beneficial for cycling performance. HIIT can be done on the the Bike or as part of a strength workout.
Pilates: Pilates focuses on core strength, stability, and flexibility, all of which contribute to improved cycling technique. Strengthening these areas helps maintain proper form, leading to better power transfer and reduced risk of injury.
Ultimately, adding a cross-training feature to your workout can mean quicker and better results. The Peloton App can help you track progress, set personal goals, and monitor performance metrics such as heart rate, calorie burn, and workout duration. This data helps set benchmarks and track improvements over time, providing tangible evidence of progress and serving as an additional source of motivation. Best of all, the Peloton community can enhance your experience by fostering motivation and camaraderie through interaction, progress sharing, and friendly leaderboards.
As Hannah shared, "I love the variety at Peloton - nothing ever feels stale because you can so easily mix it up! Some people balance indoor cycling with strength and yoga, others combine it with Pilates and barre. As long as you are treating your body like it belongs to someone you love, you can't go wrong. We don't take a one-size-fits-all approach; we love to celebrate the differences in our community."
Together, indoor cycling and cross-training are an opportunity to up your fitness level in a way that leaves room for individual preferences, experience, and goals, so don’t shy away from making it part of your regimen.
What to Expect During an Indoor Cycling Class
So, you might be wondering what an actual indoor cycling class is like. Maybe you’re ready to tackle one yourself—and if so, we're excited for you! Here's a breakdown of what to expect during a Peloton Bike workout or a cycling workout through the Peloton App, to help you feel confident and prepared.
The warm-up is essential, as it prepares your body for the more intense exercise ahead. During this phase, our instructors will guide you through low-intensity movements designed to gradually increase your heart rate and warm your muscles. Expect easy pedaling, gentle stretches, and light resistance adjustments on the bike.
You'll also be introduced to the class format and the instructor's teaching style. They will explain the various metrics displayed on the Peloton screen, such as cadence (pedaling speed), resistance (how hard it is to pedal), and output (a measure of your overall effort). Instructors also discuss proper cycling form and technique to ensure you work out safely and effectively.
Main Cycling Workout
The main section of an indoor cycling class may consist of a mix of sprints, climbs, and flat roads, depending on the class focus This variety keeps the class interesting and targets different muscle groups and energy systems, providing a well-rounded workout.
High-intensity intervals or sprints are short bursts of intense effort followed by active recovery periods. Our instructors will encourage you to increase your cadence and resistance for a set duration, pushing you to work at a level of effort that feels challenging for you. The goal is to reach your maximum heart rate during these sprints, which can improve your cardiovascular fitness over time.
Climbs simulate cycling up a hill, requiring increased resistance and steady, powerful pedaling. Our instructors will guide you through a series of climbs, adjusting the resistance and cadence to mimic a hill's changing incline. Climbs help build lower body strength, particularly in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Flat roads offer a chance to recover from the more intense sections of the class while maintaining a steady pace. During these segments, our instructors will encourage you to find a comfortable cadence and resistance that allows you to catch your breath and prepare for the next challenge.
Throughout the main section, Peloton instructors provide motivation, guidance, and technique tips, helping you get the most out of your workout. If you’re on a Bike or Bike+, you'll also have the opportunity to track your progress and compare your performance to others in the class through the Peloton Leaderboard.
The cool-down phase is just as important as the warm-up, as it helps gradually lower your heart rate and prevent injury. During the cool-down, our instructors will guide you through gentle stretches and easy pedaling to help your body recover from the workout. This is also an opportunity to reflect on your performance and celebrate your achievements.
How Often Should You Cycle?
Cycling is an incredible cardio workout that not only keeps you in top shape but also boosts your overall well-being. So, how often should you hit the saddle to maximize these benefits? It all depends on your goals, current fitness level, and schedule.
If you’re new to cycling, shorter rides are a great way to ease into it. In Peloton’s Master the Basics: Cycling program, you’ll start with four 20-minute rides during the first week and slowly scale up to longer rides five times a week over the course of six weeks. Not sure if you’re ready for that? Start with two to three 20-minute rides per week. This frequency allows your body to adapt to the new activity and minimizes the risk of injury. As you build confidence and strength, feel free to increase the duration and intensity of your rides.
Looking to enhance cardiovascular fitness? Aim for four to five cycling sessions per week. Keep things interesting by mixing HIIT with longer, steady-state rides to turbocharge your progress. And always remember to listen to your body, giving it the rest and recovery it needs, especially after intense workouts.
Lastly, if you’re training for an event or race, your cycling schedule will be more goal-oriented, focusing on boosting endurance, speed, and performance. In this case, train five to six times a week, incorporating interval training, hill climbs, and extended rides, while still embracing cross-training and those essential rest and recovery days.
Does Indoor Cycling Build Muscle?
A common question we hear is: Does indoor cycling build muscle? The answer is a resounding yes! Although the extent of muscle development depends on everything from genetics to how frequently you’re exercising to nutrition, indoor cycling is a fantastic way to build muscles.
Indoor cycling primarily targets the lower body, focusing on the legs, glutes, and core. During an indoor cycling workout, you'll fire up these specific muscles:
Quadriceps: These powerful muscles at the front of your thighs extend the knee and are crucial for pedaling.
Hamstrings: Located at the back of your thighs, these muscles bend the knee and assist in the upward pedal stroke.
Glutes: Particularly the gluteus maximus, these muscles are responsible for hip extension and play a significant role in the downward pedal stroke.
Calves: Made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, your calves work to stabilize your ankles and provide power during the pedal stroke.
Core: Including the transverse abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles, your core is essential for maintaining proper posture and balance during indoor cycling.
To maximize muscle development, incorporate progressive overload into your indoor cycling routine. Gradually increase the resistance, duration, or frequency of your workouts to continually challenge and stimulate your muscles.
Don't forget to complement indoor cycling with strength training exercises to target all major muscle groups and promote overall muscle development. By embracing a well-rounded fitness routine and maintaining a balanced diet, indoor cycling can undoubtedly help you build lean muscle mass.
What to Expect in an Indoor Cycling Class with Peloton
Every Peloton cycling class is unique, from the instructor to the playlist to the class plan. The one thing that will always be true? There’s something for all fitness levels and all preferences.
Below are some of our fan-favorite types of rides:
Live Classes: Experience the energy of our live classes, where you can join fellow riders and follow a dynamic instructor in real-time. With the Leaderboard feature, track your progress, compete with others, and stay motivated. With numerous live classes scheduled daily, there's always one that fits your schedule.
On-Demand Classes: For the ultimate flexibility, our on-demand classes let you choose from a vast library of pre-recorded cycling workouts. Easily filter by class type, duration, instructor, and difficulty to find your ideal workout—and enjoy the freedom to pause or rewind as needed.
HIIT Rides: Push your limits with these challenging rides, designed to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase calorie burn, and build endurance. These rides feature intense bursts of effort followed by recovery periods, ensuring a challenging yet effective workout.
Low-Impact Rides: If you're new to Peloton or seeking a gentler workout, low-impact rides offer a joint-friendly option or a soothing recovery session. These classes emphasize a smooth cadence and consistent resistance, while still delivering an excellent cardio workout.
Power Zone Training: Elevate your cycling performance with Power Zone rides, which focus on enhancing your power output. Based on your individual FTP (Functional Threshold Power), these structured workouts target specific zones to help you build strength, stamina, and speed.
Live DJ Rides: Instructors team up with DJ John Michael, who plays a live set during the ride, adding an additional element of fun and entertainment to keep you motivated.
Themed Rides: Add a touch of fun to your routine with themed rides, centered around specific music genres, decades, movies, or events. These classes create an entertaining atmosphere that helps you stay motivated throughout your workout.
Lanebreak Rides: Love gaming? Peloton Lanebreak turns your Bike into an immersive gaming-inspired experience. Choose from a variety of playlists and levels and use your resistance knob and cadence to follow a six-lane track to the beat of the music.
Scenic Rides: Embrace the beauty of virtual outdoor experiences with our scenic rides. Cycle through stunning landscapes and immerse yourself in breathtaking views as you follow a structured workout. From tranquil countryside rides to bustling urban adventures, our scenic rides provide a visually engaging way to stay active.
Just Ride: Want to do your own thing? Put on Just Ride to cycle your way.
With so many options available on the Peloton App, there are endless options for indoor cycling workouts, from picturesque scenic rides to exhilarating high-intensity interval training. We hope this guide has provided you with the essential insights you need to make indoor cycling part of your fitness journey. Tap into the power of indoor cycling and unlock your full potential as you pedal toward better health, increased endurance, and an unrivaled sense of achievement.