Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | February 12, 2009

High Impact Cycling Workouts

   In several previous posts, I have offered a variety of resources, tips and information for improving cycling performance.  This has included three posts on Cycling Your Way to Health, three on Improving Your Cycling Performance, and four more on Improving Cycling Performance with Periodization.  In those articles, I promised to post some cycling workouts which I will be doing over the next few weeks.  In order for you to gain the greatest benefit, I will provide these workouts in a downloadable PDF format so you can print and use them at your leisure.  Each workout will describe:

  1. The time needed to complete the session.
  2. The primary goal of the workout.
  3. The intensity level expressed as a percentage of maximal heart rate.
  4. The gearing and cadence (RPM) requirements for the workout.
  5. The terrain and conditions needed to maximize the effectiveness of the workout.
  6. How to perform the workout.

To get the most out of these workouts, I strongly urge you to download and read the attached issue of my Performance Cycling newsletter entitled Heart Rate Training for Cyclists.  It will introduce the concept of “training with heart rate” for cyclists and describe the five Heart Rate Training Zones.  I also suggest you read the following blog posts to learn how you can calculate your own training zones.  Once you understand this process, you will be able to use the cycling workouts more effectively:

  1. Calculating Your Heart Rate Training Zones
  2. Calculating Your Training Zones with the Karvonen Method
  3. Determining Maximum Heart Rate for Cyclists

Please note, if you will be working at Heart Rate Training Zone 3 or higher (or performing the maximum heart rate test for cyclists), I suggest you obtain approval from your physician for high intensity exercise!

NEXT POST – February 16, 2009

High Impact Cycling Workout #1 – Steady Spinning



  1. Hello, your blog is very interesting and informative. I’ve just downloaded the information.

    I’ve recently taken up cycling to improve my fitness and am still new to terms like ‘cadence’. Is it possible to explain such terms in the future for beginners?

    Many thanks.

  2. Hi Cycle Newbie! I’m glad you have taken up cycling. I will make sure I explain terms like cadence (your pedal rate measured in revolutions per minute – RPM) in future posts. Keep spinning!


  3. Thank you very much.

  4. I have a question for you. My boyfriend who has been cycling religiously for about 6 years can’t seem to raise his heart rate any more while riding.(He avg about 110 to 130) He thinks this is a bad thing. I however, think this is a very good thing because he has trained his body to be able to cycle for long periods of time without using all of his energy. I believe it is the “Said Principle”. I also told him that in oreder to raise his heart rate he has to more intnese and longer workouts( he rides anywhere from 2 to 4 hours each time). Can you shed some light on this?


    • Hi Denise,

      Thank you for your excellent question. You are right about raising heart rate with more intense workouts. You’re boyfriend won’t have any trouble raising his heart rate if he does one of the following: maintain typical gearing and increase cadence, maintain typical cadence and increase gearing, or increase both cadence and gearing (I don’t recommend this one). The best way to do this is with interval workouts, which consist of a hard effort followed by a period of rest (e.g., easy spinning). However, the big question is, “what are his cycling goals?” If he wants to become stronger and faster, he will definitely need to do more intense workouts. Using some of the High Impact Cycling Workouts I have posted on this blog will really help. If he just wants to do long rides at a easy to moderate pace, what he is doing is fine. The good news is he seems to have a very good base. I suggest he try to incorporate one or two shorter and more intense workouts every week to improve his fitness level. I hope this helps!


  5. Hi.
    This blog is really helpful. I have a question related to spinning/indoor cycling and joints. I have been taking anti-inflamatory pills for my knee joint (not sure how exactly it has been damaged) and have been told to avoid high impact workouts. I know this would rule out exercises such as running and step aerobics but I was wondering whether, with my injury, spinning/indoor cycling would cause any lasting damage to my knee joint?
    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards,

    • Hi Rachelle, thank you for your question. I can’t speak specifically to your injury due to a lack of information, however, as a general rule cycling can be an excellent form of exercise for those suffereing with knee problems. Remember to keep two points in mind. First, bike fit is very important. With an improper bike fit, a person with healthy knees can have knee joint problems. Second, emphasize low gearing/low resistance (i.e., easy to turn) and high cadence (RPM). Spinning big gears/high resistance is a good way to injure your knees. I also suggest you speak with your physician to get his/her input. I hope this helps!


  6. Hi,

    I’ve been a cyclist for a long time. I’m trying to recover from my first hip flexor injury, which had me off the bike for almost a year while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with my back. I rode my bike every day, worked hard/outdoors and rode home afterwards. eventually i picked up something too-heavy at work after a long early-morning hill climbing session. Bike fit was not an issue, but over-training was. I will be stretching and resting much more frequently when i am recovered.

    (it wasnt my back, it’s my hip flexor muscles and surrounding tendons and bursae!)

    how would you approach recovery, in terms of actual on-the-bike work, once my therapists, doctors and myself get to that point?

    I would like to be able to spend a whole day riding as soon as possible, but I am scared that i will re-aggravate my hip flexor injury once it settles down. . .

    • Hi Dom, thank you for your question. You are on the right track with your thinking, especially in two areas. First, make sure you get a thumbs-up from your doctor and physical therapist for returning to cycling. The last thing you want to do is aggravate the injury and you are much more likely to do this without sufficient recovery. Second, you want to start slow and build up over an extended period of time. One suggestion I have is to begin your recovery cycling on an indoor trainer. While it is not the most exciting form of riding, it is safer for a recovering athlete because it allows you to control more of the situational variables (i.e., wind, terrain, temperature, road conditions). Also, you don’t have to worry about crashing on a stationary bike! Another suggestion is to consider what caused the injury in the first place. You mentioned lifting something too heavy at work, but you also stated that overtraining was a problem. Which of these caused your injury? Was it a combination of both? What makes you think you were overtraining? It’s important to be clear because, obviously, you want to avoid doing this again. Once you’re back on the bike I suggest you start by riding no more than every other day for at least the first month. This will give your body a chance to recover from each ride. Start with no more than 1/4 (or even less) of the mileage you were riding prior to your injury and do not increase by more than 10% on a weekly basis (i.e., if you ride 30 miles the first week, you should ride no more than 33 miles the second week). In fact, based on how you feel, you might want to keep mileage amounts the same each week for the first month. The most important advice I can give you is to listen to your body. It really does tell you want you need to know. The problem is we don’t always listen! If you feel tired, you need rest. If you feel really sore, you’re overdoing it. If you allow your body sufficient recovery, you will get stronger and be able to perform longer and longer rides over time. I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Best of luck to you!


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