The airbike is a near total-body, beast of a conditioning tool.
I’ve been an avid user and advocate of airbikes for over 10 years so for what’s it worth, I will speak on their effectiveness as a conditioning tool.
I love to hate on my Assault Bike, always have.
But don’t let the rumors about airbikes scare you off. Any workout on an airbike can be scaled to suit your current fitness level or goals for the workout. Not every training session needs to be “torturous” or end of days.
My experience with airbikes…
During the first 8 years, I owned the only airbike on the market, a large fan Schwinn Airdyne. It was a vintage model: gold metal frame, plenty loud and weighed as much as a refrigerator. For $150 on Craigslist, I couldn’t pass it up.
The problem with the Airdyne bike is they break down. Mine blew apart on me, literally. Others who have owned these older model Airdyne bikes have probably had similar experiences. The Airdyne was a great piece of equipment but had poor durability when used consistently with higher intensity workouts.
The damage proved too much to repair (finding replacement parts is a nightmare), so I chose to invest in the next generation airbike, the LifeCore Assault Airbike.
The main reason for the purchase was my belief in the versatility and overall training effect an airbike can inject into a workout program. Plus, once I purchased my Concept2 rower, the mechanics of each offset each other quite well.
For the past 2 years, 33% of my machine-based cardio workouts have been satisfied using the Assault bike (33% on the rower, 33% running).
I purchased my Assault Bike from Amazon.com with Free Prime Shipping, trust in Amazon as an online retailer and a killer price of $799 (usually $999). The same deal is still live on the site to this day.
Though I felt it was important to share how I came into ownership of my current Assault bike, it’s not the point of this article.
Enough with the back story, let’s talk about how you can bring airbikes into your training sessions using several different methods…
Hybrid Work-Capacity Training
As mentioned earlier, airbikes are more versatile than most people know. Sure, they provide a tremendous training effect on their own, but the challenge gets cranked up a notch when positioned inside of a bigger workout.
Here’s an example of a hybrid workout (airbike mixed with other exercises):
Complete 5 Rounds (as fast as possible)
15 Hollow Body Rocks
20 calorie Airbike
*** Caution: Your soul (and your oxygen) will be consumed by round 3 and fully digested by round 4 or 5.
Workouts like this a built on simplicity. No fancy exercises needed . The focus of this workout is to perform as much work in as little time as possible.
A 20 calorie ride may take roughly 25-40 seconds depending on how hard you’re pushing. Choosing calories as the target can provide increased motivation to pedal harder since the calories will accumulate quicker with higher output, or slower with lower output.
Adding an airbike sprint to the end of each round adds an injury-free exertional challenge.
Expect major fatigue here.
Airbikes kick ass alone…
Let’s not forget how great of a training stimulus airbikes provide by themselves.
I’m talking about doing nothing else along with it, just hopping on the bike and working hard for a set period of time, distance or calories.
Keeping a workout simple can mean keeping your objectives simple, and is often the best choice for the day.
Sore or lacking time?…
For the individual who finds themselves frequently pressed for time but wants to workout, airbikes can provide a potent workout solutions in less than 20 minutes, including a warm-up.
That’s hard to beat.
Here’s a classic distance based interval training workout…
.3 Mile Sprints
- Complete 6-12 rounds of a target distance of .3 mile
- Each sprint is 100% effort for best time.
- Work:Rest Ratios (Example: 1:3 = 30 second sprint, 90 second rest)
- Beginner – 1:4
- Intermediate – 1:2 or 1:3
- Advanced – 1:1 or 1:2
An distance-based workout like this will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how many rounds
If you’re capable of a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio without any significant drop-off in watt output in the later rounds, you’re an animal and probably need to increase the distance per work bout.
Most people won’t touch a 1:1 work-to-rest scenario, and that’s perfectly ok.
Progressive fitness is smart fitness, right?
A Recovery Option…
For the person who’s suffering from delayed onset muscle soreness or simply looking for a low-impact workout, a long and slow ride on the airbike can serve as a great total body recovery tool.
To measure effort best, I suggest using a heart rate monitor with chest strap to track beats per minute. Try to keep heart rate below a target beats per minutes, say 130-150bpm. Typically I aim for 150bpm with my recovery rides.
If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can keep your RPM’s below a certain pace, anywhere from 55-70 RPM. This pace translates well with the 130-150bpm suggestion.
Both beats per minute and RPM’s will depend on your current fitness level of course. Some folks with ride at 60RPM and see a heart rate of 150bpm. Others could ride at the same pace and see a heart rate of 130bpm or less.
This is fitness, unique to each person.
Once you identify a manageable pace, aim to ride for an extended distance or time.
Personally, I prefer riding a distance of 10-15 miles or 30-40 minutes for recovery. Grab some water and a towel, set the bike up in front of the TV, put the headphones in and start riding.
Post-recovery ride, you should feel good, not drained, just good.
During interval training, pay attention to recovery…
My goals during an interval training workout are not solely centered around my output.
Ability to recover quickly, fully and repeatedly is an important adaptation of training.
It’s worth measuring from workout to workout, month to month. Recovery tells a story. For some it can indicate over-training. For others, it can indicate improvements in cardiovascular conditioning.
Example: If your output is 1000 watts during interval #1 but drops off to 800 watts during interval #2, this is an indication you were not recovered enough between work bouts to maintain initial intensity. You could expect interval #3 to be even worse.
This is an example of a mis-managed workout. The workout looked great on paper but didn’t translate well when it came time for application.
Interval training, much like resistance training, should be programmed progressively. If you’re a beginner, you’ll need more rest between work bouts. If you’re well conditioned, you may need to decrease your rest periods or increase the work interval while maintaining a steady watt output.
One major benefit of interval training with an airbike is the ability to start and stop quickly. When the interval begins, it’s easy to get the bike up to speed. The interval ends and it’s easy to back off and recover in a comfortable position and pace.
Part of the art of interval training is managing the work bouts and the rest periods according to your fitness level and goals for the workout.
We want to develop our ability to exert at higher and higher intensities (adding duration) during the interval, yet we also want to train our body to recover faster between efforts.
If you’re tanking from fatigue on the first couple of intervals, it’s defeating the purpose altogether.
Monitoring improvements in recovery time can provide valuable insight on the body’s adaptation to physical exertion.
With discipline, consistency and appropriate progression in interval length and rest periods, your body will improve its ability to exert but also recover from that exertion.
*** Beginners will take longer to recover after performing work than a more conditioned individual.
Connect your mind to your body for recovery…
One important, yet overlooked strategy to recovery is to become AWARE.
Get in touch with how your body is feeling during the workout. Check your breath. Are you breathing deep, with control and purpose?
Or are you neck breathing in full panic mode?
Control your breathing, calm your thoughts, do your best to relax during the rest periods.
Allowing your thoughts run wild is the wrong way to recover, but it’s what we often default to when physical stress becomes overwhelming. Developing capacity to control your mental self-talk in times of physical stress is a character builder.
The mental-self frequently acts as a governor to the physical-self. In other words, your mental will give out before your physical will.
Physical stress alters our state, perceptions and rational thinking.
Learning to anticipate, manage and expand our ability to handle physical stress is important.
It’s worth asking the question: “Is this really that bad?”
Time-based Interval Training
Time-based interval training is a classic strategy to training on any piece of cardio equipment. Comparing effort with time is highly applicable to sport, and provides great benefits to general population looking for tough workouts.
Here are several of my favorites, varying in length:
Short: 20 seconds work/ 40 seconds rest
- 1:2 Work-to-Rest Ratio
- 5 to 10 rounds
- All out sprint for 20 sec work interval.
Don’t hold back on this sprint. 20 seconds is short enough to max out your watts.
Intermediate: 30 seconds work/60 seconds rest
- 1:2 Work-to-Rest Ratio
- 6-8 rounds.
- All out sprint for the 30 sec work interval.
Long: 60 Second work/120 second rest
- 1:2 Work-to-Rest Ratio
- 5-8 Rounds
- Find pace for the 60 seconds.
Any working interval extending beyond 30-40 seconds will have to be paced.
Maximum effort cannot be sustained across the timeframe. With newer generation airbikes, managing effort can be gauged several ways: watts and RPM’s. Use both to monitor output during the work interval.
It will take some painful trial and error (and honesty) to pinpoint the highest output you’re capable of sustaining across during of 60 seconds.
Choose an output based on the last 10-15 seconds of the work interval when fatigue is highest, not the first 30 seconds of the work interval.
It’s easy to come out of the gates hard during interval training, only to see output drop off drastically.
The goal of this workout is to sustain end range output across the entire 60 seconds. It’s important to note that end rage output for 60 seconds will not be the same as it is for 20-30 seconds.
Closing it out…
If you’ve read other posts on Meauxtion, my promotion of airbike training might seem to conflict with the current “movement culture” approach. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.
The cool part about fitness is there are MANY ways to “do” fitness, and I see value in participating in ALL of them.
Too much of any one “thing” can end up being a bad thing because you’re excluding other “things” that can provide value and balance.
Keep your mind open, train hard, and let me know how you did with these workouts.