The Most Effective Indoor Trainer Workouts For Cyclists

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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The Most Effective Indoor Trainer Workouts For Cyclists

Retreating indoors to your trainer might seem completely uninspiring. You might consider it the cyclist’s equivalent of the ‘dreadmill.’ However, there is something motivating and confidence-boosting about repeating similar workouts on your trainer and comparing your results over time.

What you do on the trainer does not need to be complex as long as it’s engaging and you can track your progress. These three workouts can be done a couple of times a week on even the most basic indoor trainer setups. Rotate through all three each week or do the one that best fits with your day or current training goals. Anything goes as long as you’re consistent.


Warmups are a valuable part of your training because it loosens you up and gets your muscles activated, motivated and coordinated so you can put your best effort into the workout ahead. Warmups generally include a gradual increase in the intensity until you feel ready to do some drills.

Warmup drills typically work on your cadence, pedal stroke or further warmup efforts around the goal paces of the workout. There are numerous ways you can work on your ability to accelerate and use different cadences including cadence pyramids, spinups, high-cadence drills, sprints and low-cadence work. Mix these together to extend your rides with a structured warmup or cooldown or intersperse them to make a long ride fly by in little chunks divided by these drills.

The warmup: 5 x 30 seconds where you shift to 1 easier gear and pedal fast for 10 seconds, faster for 10 seconds and then fastest for the last 10 seconds. Aim to look smooth and relaxed while pedaling quickly and with moderate-to-high exertion.




Including high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in your routine is a good idea for the sake of performance and health. Beyond specific physiology or fitness adaptations, it is perhaps more clear to think about these sessions as your practice for the short, maximal efforts required in most cycling events. If you struggle with accelerations outdoors, you should prioritize this type of workout indoors when you can focus on form and effort more than safety, skills and route choice.

These sessions are mentally and physically demanding, so they can be tricky for long-time endurance athletes to get used to. Start with fewer repetitions and aim to increase your output each week before adding more repetitions or durations.

The workout: 4–6 x 30 seconds with 4–5 minutes easy pedaling between.



Few workouts have caught the attention of cyclists as much as sweet-spot intervals, especially for time-efficient indoor sessions. These intervals let you practice extended steady efforts that are required for long climbs and endurance rides. These efforts are hard but should not leave you overly fatigued at the end of the session like a threshold or maximal time-trial might. The goal is to get a bunch of work in but be able to come back again soon to practice.

The workout: Build from 3 x 10 minutes to 3 x 15 minutes to 2 x 20 minutes over a few weeks. Keep your power and heart rate very steady at about 8–9/10 effort, 90% of FTP power or 85% of maximal heart rate. If you get bored easily try mixing up your cadence or standing for 10 seconds every 2 minutes.



Combining strength circuit training with cycling accomplishes a host of things, including keeping you busy and entertained indoors. This includes more muscles, which is good for cyclists who skip on cross-training or weight-bearing exercise during racing season.

You can include some off-bike time during any indoor ride. For mountain bikers, this might help ready your body for downhills and technical features, while road riders appreciate the added upper-body strength during long efforts and hard climbs. Bodyweight circuits can be done anywhere, or you can develop your own gym workout using weights, kettlebells and machines.
In this circuit you could add a rep or two each time you do the workout or an extra set to extend the ride and add more total work.

The workout: Warm up as needed then ride 5 minutes at endurance or tempo output with a focus on cadence (e.g. ride 5 minutes at 100+ rpm). Then get off the bike and perform 5 air-squats (no weight), 5 pushups, 5 pullups (or rows) and 5 skipping double-unders (or burpees). Note: Remove your cycling shoes for this; gym shoes optional.


However, you train indoors, take advantage of the environment and your indoor tools to maintain your training year-round. Remember to keep it simple and have fun this winter with these three workouts.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at


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