Heart rate-based, power-based, and cadence-based cycling workouts explained

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just starting your journey, understanding the intricacies of heart rate-based, power-based, and cadence-based training is essential to take your indoor or outdoor rides to the next level. In this exploration, we’ll delve into the fascinating realm of these training methodologies and unravel the secrets behind them.

Cycling is a fantastic way to boost your fitness, shed a few extra pounds, or even compete at the highest levels of the sport. But to truly unlock your potential on the bike, it’s essential to grasp the science and strategy that underpin these training methods. Here, we’ll demystify the jargon, simplify the concepts, and guide you through the maze of metrics and numbers, making it easier than ever to optimize your cycling workouts.

Cycling has evolved far beyond merely hopping on a bike and pedaling. Today, it’s a science-driven discipline that utilizes cutting-edge technology and precise data analysis to fine-tune your training regimen. With a deep dive into heart rate-based training, we’ll explore how your pulse can be your guiding compass to optimize effort and recovery. Power-based training will introduce you to the concept of watts and unveil the secrets of maintaining consistent, measurable intensity. Cadence-based workouts will help you find the perfect rhythm, maximizing efficiency and minimizing fatigue.

By the end of this journey, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to tailor your cycling workouts to your unique goals and preferences, helping you achieve your fitness and performance objectives. So, grab your sweat towel, saddle up, and embark on this exhilarating ride through the world of heart rate, power, and cadence-based cycling workouts. It’s time to pedal your way to fitter life.

Common mistakes to avoid when cycling indoors

Indoor cycling cadence-based workouts explained


Indoor cycling cadence workouts offer a window into the world of cycling where revolutions per minute (RPM) become your guiding stars. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting your journey, understanding the concept of cadence is essential for optimizing your indoor cycling experience.

So, what is cadence? In the cycling universe, cadence refers to how quickly your legs complete a full rotation of the bike crank. Imagine your foot as the hour hand of a clock, and when it sweeps from 12 to 12, that’s one full revolution. We measure this in RPM, which stands for Revolutions Per Minute. In simpler terms, if your bike displays 60 RPM, it means your feet are making 60 full rotations in one minute. For those whose spin bikes lack built-in cadence sensors, don’t worry; you can purchase separate cadence sensors from brands like Wahoo or Garmin to keep track of your RPM or you can invest in power meter pedals that offer a wealth of cycling data, including cadence.

Grinding: Lower Cadence (50-70 RPM

But what’s the optimal cadence for you? The truth is, it varies from person to person. We’re all unique, and our bodies have their preferences. Some riders naturally gravitate towards lower cadences, often termed “grinding,” which typically falls between 50 to 70 RPM. This slower pace suits those with substantial underlying strength and endurance, often found in former bodybuilders or gym enthusiasts. Riding at a lower cadence helps build muscular strength but can be quite demanding on the body.

Spinning: Higher Cadence (90-110 RPM)

On the other hand, “spinning,” characterized by cadences in the range of 90 to 110 RPM, is associated with a more rapid leg movement. This is commonly seen in spinning studios and is favored by individuals with strong cardiovascular engines, such as runners. Riding at higher cadences is less fatiguing on the body and significantly contributes to cardiovascular fitness.

Optimal Seated Cadence (80-110 RPM)

The beauty of it all is that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to cadence. It depends on your fitness background and the type of muscle fibers your body favors. The key is to find your sweet spot, where you’re most comfortable. In an ideal world, for seated cycling with a relaxed upper body, aiming for 80 RPM or slightly higher up to 110 RPM is an excellent range to balance cardiovascular and strength benefits.

Optimal Standing Cadence (60-80 RPM)

When standing, you might find 60 to 80 RPM suitable for those challenging climbs. If you want to fine-tune your cadence, the best way is to experiment and compare different cadences to see which yields the best results. Measure your power output at different RPMs while exerting the same effort, and you’ll discover your optimal cadence. Once you’ve identified it, practice and give your body time to adapt.

In conclusion, cadence is a critical factor in indoor cycling, and finding your ideal RPM can significantly enhance your performance and comfort during workouts. Whether you prefer grinding or spinning, the key is to listen to your body and practice to reach your optimum cadence. And remember, comfort starts with the right gear, so consider investing in comfortable indoor cycling shoes and bib shorts to make your indoor cycling experience even better.

How to recover from an indoor cycling workout

Indoor cycling heart rate-based workouts explained


The best heart rate during an indoor cycling workout can vary from person to person, depending on factors like age, fitness level, and workout goals. However, you can use a general guideline to help determine your target heart rate zone for indoor cycling, which is typically based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Calculate your maximum heart rate:

The most common formula is 220 minus your age. For example, if you’re 30 years old, your estimated MHR would be 190 beats per minute (bpm). However, this formula is a rough estimate and can vary from person to person. If your heart rate is consistently below the target range, increase the resistance or pedal faster to raise it. If it’s consistently above the range and you feel uncomfortable, decrease the intensity.

Warm-Up (50% of Maximum Heart Rate):

During my indoor cycling sessions, I always start with a warm-up. This phase is crucial because it allows me to gently get my heart rate up and prepare my body for more intense cycling. I keep my heart rate at about 50% of my maximum, which means I’m working at a comfortable and sustainable pace. I could easily chat with a friend during this phase. It’s all about easing into the workout to prevent any muscle strain and gradually kickstart my cardiovascular system.

Fat Burn (50-70% of MHR):

As I progress from the warm-up, I enter the fat burn zone. Here, I’m aiming to burn calories effectively. The heart rate range here is between 50% and 70% of my maximum heart rate. It’s a moderate intensity, and I can sustain it for a more extended period. During this phase, my body primarily uses fat as an energy source, making it perfect for those days when I want to shed some extra pounds, improve my overall fitness, or just maintain endurance without pushing too hard.

Aerobic (70-80% of MHR):

Once I’ve warmed up and spent some time in the fat burn zone, I often transition to the aerobic zone, which ranges from 70% to 80% of my maximum heart rate. In this zone, my body relies on a mix of fats and carbohydrates for energy. It’s a moderately high-intensity range, great for building cardiovascular fitness and improving endurance. I find it particularly useful for building a solid fitness foundation, which is crucial for overall health.

Anaerobic (80-90% of MHR):

For days when I want to challenge myself and work on speed and power, I go for the anaerobic zone. This is the higher intensity range, spanning from 80% to 90% of my maximum heart rate. It’s intense and challenging, and I primarily use carbohydrates as my energy source here. Workouts in this zone are perfect for interval training, sprints, or pushing my limits. However, it’s not sustainable for extended periods due to its high intensity.

What to eat for a strong indoor cycling session

Indoor cycling power-based workouts explained


Indoor cycling power-based workouts revolve around measuring and manipulating the power you generate while pedaling. This approach provides precise data and insights into your cycling performance, making it a valuable tool for cyclists of all levels. Let me explain in detail how power-based workouts work:

Understanding Power-Based Indoor Cycling Workouts:

Picture this: you’re on your indoor cycling setup, ready to tackle a workout that’s tailored just for you. That’s what power-based indoor cycling is all about. It’s like having a personal trainer who knows precisely how hard you should pedal, and for how long.

What’s Power in Cycling:

Power, in this context, is a measure of how much effort you’re putting into pedaling. We use watts (W) to quantify it. It’s like counting how many light bulbs’ worth of energy you’re generating with each pedal stroke. Power is measured using a power meter, which can be attached to your bike’s crank, or you might have a smart trainer that measures it for you.

Power Zones:

These are the secret sauce of power-based workouts. We divide your efforts into different “zones,” each linked to a specific level of intensity.

Endurance Zone (50-75% of FTP): This is like a warm-up or a leisurely ride. It’s super chill and great for easing into your workout.

Tempo Zone (76-90% of FTP): Think of this as your middle-of-the-road effort. It’s perfect for longer, steady rides and building your endurance.

Threshold Zone (91-105% of FTP): In this zone, you’re working hard but not at your max. It’s fantastic for improving your power output and raising your overall performance.

VO2 Max Zone (106-120% of FTP): This is where things get spicy. You’re pushing your limits, working close to your max. It’s often used for interval training to boost your ability to maintain high effort over short bursts.

Anaerobic Zone (121%+ of FTP): In this zone, you’re going all-out, like sprinting. It’s short but intense, perfect for those bursts of speed.

Customized Workouts:

With power-based workouts, you’re in the driver’s seat. You set the power targets for each zone, aligning your training with your goals. Want to improve your sprinting? You’ll spend time in the anaerobic zone. For endurance, it’s the endurance and tempo zones.

Tracking Progress:

One of the cool things about power-based workouts is the ability to track your progress accurately. You can see how your power output changes over time, helping you fine-tune your training plan. If you have a smart indoor bike like Tacx Neo, you can even see how much power each leg provides. As you get stronger, you can increase the power targets in various zones.

Structured Training:

There are tons of structured workouts designed to improve different aspects of your cycling. Whether you’re looking to boost your endurance, threshold power, or sprinting skills, there’s a workout plan for it. Many of these are available through indoor cycling apps, so you can choose a workout that fits your goals.

In a nutshell, power-based indoor cycling workouts bring a level of precision to your training that’s hard to match. They’re like having a roadmap to your fitness goals, helping you make the most out of your indoor cycling sessions. To get started, you’ll need a power meter pedals, crank sensors, or a smart trainer. Pair that with some indoor cycling software, and you’re on your way to becoming a power-cranking cyclist!

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Hi there, I'm Sayed Hamed Hosseiny, the founder and one of the authors at yourexercisebike.com (YEB). I am a former indoor cycling instructor and personal trainer with nearly 20 years of experience. With a passion for indoor cycling, I have spent years designing cycling parts, repairing, and importing exercise bikes. All the articles, tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on YourExerciseBike.com (YEB) reflect my personal opinion and expertise in the field. I'm excited to share my knowledge with fellow exercise bike enthusiasts and help people find reliable indoor cycling information and the best exercise bike for their needs. If you have any questions or suggestion, you can contact me at sayed@yourexercisebike.com.

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