For the Ultimate Low-Impact Cardio Workout, Hop on an Airdyne Bike

Airdyne Bike
Aleksandr Zamuruiev / Alamy Stock Photo

All indoor bikes are not created equal. You can spend an hour-plus churning away on a spin bike. But don’t try that on the Airdyne.

That’s because the Airdyne is a master of resistance. The harder you work, the more challenging it gets. There’s just no way to half-ass a session on it. Hence, its nickname: the Misery Machine.

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Unlike a spin bike, which derives its resistance from a flywheel the rider sets manually, the Airdyne employs a giant fan; the more power you generate through pedal strokes and push-pulling the handles, the more resistance the bike generates. That’s one reason the Airdyne has a cult following among pro athletes, trainers, and CrossFitters. However, a bike with a resistance dial is still better for longer, steady rides.

Another reason it’s so popular: “It requires almost no technique, so you can work really hard from the get-go,” says Pat Davidson, a New York City–based strength and conditioning coach. “And there’s no impact whatsoever, so it won’t wear out anyone’s joints.” (One common beginner’s misstep: over-relying on legs. Make sure your arms get in on the action.)

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Structure Airdyne workouts either for time (doing short, challenging intervals with rest between rounds) or for wattage, which is a measure of energy output. For instance, you can perform all-out sprints, aiming to reach peak wattage, or sustain a lower wattage for a few minutes at a time.

Here are two wattage-based workouts, designed by Davidson, that’ll challenge both your stamina and power output. Before taking on the workouts, warm up on the bike for a few minutes, gradually increasing speed.

You’ll also need to determine peak wattage—find it by doing a 10-second, all-out sprint and use the highest number achieved. As the weeks progress, you’ll watch that max wattage number go up.

But—for better or worse—the Airdyne will never get easier.

Choose Your Own Torture

Workout 1: Cardio Capacity

Warm up 2 minutes, then do the following interval: 15 seconds at 65 percent of your maximum wattage, then pedal slowly for 45 seconds. Repeat 9 times.

Workout 2: Develop Power

Warm up 2 minutes, then test peak wattage. Rest 1 minute, then cycle at peak wattage for 6 seconds. Rest 1 minute. Repeat until you can no longer sustain peak wattage.

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