Turbo trainer workouts for all seasons

How to make the most of your indoor riding

Everyone loves getting out in the fresh air, riding on traffic-free open roads in the glorious sunshine, but unfortunately the real world just can't deliver ideal conditions all the time. So how do you get fit or stay fit? The answer is the humble indoor turbo trainer, which can enable you to maintain your fitness between road rides and maximise your time. 

So should you go flat out because you only have 30 minutes before work? Or do a series of threshold intervals to keep things interesting? The ideal workout for you will depend on what you want to get out of it. 

If you're using your turbo trainer to get fitter and as a stepping stone to next weekend's ride with your mates, keep it fun and steady. There's no need to interval yourself into retirement – use your weekend ride to do the harder work. The ideal frequency would be one-hour sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For the competitive athlete, it makes sense to use the trainer for quality work when it's most relevant (for most, that's February or March onwards). In the meantime, vary the workouts – avoid all-out time-savers and use the focused time to work on efficiency (rollers would be a great add-on). Ideally, do sessions of 20-40 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, on rollers, and one-hour inputs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The three sessions below, from cycling coach Joe Beer, give you an idea of how changing the effort, duration and drills can make for a more varied and interesting workout. But be sure you focus on what you're trying to improve. If you have less time, shorten the workout but don't make it harder to try to make up for lost time.

Before you start, make sure you register for BikeRadar Training, our free to use training resource that enables you to log all of your training, get yourself tailored training plans, take part in challenges, see how you're doing on our leaderboards, set goals and plan your season with a comprehensive events guide.

45-80 MINS FAT BURNER

1 HOUR TECHNIQUE IMPROVER

PRE-COMP WORKOUT

WARM UP

Warm up 15min through gears; aim tohit 80% HRmax by end of warm up

Warm up 15min through gears; aimto hit 80% HRmax by end of warm up

Warm up 15min through gears; ideally use RAMP test

MAIN SET

3min @ 60, 70 & 80% HRmax

Do 2-6 of these 9min blocks

Key focus: keep smooth and dont over-exert your target HR

2 sets of 5x [30sec left leg only/30sec right leg only]; each session add 10sec to one-leg interval; 1min spin between sets

3 sets of 2min @ 60rpm feeling whole circle; 1min spin between sets

3x3min @ 90, 100, 100rpm – watch for hip wobble, think smooth; take1min spin between sets

8 interval sets of 8sec sprint effort (seated and smooth) with 1min 52sec recovery spinning between sprints

10min holding 5 beats into zone 2 (thats around 83% HRmax)

Repeat 8sec sprints

ALTERNATIVE

Try 3min @ 60%, 2min @ 70% then 1min @ 80%

Place a 4in block of wood underneath the front wheel

For maximal lactate overload do 30sec maximal with 4.5min recovery (6-12 sets is a hard session)

COOL DOWN

10min easy spin, HR decreasing

10min easy spin, HR decreasing

10min easy spin, HR decreasing

The following sessions from Nik Cook are also great, as they all provide a great workout in less than an hour. 

30-minute time trial (50 minutes total)

Not so much a training session as a test. Perform it every month or so to see how your training is progressing. Warm up for 10 minutes, starting on the small chainring, largest rear sprocket (lowest gear) and medium resistance. 

After every two minutes knock your gear up one sprocket aiming to maintain a cadence of 80-100rpm. After 10 minutes shift to the big ring (keep a medium resistance and you should be in the middle of the rear block) and ride as hard as you can for 30 minutes. 

Cool down for 10 minutes, reversing the warm-up routine. Record the distance you achieved in the 30 minutes and try to beat it next time.

Session two (41-65 minutes total)

3-6 x 5 minutes with 3 minutes recovery

This session is designed to raise your lactate threshold and your ability to perform at or near it. Warm up for 10 minutes in the same way, as for session one above. Shift to the big chainring and work hard for five minutes (aiming for a heart rate 15-25 beats below your maximum). 

At the end of the five minutes, drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and spin easily for three minutes. Repeat this work/recovery cycle for three to six reps depending on ability. Cool down as in session one.

Power blast (37-57 minutes total)

5-10 x 1 minute with 3 minutes recovery

The power blast will boost your explosive strength and power, allowing you to blast up short climbs or win the sprints to town signs. Warm up for 10 minutes in the same way as for session one. Shift to the big ring and your smallest sprocket. 

Sprint flat out for one minute (try not to rock the bars too much – your frame might not like it), initially building momentum out of the saddle before sitting down and carrying the speed through. At the end of the minute spin really easily in a low gear against low resistance for three minutes. 

Repeat this work/recovery cycle for five to 10 reps depending on ability. Cool down as in session one.

One-legged wonder (40 minutes)

5 x 1 minute left leg, 5 x 1 minute right leg

This is more of a technique than a fitness session, although it will help to even out any imbalances between your legs. Warm up for 10 minutes in the same way as for session one. Stay in the same gear/resistance as at the end of the warm-up, but cycle one-legged for the next 10 minutes, alternating one minute left and one minute right. 

Concentrate on maintaining a high (80-100rpm) cadence and on a smooth, fluid technique. Next, shift into the big ring and ride moderately hard with both legs for 10 minutes, keeping up the same cadence and the same feel of fluidity. Cool down as in session one. 

Stairway to heaven (42 minutes)

3 x 6 minutes of ascending difficulty with 2 minutes recovery

One for building hill strength and mental toughness. Warm up for 10 minutes in the same way as for session one. Shift to the big ring but select a moderate sprocket, such as 22. Resistance should be at about a third of your turbos maximum. Ride moderately hard. After three minutes, shift up two gears and try to maintain the same cadence for a further two minutes. 

Finally, shift up another two gears and ride hard for a minute out of the saddle. Drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and recover with easy spinning for two minutes. Shift back to the big ring but this time perform the three-minutes, two-minutes, one-minute sequence with two more clicks of resistance. Recover for two minutes again and then work through the 3-2-1 once more, again cranking it up by two clicks. Cool down as in session one. Be warned, though – this is a toughie.

This training resource is based on articles originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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