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June 16, 2022
At first glance, an assault bike may look less than impressive with its old-school vibe and none of the flash of a Peloton. But, no accessories are needed for this machine, which provides an incredible workout using only a no-frills bike and attached fan. The full-body cardio machine works your anaerobic energy system (the same energy system you rely on to lift heavy weights!) while boosting your cardiovascular endurance. It's also easily incorporated into high-intensity interval training or Tabata-style workouts, meaning the calorie burn is high, and the time it takes to burn them is low.
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Not only does an assault bike work your entire body, but it also exercises your mental toughness. You’ll appreciate the extra willpower the next time you need to push yourself to get one last rep in.
An assault bike, also known as a fan or air bike or fan bike, takes cycling up a notch by incorporating the upper body into the workout. Your arms will pump like you're cross-country skiing, while your lower body cycles through some powerful resistance.
Another difference between the assault bike and a more traditional stationary bike is that the attached fan makes the resistance harder the faster you pedal. No one said a cardio machine needs a fancy screen to be effective.
The assault bike is an incredible head-to-toe workout that challenges your aerobic and anaerobic systems, simultaneously improving your endurance and strengthening your muscles.
The exercise equipment targets your chest, back, arms, abdominals, obliques, and legs. It's also a true workout superstar for high-intensity interval training and Tabata workouts, making it a full-body exercise that torches calories. In fact, if you're looking for a fat-burning HIIT workout to help with weight loss, the assault bike is the equipment for the job.
Research shows the air bike leads to additional muscle mass and more cardiovascular work than a leg-only pedaling bike1. Study participants increased their heart rate to between 163 to 170 beats per minute, exceeding the requirements for a high-intensity workout. The air bike burned max calories, increased muscle, and improved the cardiovascular system.
Almost every muscle in your body works thanks to the pushing, pulling, cycling, and resistance.
Just think of the different cardio options available in your gym: the elliptical does a great job working the arms, shoulders, and chest, while the rowing machine works the back. A treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, and stationary bike require activation from the lower body muscles. Combine those movements and qualities into one powerhouse piece of gym equipment (ahem, the air bike), and you’ll activate every major muscle group.
Cycling against the ever-increasing resistance, your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are activated. On top, your triceps and anterior deltoids on one side are working to push the handles, while your biceps, lats, and posterior deltoid on your other side are pulling the handles backward. As all of that is going on, your abdominals, obliques, and the lower back’s erector spinae are isometrically contracting to keep you upright and stabilized.
Whew: Our muscles are tired just thinking about all of that work.
We just threw a lot of muscles at you, so here’s a simplified breakdown of all the muscles working. Spoiler alert: There are a lot of them.
The benefits of an air bike workout are plentiful...
Remember that long list of muscles we just highlighted? Thanks to the resistance, each of them become stronger when using an air bike. As your lower-body muscles are cycling the entire time, and your arms are continuously working in a pushing-pulling motion, all of your major muscle groups engage for the duration of your air bike workout. Non-stop engagement plus resistance equals more muscle.
Estimating calories burned during a workout is always challenging because it depends on several factors, including your height, weight, and exertion during exercise. But if you consider the demands an assault bike places on your body, which involves gaining muscle while building endurance, you can start to put two and two together that it’s a great calorie burner.
In addition, assault bikes are ideal for HIIT and Tabata workouts, which can torch calories in a short amount of time. Research comparing HIIT to resistance training, cycling, and running, found that one HIIT session that combines resistance training and aerobic exercise (in this case, the air bike) burns more calories and increases the heart rate more significantly than other exercises2.
As for calories burned, a separate study reviewed high-intensity interval training on a stationary bike and found that in just 2.5 minutes, broken up into intervals of five 30-second sprints followed by light pedaling, participants burned up to 220 calories3. Five minutes of work for 220 calories equals 44 calories per minute, which is exceptional. Now, imagine using that same HIIT format on a bike where your arms and legs are both working continuously. How many calories you can burn is limitless! When pedaling at your fastest speed, you may be able to burn close to 80 calories per minute on the air bike.
No workout allows you to spot target body fat, but as you burn calories and lose weight, you’ll lose excess fat everywhere, including the abdominal area. Research comparing HIIT to other forms of steady-state cardio, such as jogging, found that HIIT reduces more abdominal fat4. HIIT workouts can reduce appetite post-workout, while the strain placed on the anaerobic energy system leads to a higher rate of fat burn. This is a great weight loss tool for everyone but can be particularly beneficial for an endomorph body type fitness routine.
As your major muscles move continuously against resistance while on the air bike, your heart works just as hard. Improving your endurance makes your heart more efficient at delivering oxygen to your muscles, and as your endurance improves, you can pedal faster to continue pushing yourself. This strategy keeps building your heart muscles while ensuring you avoid a plateau.
An intense workout pushes you mentally just as much as it does physically, and the assault bike is challenging to say the least. You will reach a point where your body is tired and wants to stop - after all, why does it matter if you quit 2-3 minutes earlier than you planned? But push through, finish your assault bike workout, and you'll be mentally and physically stronger for having done it.
Whether you are looking for a low-impact workout, one that will push your anaerobic system and aerobic system, boost your endurance, or help with weight loss, air bikes check all the boxes. In addition, the air bike is appealing to weight lifters, runners, cyclists, or new gym-goers looking to lose weight. Remember, the faster you pedal, the harder the workout, so you can make it as challenging (or easy) as you need. This is truly functional fitness. After all, it's used in the Crossfit games, which should say enough.
Now that you know the awesome benefits of Air Bikes you might be thinking about purchasing one. If so, make sure to check out our post that covers the Best Air Bikes on the market today.
Your workout length depends on your fitness level. If you are in the beginning stages of building muscle and endurance capacity, start with 10-12 minutes and work your way up. If you are in moderate shape, a good beginning place is 15-20 minutes, while someone very fit can target the 20 to 30-minute range. HIIT workouts place high demands on your body, so pushing past 30 minutes is unnecessary. If you reach 30 minutes and aren't thoroughly fatigued, pedal faster.
Before starting any of these assault bike workouts, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up, which you can do by pedaling at an easy to moderate pace.
Rounds for time (RFT) is a CrossFit term that describes a workout in which you try to complete a certain number of rounds of an exercise routine as quickly as possible. The RFT possibilities are endless, but these two versions are perfect for getting you started. For both of these, you’ll spend time on the air bike and then hop off to perform the additional exercises.
Air Bike RFT Version 1:
Once you wrap up jumping jacks, round 1 is complete. Hop back on your bike for round 2, pedaling for 40 seconds, repeating the list of exercises. See how quickly you can complete all eight rounds.
Air Bike RFT Version 2:
Rather than staying on the air bike for a set number of seconds, this version requires you to pedal, push, and pull until you burn a certain number of calories. Hit your calorie requirements, and then perform the list of exercises below, repeating the circuit as quickly as you can for eight rounds.
Tabata is an interval-format workout that burns calories quickly while improving your anaerobic energy system. As this assault bike workout style targets your anaerobic system, built-in rest sessions are crucial for letting your energy replenish, making the reverse Tabata a great option. Put in 10 seconds of hard work, followed by 20 seconds of rest. As you build your endurance, add more rounds. It's a simple workout, but very effective.
Sounds easy, right? In theory, it certainly is. But we predict that as you work through 10 seconds of max-effort, you may feel different.
Pyramid intervals are deceiving as they start with less work (hooray for 10-second sprint sessions followed by 50 seconds of rest!) but quickly increase the sprint duration while decreasing the rest periods. The highest work session lasts 50 seconds, and then you begin reducing the sprint time and re-increase your rest time. Eleven minutes in duration, this pyramid workout is grueling and pushes your endurance to the next level. Complete one 11-minute round, pedal at a slow to medium pace (aka a recovery pace) for 5 minutes, and then perform the pyramid intervals one more time.
Pyramid Assault Bike Intervals:
11 minutes (up to 2 rounds).
The best way to burn calories in a full body workout? You guessed it: Set a workout goal to burn calories. With a calorie burn goal for each minute, the air bike intervals get progressively more challenging as the workout progresses. Pedal, push and pull until failure, and track your progression each week to keep an eye on your gains. Every minute added to your time means more progress. Put in the work at the beginning of each minute, pedaling hard to hit your calorie goal. Once you hit it, rest for the remainder of that minute, before minute 2 starts, and your calorie goal increases.
Continue bumping your calorie goal up by 3 for each progressive minute until you reach failure.
The only way to make an assault bike more challenging is to throw burpees into the mix. This timed interval workout has you air-bike at your highest intensity for 5 minutes, gradually increasing your burpees as you go. We’ve programmed this workout for 30 minutes, but you can easily personalize this by shortening the time, increasing burpees, or ramping up your pedaling as your fitness level increases.
Note: You can replace burpees for future assault bike workouts too, with exercises like the push up, pull up, kettlebell swings, or even planks. You will still have an effective workout with any of these options, but burpees are arguably the hardest.
For the ultimate calorie-burning workout, challenge yourself to burn 100 calories in the shortest time possible. Remember your time, and continue pushing yourself to beat it. Or, bump up the intensity, and see how quickly you can blast 200 calories.
Just as you shouldn't train the same muscle group on back-to-back days, that same protocol applies for high-intensity interval training on the assault bike. Strength training, HIIT, and Tabata rely on the anaerobic energy system, meaning your body needs time between sessions to build muscle and replenish energy stores. Beginners should aim for one session per week, while intermediate to advanced fitness levels can aim for 2 to 3 sessions per week. Make sure to give your body 48 hours between air bike workouts.
You now know the benefits of the air bike and the muscles it works, and you have a few great routines to work into your gym routine. The only thing left is to use proper form to get the most out of your assault bike sessions.
Well, there you have it! Everything you need to know about assault fitness bikes and maximizing your time on them. All you have left is to get to the gym, hop on one of these old-school machines, and prepare to burn calories, build muscle, and blast fat. It'll be one of the best full body workouts you can do.
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