What is a good workout to increase my speed and fitness on the bike?

Andrea Metcalf

Interval training will help improve your speed on the bike and proper mechanics of pedaling as well.

It's important to wear a cycling shoe to improve speed and performance while riding. Whether you ride indoors or out, cycling shoes can make a difference in your workouts. Two main reasons to wear a cycle shoe:

  1. Sole Matters - Cycling shoes have a sturdy, stiff bottom compared to gym shoes with a flexible forefoot. A stiff sole allows for pressure across the entire foot allowing more total leg force. Pedaling on your toes can cause lower leg muscle imbalances and possible plantar fasciitis, a chronic heel injury.
  2. Pull Up Power - A cycling shoe that clips into the bike pedal can actually help you pedal faster. Being connected to the pedal allows you to not only push down for pedal rotation, but pull up as well. This increases the force and power as well as strengthens the back side of the thigh, the hamstrings.
A very challenging and advanced workout targets the lactate threshold system by alternating efforts just above and just below the threshold. This workout best mimics the surges in a group ride with little rest. Here it is: Warm-up- 10 minute warm up that includes: 3x 1minute fast efforts (In a light gear, pedal as fast as you can without bouncing in the saddle.); 1 minute of moderate-pace pedaling between each. Then ride for two minutes “below,” then one minute “above” and keep alternating through this three-minute cycle until you reach the end of the interval. During the “below” portions of these intervals, you want to ride at your maximum sustainable pace (92-94% of time trial heart rate, 86-90% of time trial power). During the “above” portions, hit the gas and ride as fast as you can. There’s no rest between the over and under portion, you’re alternating between the two for the length of the interval. Aim to complete three intervals, with six minutes easy spinning recovery between each. For moderately-trained riders, each interval should be 9 minutes long. Beginners should complete three intervals. Advanced riders may be able to complete 12-minute intervals (four cycles). Cool down for five to ten minutes and you’re done.

If all you do is cycle it is time to shake things up a bit. Change your cardio routine in order to maintain the endurance you have built, while continuing to make gains. Alternate your choices on cardio training days. For example, run on Monday, use the elliptical on Wednesday, and bicycle on Friday. After seeing my personal results, as well as my clients’ results, I have become a strong supporter of interval training. Interval training during cardio exercises means varying the levels of intensity during a workout period. Now it is time to get creative. When you’re on the elliptical, go forward, backward, use the handles or don’t hold on at all. Instead, learn to balance yourself while in motion. When using the treadmill, go forward, backward, side step, use the incline, or alternate speeds. Use a bike for a few minutes, switch to the elliptical, and finish with the treadmill. Run for a distance, walk and sprint, side-step, run backwards, skip, or do carioca steps, then run again. Get on the treadmill or elliptical for a few minutes, then jump rope for a few minutes, alternating between the two. Think outside the box and you will find that the possibilities are endless. Over time, the body will adapt to whatever you challenge it to do. Interval training will change your body from the inside out. You will look better, feel better, and improve your body’s overall health, all at the same time.

A good workout to increase speed and fitness on a bike is specific to where you are attempting to increase performance. If your performance on the bike was the most critical element to your fitness goals then you need to spend time on the bike. The good news is you can improve performance on the bike by being on the bike. Specific adaptation is the concept that our body specifically adapts to the stresses placed upon it. So increased bike stress means increased bike performance. Push your speed on the bike and your speed and fitness will improve. Be safe though. Wear all of your protective gear and get the bike set up for optimal performance.

In every approach toward a goal, there are usually other avenues. In other words, there are many answers to this question based on many variables. When in doubt, keep it simple, because the majority of us don't live simple lives. Therefore, I recommend the following alternative workouts to help increase your speed and fitness on the bike: get off of the bike:) It is imperative to train specific to improve on something specific, i.e. the bike. I encourage augmenting your bike workout with the following:

Hills - scout out your area for a good size hill and conduct hill sprints. I suggest keeping the frequency, intensity, intervals, and sets to a minimum at first if you are not familiar with hill sprints. From a safety perspective, I would not recommend hill sprints if you have low back, knee, hip, or ankle problems.

TRX Suspension Training Single Leg Lunges - Wow! what an amazing exercise for the thighs, gluteals, hamstrings, and core. Moreover, it will challenge your proprioception (balance) with every rep's inch of movement. In this exercise, one leg is strapped into the stirrup while your other leg is afixed to the ground. Just like a standard barbell lunge, do the lunge but rather than holding a bar your other leg is elevated off the ground and extended way behind you which forces every muscle in the leg to fire while the core helps keep the body balanced. The best part is that it is natural bodyweight, you consistently control the positive and negatives, and it is easy to incorporate reactive training. A powerful leg workout!!!

Mark Levine

I recommend speed intervals to increase your speed whether its on a spin bike or a road bike. Depending on your level of cardio fitness, I recommend a 30-45 second sprint(85-90% max. heartrate) followed by a 45 second to 1minute 30 second rest. This is where a heart rate monitor comes in handy as you can tell when you are ready for the next interval. Start out with 3-5 intervals and you can increase your intervals and reduce your rest time as your cardio condition gets better.

As for improving your fitness on the bike, I would also use a heart rate monitor and try to stick to 70% of max. heart rate. At this level, cycle for 30 minutes and as your endurance level improves, you can increase that time to 45 minutes. Go out and have fun!!


A good compliment to interval training on the bike is strength training off the bike. When designing a strength program specific to cycling speed I make sure to include all muscles responsible for stabilizing as well as moving you forward. That means the legs as well as the core and upper body. I like to use the TRX when training sport specific because of the added benefit of training the body as a system. The workout goes something like this:

1. TRX Hamstring Curls/Glute Bridges. Adjust the straps until they are at mid-calf. Lie on your back and put your heels in the straps. Lift your hips and pull your heels towards your glutes exhale as you exert. After 15-20 reps keep your knees bent and extend your hips also for 15-20 reps.

2. TRX Straight Arm Sprint Starts. Adjust straps to full-length. Facing away from anchor point grab the handles and assume a pushup position. Step back until your body is at about a 50-60 degree angle. Holding your body in a plank and standing on your toes drop one leg back until the other bends to about 90 degrees. Exhale and extend your bent leg, bring your back leg up in front of you bending it to 90 degrees repeat for 15-20 reps and switch.

3. TRX Single Leg Plank w/ Abduction. Adjust Straps to mid-calf and place TRX into single handle mode. Assume a pushup position away from the anchor point and insert a foot into the strap. From a pushup position bring the free leg out to the side hold for 3-5 seconds. Resist the rotational force you will feel. Repeat for 15 reps and switch.

4. TRX Push Ups. Adjust the straps to full length. Facing away from the anchor point grab the handles and extend your arms out in front of you. Keeping your body rigid start to step back towards the anchor point. Find the angle that will give you the greatest resistance without compromising form. Proceed to pushup exhaling as you push. Make sure to keep your hands high enough to prevent the straps from resting on your arms. Complete 15-20 reps.

5. TRX Deltoid "I"s. Adjust straps to mid-length. Stand facing the anchor point and hold your arms over your head. Keeping arms and body straight and tension on the straps, lean back and let your arms drop until they are straight out in front of you. Exhale and bring your arms back over your head. Complete 15-20 reps.

Repeat this circuit 2-3 times. This workout along with interval training will help increase speed and power as well as the time you can spend on your bike. Good luck!

I would recomend cross training and lower body strength training that targets the hamstrings, calf, quads and qlutes. 

These would include:

  • Leg Press
  • hamsting curl
  • Leg extensions
  • calf raises

Interval training is also helpful, what I mean by this is by doing high intensity peddeling working up to 85 percent of your max heart rate for a short  period of time then bring it down to a recovery rate of 60 percent.


You could really find a benefit from total body athletic training. When you start training your body with power athletic exercises, you teach your muscles to contract faster. Your muscles will not only contract faster, but they will also react quicker. This will result in more speed and power in your biking. For example try these exercises:

  1. Power step-ups (grab a box about middle of shin height, and place one foot on top, one foot on the ground, push through heel of foot on box as you stand on box explode into a little hop, land softly on foot and repeat for about 12 reps., then switch to the other leg).
  2. Hamstring butt kicks (standing jog in place and then start to bring your heels toward your butt, alternate your legs, and focus on the power in the back of the thighs, do this for about 20 reps, right leg and left leg equals one rep).
  3. Squat jumps (you can do this on the floor with your body weight, or you can advance this by jumping onto a small box, feet should be shoulder width apart and straight ahead, jump as with power, land on the balls of your feet and softly absorb body weight throughout entire foot, try 10-15 reps.).
Doing speed and fitness drills on the bike is the best way. Second would be to use a functional movement program design to mimic movements on the bike and build of your type I and type II muscle fibers.

Interval Training is a great way to improve your fitness and conditioning level. Training programs should also specific to the activity or goal that you want to achieve. In this case, you’d like to improve your conditioning level and speed on the bike, so in order to accomplish that, your workout should challenge that ... cardiovascular fitness and speed on the bike.

Here’s a quick and easy outline of a bike interval workout that doesn’t require any special equipment. Just you and the bike.

5 min warm-up – Start out slowly then gradually increase speed and intensity until you get to the point that if you had to talk to someone you could speak, but not comfortably.

Then perform 6-10 intervals consisting of ...

30 sec. hard fast peddling as if you were chasing someone – Your breathing should be hard enough that you can talk and say one or two words, but you’d rather not because you’re peddling at such a hard and fast pace. At the end of the 30 seconds you should feel a burning sensation and fatigue in your legs. Then ...

60-90 sec. recovery peddling. The recovery portion of the interval should be long enough that your breathing and heart rate reduces to a moderate pace. To check that it would be like ... if someone asked you a question you could answer it, but you wouldn’t want to carry on a full blown coffee clutching calm conversation. Then…

5 min. cool-down. Consisting of slow peddling reducing the pace gradually to a speed that’s so easy you could carry on a conversation for a long period of time without much effort. Your breathing pace should also slow down and your speech should be almost as good as if you weren’t exercising at all.

Be sure to also include stretching of your hip flexor group, hamstrings and calves after your workout. Not sure what stretches to do? Just copy and paste the links below for some examples:

Hip Flexor -

Hamstring -

Calves -

Speed on a bike is accomplished by an increase of revolutions per minute. In other words, the time it takes to complete one full pedal cycle will determine speed. Another is the amount of power you can create to increase that cycle time. 3 good exercises to use are squats, lunges, and tube walking.

  1. Squats: you can do barbell squats or ball squats. If you do barbell squats use about 25% of your weight as a starting point.  Position the barbell so that it rest above your shoulder blades. Try to Keep your head level and your feet shoulder width apart, squat down so that your quads are parallel to the ground. Hold for 2 seconds and return to your starting position. Repeat for about 12-15 reps. keep your abdominals tight and your gluteus engaged. Do about 2-3 sets.
  2. Lunges: walking lunges are great for quad strength and gluteus development. Start with 10 lb dumbbells. Take a wide stance; keep your back straight and your head level. Lunge down so that your front leg bends to about 90 degrees. Lean forward and push off with your back foot and advance the leg so that it is approximately the same length as your original lunge. Keep your abdominals and gluteus engaged the whole time. Try walking 35 feet, then rest. Repeat 3xs.
  3. Tube walking: use a light band for the first time (either green or blue); adjust the band so that it is approximately 2-3 inched above your ankle.  Keep your knees bent and your back straight. Avoid rocking back and forth with your upper body (i.e. no little "teakettle" walking). Walk sideways for approximately 60 feet and then walk back. Repeat 3 xs. Keep your abdominals and gluteus engaged throughout the exercise.

When doing your normal cycling interval workout it is important to include a flexibility and core workout at least twice a week. A muscle that is too tight or overworked will not produce enough power to make your bike ride be able to peak in performance. Foam rolling or self myofascial release is step number one in this process. Hold all tight muscle areas for 20-30 seconds with a tolerable pressure on the foam roller. When your hip and vastus muscles are flexible they will produce more power and speed. Immediately following your foam rolling routine it is important to lengthen these same muscles while they are loose and warm. This does not have to be on the same day as your cycling, although a quick few minutes foam rolling and stretching right before your cycling cannot hurt. It is easy to ignore your hamstring muscles while you're training because you will not feel the negative feedback from your hamstrings for up to three weeks of intense cycling. Hamstrings are stretched best in an active isolated scenario. This is holding the stretch for 4-5 seconds and relaxing the muscle fully for 2-3 seconds and repeating this cycle 10 times. Abdominal strength is essential as you are seated on your bike if your abs are relaxed for too long your lower back can absorb this stress causing pain and a need to stop the program. Core work can be done daily without sit ups or crunches. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.