For me, an Airdyne is the ultimate cardio machine, and there are several reasons for that.
- Full-Body Workout Machine
Compared to running and bicycling where we mainly focus on the legs, the Airdyne will also work your upper body and core.
- Low Impact HIIT
We all know that that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is great, but for some people it can be very demanding to do some of the more popular HIIT exercises like burpees, sprinting, hill runs, and jumping squats. With an Airdyne, you are able to get a very efficient, low-impact HIIT session.
- All Around Cardio
Even though the Airdyne is fantastic for high-intensity workouts, it’s also possible to use it for more traditional aerobic sessions to work on stamina and the aerobic capacity.
Now that we know what good a cardio machine the Airdyne is, the next question is how do we plan an Airdyne workout?
The Energy Systems
To answer that question, we first need to have a look at the different energy systems that we use during psychical activities. In order not to make this article too long and boring, I will simplify them a lot, so if you feel that something is missing, you are probably right.
Another point to make clear is that there is no 100% bulletproof method on how to improve the different systems. Different studies show different results, so my proposal is based on the studies I believe in, combined with my own experience.
Okay, here we go!
Like any other engine, our muscles need the energy to work, and roughly speaking, there are three types of energy that the muscles use. Two are independent of oxygen and, therefore, anaerobe, and one needs oxygen and, therefore, aerobic.
The Anaerobe Energy Systems
The phosphagen (explosive) system is only for explosive movements, and the energy resource that is stored in our muscles will only last for a few seconds. When working out on the Airdyne, this energy system is the least interesting. Doing heavy and explosive lifts or jumps will focus mostly on this system.
The glycolysis (HIIT) system can last up to a couple of minutes, and in a way, we could call this for the “HIIT system” because it’s normally this system we utilize when working out with high intensity. The energy comes from glycogen, which comes from carbs. When working in this energy system, we will start to produce lactate at some point. The lactate threshold differs from person to person. For some, it will occur when working out at 60% of maximum effort, and for others, it can go up 90%. It also depends on which type of exercise you are doing.
The benefit of working around and inside the glycolysis system is that we can push the threshold, which makes us able to work harder for a longer period. But it also gives us a debt in energy, which your body will work on for hours after the workout. So even if you work out for a short period, your metabolism will still be on a higher level for many hours.
The Aerobe (Stamina) System
In this system, we are dependent on oxygen, and we can stay in the system for several hours. The better aerobic capacity we have, the better our bodies will be at transporting oxygen to our muscles, which means we can work with higher effort before we step into the anaerobic systems.
Furthermore, this system also helps us clear lactate, meaning that we will recover faster from an anaerobic state when we have a big aerobic capacity.
Improving our aerobic capacity is mostly done with low efforts workouts where we work around 60–70% of maximum effort for 30+ minutes, but it’s absolutely not the only way.
It Is Important to Develop All Three Systems
If we focus on the glycolysis and aerobic systems, we want to push our lactate threshold with HIIT sessions, but we also want to develop our aerobic capacity so we can work harder before becoming lactate and even become able to recover faster. Again things are not black and white. HIIT also will develop your aerobic capacity, especially in untrained people. What is most important is that we variate our training and, therefore, cover all the energy systems.
How to Use This Knowledge
When creating an Airdyne, workout we can use this knowledge to design workouts that will improve the different systems and thereby achieve a well-balanced fitness level. Often, what you see without these considerations is that people will either use the Airdyne for long and slow aerobic session or only for short and hard HIIT sessions, both of which limit the possibilities of an Airdyne.
How Much HIIT and How Much Aerobic?
If you are a complete beginner, I would recommend starting with more aerobic sessions than HIIT sessions. The reason for this recommendation is that beginners will react to anything, and since HIIT is very demanding, it might be easier to keep your motivation up with less hard sessions in the beginning.
If you have already been running, biking, or swimming for some time, it might be a good idea to focus on 1–2 HIIT sessions a week because your aerobic capacity already is well built.
For the cross fitters that have done HIIT 2-3 times a week for some time, it would be better to go slow and long with some aerobic training 1-2 times a week with 30+ minute sessions.
Mix Airdyne with Other Exercises
A funny tendency when we work out on machines is that we somehow believe that the complete workout has to be done on that machine. In the Airdyne workouts that I have designed, you will see that I mix it with other exercises as well.
I split the workouts into anaerobic and aerobic, and you already know why.
To determine whether to work aerobic or anaerobic, we can use different indicators. None of them will be 100% correct, so you have to use your gut feeling as well. Here are some indicators you can use.
- Work out at around >85% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). This is normally age-220. However, this will variate a lot, so it is not a good indicator.
- You can only speak in single words, and your breathing is heavy. This is a better indicator.
- Your perceived exertion rate is around 8—you know you can only sustain this pace for a few minutes. It feels really hard.
- Work out at around 70% of you MHR. Again, this is not the best indicator.
- You can hold a conversation.
- Your perceived exertion rate is around 3–4—you feel like you can sustain this pace for 1+ hours. It feels good.
Again none of these indicators is 100% correct, and they also differ depending on the exercise you are doing.
Airdyne Workout – Anaerobe:
- Work for 20 seconds at maximum effort on the Airdyne
- Take a 10-second rest.
- Repeat for 8 rounds in total.
- Make sure to warm up and cool down because this workout is very demanding.
- Warm up with 5 minutes of low effort on the Airdyne—maximum 70% of maximum heart rate.
- 5 rounds of:
- 30 seconds at 85%.
- 20 seconds at 90%.
- 10 seconds at 95%.
- Cool down with 5 minutes of low effort (>70%) on the Airdyne.
- 3 rounds of:
- 90 seconds Airdyne at 80%, 90 seconds rest.
- 60 seconds Airdyne at 85%, 60 seconds rest.
- 30 seconds Airdyne at 90%, 30 seconds rest.
Airdyne Workout – Aerobe:
- 5 rounds of:
- 2 minutes Airdyne at 60%—should feel really easy.
- 4 minutes Airdyne at 80%—should feel hard but sustainable.
- 35 minutes Airdyne at 70%—should feel sustainable for 1+ hours.
- Every second minute on the minute, jump off the Airdyne and alternate between these exercises:
- Minutes 2,6,10,14,18,22,and 26: 10 push-ups (on knees is okay).
- Minutes 4,8,12,16,20,24,and 28: 20 flutter kicks.
- 40 minutes Airdyne
- 20 minutes at 60%—should feel really easy.
- 10 minutes at 70%—should feel sustainable for 1+ hours.
- 10 minutes at 80%—should feel sustainable for 30 minutes.
There you go! You now have six workouts that you can mix together to get a good, all around program for your Airdyne.
Don't be that person who just does long cardio sessions or the crazy cross fitter that only does high intensity. Make sure to mix it up and get the full potential out of your Airdyne.