The Physiological Benefits of Indoor Cycling (and Its Downsides)

The Physiological Benefits of Indoor Cycling (and Its Downsides)

While indoor training recruits less muscle than a ride outside, there are physiological benefits to be gained. Here’s what to keep in mind this winter.



When riding indoors on a trainer or a set of rollers, you are in a fixed position, which means pedaling with less side-to-side movement, no forward momentum, and without random hills and bumps that change the pitch of the bike and your pedaling position. Rollers and rocker plates do allow for side-to-side movement, but compared to an outdoor ride, these movements are not as encompassing and random. Climbing out of the saddle and rocking the bike beneath you happens at a greater range of motion outside. Long descents, especially on gravel or trail, require lower body isometric contractions while the upper body is working to maneuver around obstacles — movements that are hard to replicate indoors.


The effects of gravity, especially on steeper climbs, along with rolling resistance will require greater amounts of force production outdoors compared to what can be produced indoors. The more force an action requires the more muscle fibers that are recruited. Indoors, greater amounts of force can be produced, especially with smart trainers, but with less overall body movement compared to outdoors. This will place a greater load on your prime movers to get the job done, mainly the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscle.

在内部使用较少的肌肉并不总是意味着更少的功率 - 这只是意味着您将使用更少的肌肉纤维来达到峰值临界功率。这样做的好处是,您专注于使主要搬运工变得更强壮,而缺点是招募腿部较少的肌肉纤维,而在上身核心和手臂中运动较少。相比之下,当骑在外面,尤其是在攀登时骑行时,您正在乘坐带动核心和手臂的车把。在户外更多的上半身参与,以及更多的肌肉纤维招募,这意味着肺,心脏和整体心血管系统的需求更大,从而导致更大的循环特异性有氧运动适应。

Tips on Maximizing the Benefits of Indoor Cycling

Stretch Your Cycling Muscles


Reset Your Power Zones


Exercise Before or After Your Trainer Sessions

Stressing more muscle before or after your trainer sessions will increase overall training stress, leading to greater aerobic adaptations. You can make these cycling-specific, too. Running stairs is aerobic and happens on the front of the foot, like a pedal stroke, and handlebar balance pushups and bent-over rows with weights will engage your upper core and arms. Work 15 or more reps per set spaced with 20-30 seconds of rest between sets to keep these exercises aerobic.

Transitioning to Outdoor Cycling

Your indoor training volume is typically less than what is logged outdoors. Strength gains from training indoors will carry over to outdoor training, but only to the muscles that were trained (mainly the prime movers). Allow four to six weeks of increased volume outdoors to make full-body, cycling-specific adaptations that you weren’t able to achieve indoors. This period will essentially catch the rest of your body up to the strength gains you made inside.

Indoor training provides its own set of challenges. It’s not as fun as a ride outside, the perceived effort is higher, and boredom is a factor. Power readings from your outdoor ride may also greatly differ from what can be produced indoors. Regardless, indoor training brings year-round consistency and that will lead to long-term gains in cycling performance.

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