How HIIT Hits Different on the Bike, Tread and Floor

How HIIT Hits Different on the Bike, Tread and Floor

Your body will reap the benefits no matter which one you choose.

By Colleen TraversUpdated August 23, 2020


If you’re short on time and looking for a highly efficient workout, HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the way to go. But there’s no one way to HIIT – you can do it on the Bike, Tread or even on the floor with a Cardio workout on the Peloton App. “In a HIIT workout, the effort is extremely intense but the recovery can be as easy as you need it to be,” says Peloton instructor Olivia Amato, who teaches all three types of classes. “On a scale from one to 10, your HIIT effort should be at least 70% of your all out max, or a seven (or higher) out of 10 on the effort scale.”

Here’s how your body reacts differently to these HIIT workouts, plus which ones to try out first.

HIIT on the Bike

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One of the perks about doing HIIT on the Bike is that you can still spike your heart rate while being relatively low-impact on your joints (compared to other cardio workouts like running). Here, your lower body will do a majority of the work as you use your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps to pull and push the pedals with increased speed, intensity and added resistance during intervals. “When recovering, make sure to take off the resistance and pedal slowly once the effort is done to catch your breath,” says Amato. “The harder your effort is, the easier your recovery should be.”

Where to start: “Try a 30-minute HIIT Ride, starting at that seven out of 10 effort and working up to a 10 out of 10 effort toward the end of the class to prevent you from gassing out too early in the ride,” says Amato.

Not sure what your effort scale really is? Start out by finding your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) with a Power Zone ride. A 10-minute FTP Warmup Ride and a 20-minute FTP Test Ride will help you figure out your specific effort zones. (You can find these on your touchscreen or in the App by filtering on class type, “Power Zone” and length, 10 and 20 minutes.) Then, start out with a 20-30 minute HIIT Ride (You can find these by filtering on class type “Intervals” and length, 20 and 30 minutes.) Once you’re ready to step it up a notch, move on to the 30-45 minute HIIT and Hills Rides.

HIIT on the Tread

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HIIT running has some serious cardiovascular and fitness benefit: as research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found, it increased cardiorespiratory fitness by almost double that of moderate-intensity continuous training in people with lifestyle-induced chronic diseases. Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered that a five week HIIT-based running plan improved both muscle power and overall athletic performance in triathletes. The best part? You can keep it short and sweet. “HIIT workouts that are 10 to 20 minutes are great because they are effective and efficient,” says Amato. “If you are truly working all out on your efforts, that should be all you need to get in a good workout.”

Where to start: Test out a 20-Minute HIIT Run on the Tread or outdoors with Peloton’s audio-only outdoor runs and increase your time or fitness level (moving from a Beginner Run to Intermediate) from there. “When you recover slowly or even barely walking will help get your heart rate down before the next HIIT effort,” says Amato.

HIIT on the Floor

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Tapping into a HIIT Cardio floor workout on the Peloton App is a quick way to tap into some total body power on top of that heart-healthy interval work, says Amato. And if you’re just starting out with HIIT, doing it on the floor might be a good way to increase your endurance or push your interval time. Research published in PLOS One found that longer intervals led to larger changes in VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize during a workout (in addition to circulating through their body and working muscles). When it comes to recovery on the floor, don’t feel like you have to keep moving as you might on the Bike or Tread. “Just standing and breathing before your next effort is a great way to prepare for what’s next,” says Amato. “You want to get your heart rate down as much as possible before you give your best 70% to 100% on your next effort.”

Where to start: If you’re new to HIIT on the floor, start with a 10-Minute HIIT Cardio to get used to the intensity and pace of these workouts. (Find the section labeled Cardio and filter “HIIT” in class type, and then length.) Once you’re more comfortable with the circuit, kick it up a notch to a 20-minute routine to increase the duration and number of intervals you’ll get in one workout.