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The Evolution of the Assault Bike: A Versatile Conditioning Tool


In the realm of fitness equipment, few machines have garnered as much attention and respect as the assault bike. Known for its punishing workouts and unparalleled effectiveness in building endurance and burning calories, the assault bike has become a staple in gyms and training facilities worldwide. But where did this formidable piece of equipment come from, and what makes it such a valuable tool for conditioning? Let's take a journey through the history of the assault bike, explore its benefits, and delve into some killer workouts to maximize its potential.

The History of the Assault Bike: The assault bike, also known as the air bike or fan bike, traces its roots back to the early 1970s when the Schwinn Airdyne was first introduced. This revolutionary bike featured a unique design that utilized air resistance, with a large fan wheel replacing the traditional flywheel found in stationary bikes of the time. The harder you pedal, the more resistance you encounter, making it a self-regulating and infinitely scalable piece of equipment.

Over the years, the concept of the air bike evolved, with various manufacturers refining and enhancing the design. In 2014, Assault Fitness released their take on the air bike, aptly named the Assault AirBike. This updated version boasted improved durability, a sleeker design, and enhanced ergonomics, cementing its status as the gold standard in air bikes.

Why the Assault Bike Is a Superior Conditioning Tool:

  1. Full-Body Workout: Unlike traditional stationary bikes that primarily target the lower body, the assault bike engages the entire body, including the arms, core, and legs, for a comprehensive workout.

  2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): The assault bike is perfect for HIIT workouts, allowing you to alternate between periods of maximum effort and active recovery to spike your heart rate and torch calories.

  3. Low-Impact Option: Despite its intensity, the assault bike is gentle on the joints, making it suitable for individuals of all fitness levels, including those recovering from injuries.

  4. Versatility: From short, intense sprints to longer, steady-state sessions, the assault bike can accommodate a wide range of workout styles and goals.

Air bikes work muscle groups in the arms and legs simultaneously and without reprieve, they may be the most efficient machine for conditioning, shedding unwanted bodyweight, and training all major metabolic energy pathways.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to an air bike, check out the brutal workouts below

Best Air Bike Workout for Conditioning

Air bikes also offer a more efficient method for training anaerobic capacity, or short-term, high-intensity endurance. Push hard enough on an air bike and you will lean hard into anaerobic glycolysis — a system that provides energy when demand outpaces our ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles.

You’ll also experience the physical anguish associated with anaerobic training. Lactate is a metabolic by-product of anaerobic glycolysis. Workouts that produce uncomfortably high levels of lactate tend to be perceived as “hard workouts.”

a max effort ride on an air bike produces higher lactate levels. Moreover, these elevated lactate levels diminish more slowly.

Now, lactate is not the direct cause of muscle “burning”. Rather, lactate is produced alongside hydrogen ions, which alters the pH of your tissues, likely creating the searing burn of high-intensity exercise. Have trust in the pain. This suffering pays dividends in the form of improved conditioning and fitness. 

Modified Sprint Time-Trial Interval Training

Unless you’re a special type of masochist, you’re riding the air bike for the physiological benefits — the multi-system adaptations that improve our health and our ability to do more work inside and outside the gym.

Build towards the full, eight-interval protocol by adding one five-minute interval every month of consistent training. Repeat this workout once or twice per week, ideally after your resistance training or separated by at least six hours to avoid potential interference. 

  • How to Do it: Use your arms and legs to pedal during the high intensity intervals. You can use legs-only during the recovery periods.

  • Warm-up thoroughly,

  • Perform three five-minute intervals at the fastest pace you can sustain for the duration, with two minutes rest or recovery between each interval.

  • After the third recovery period, proceed into five shorter intervals with 15 seconds of an all-out sprint followed by 45 seconds of easy recovery pedalling.

  • Sets and Reps: Three sets of five minutes moderate with two minutes recovery, followed by five sets of 15 seconds maximum effort with 45 seconds recovery.

  • Rest time: Rest two minutes between each five-minute interval. Rest 45 seconds between each 15-second interval.

Best Air Bike Workout for Fat Loss

Air bikes may be the most “recoverable” form of cardio. The training stress is distributed across both the upper and lower body rather than overworking one area for the duration of the session.

Air bikes are also a ‘concentric-only’ exercise — meaning the involved muscle groups must overcome resistance with negligible eccentric, or “braking,” action. This makes them less likely to cause post-workout soreness.

High-load and/or high-volume eccentric exercise is associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and varying degrees of damage to the muscle cell at the microscopic level. Ultimately, you’re less likely to be sore in the hours and days following a hard Assault bike workout compared to an eccentric-heavy mode of cardio (like jogging or jumping rope). As a bonus, concentric contractions are more energy demanding, which may result in greater energy expenditure during your workout.

Zone 2 Fat-Burning Workout

For a low-impact, total-body workout that is unlikely to leave you sore, you can’t beat Zone 2 cardio on an air bike. Zone 2 refers to low-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise — 60 to 70% of your maximum heart-rate.

To find this range, first estimate your maximum heart rate as 220 minus your age (in years). Then, multiply that maximum heart rate by 0.6 and 0.7 to identify the upper and lower bounds of the training range.

If you’re not using a heart rate monitor, these numbers aren’t relevant and you can simply ride at the highest effort you can sustain while breathing only through your nose. If you break into open-mouth panting, you’re training too hard.

Aerobic training is driven by the breakdown of fats in the presence of oxygen. Non-endurance athletes benefit from aerobic training to improved body composition (e.g. fat loss), boost heart health, and enhance recovery between sets of resistance training.

Aerobically trained muscles develop better vascularisation and greater density of mitochondria over time. These adaptations help our muscles to do more work and potentially recover more quickly.

The air bike is ideal for aerobic training, because it trains large muscle groups in the upper and lower body. Unless you enjoy the monotony of a steady-state workout, break your Zone 2 work into segments to stay motivated.

This fat loss workout consists of five segments with descending calorie targets — use the bike’s display to monitor progress.

As part of a fat loss plan, repeat this workout three to five times per week, ideally after your resistance training or separated by at least six hours to avoid potential interference with recovery and performance. 

  • How to Do it: 

  • Warm up,

  • The workout pedaling with your arms and legs together. Instead of tracking time, pedal to burn 120 calories, 110 calories, 100 calories, 90 calories, and then 80 calories. The goal is to achieve “negative splits” by completing each calorie-segment slightly faster than the previous.

  • Be sure to maintain Zone 2 intensity throughout the workout, either by using a heart rate monitor or by maintaining nose-only breathing.

  • Sets and Reps: Five calorie-segments: 120 calories, 110 calories, 100 calories, 90 calories, and 80 calories.

  • Rest time: Rest passively (very low-intensity pedalling) for 30 seconds after reaching each calorie target. It should be just enough time to grab a sip of water or towel off before going again.

Best Air Bike Workout Finisher

A “finisher” refers to a short metabolic conditioning workout added to the end of your primary workout. After hitting the weights, for example, hop on the air bike to empty the tank and ensure you’ve gotten the most out of your workout.

Since you’ve already trained, your levels of muscle glycogen (a form of stored and readily accessible energy) will likely be low. “Training low,” or training with low levels of glycogen, stimulates energy system adaptations. With regular high intensity interval training, your muscles will build larger stores of accessible energy and better manage the metabolic by-products of high intensity training. 


Consider this sprint interval training (SIT) “finisher” to rev your metabolism and leave you feeling accomplished when you leave the gym. The workout allows incomplete recovery between short, high-intensity bouts of riding.


Because “fast energy” from the phosphagen system doesn’t fully replenish between bouts, anaerobic glycolysis and aerobic pathways will contribute progressively to the energy demands of the workout.

Translation: You’ll train all three major energy pathways in this workout. Perform this workout at the end of one resistance training workout each week.

  • How to Do it: 

  • Perform just two minutes of easy pedalling and then begin the workout. Pedal with all-out effort, using arms and legs, for 20 secondsevery minute on the minute for 5 minutes  (EMOM). End with two minutes of easy pedalling. 

  • Sets and Reps: Perform intervals every minute on the minute for five minutes total.

  • Rest time: Using the EMOM approach, work for 20 seconds and rest for the remaining 40 seconds of each minute.

  • The rest period can be active (low-intensity pedalling)


The Most Effective Cardio Machine?

The assault bike has earned its reputation as a powerhouse conditioning tool, thanks to its ability to deliver intense, full-body workouts that yield impressive results. Whether your goal is fat loss, improved conditioning, or a killer gym finisher, the assault bike has you covered. Incorporate these workouts into your training routine, and prepare to push your limits and unlock your full potential.interval “finisher.” Once your recovery and adaptation take their course, air bike workouts set you up for better fitness and future gains.

But you’ve been warned — they can be brutal. 

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