We tried out the scary-looking air bike – this is what we thought

Looking for more bang for your buck when it comes to fitness? The air bike could be the piece of kit for you.

Essentially, a cross between a traditional exercise bike and a cross trainer, this self-powered machine simultaneously works both the upper and lower body, while also engaging the core.

Unlike traditional fitness bikes which use a resistance knob to amplify the session, the air bike uses a fan to generate wind resistance.

So, the harder you pedal, the harder the pedalling gets. It’s a savage piece of cardio kit that can burn up to 80 calories per minute, if you can maintain that intensity, that is. Most can’t.

You might have noticed one at your local gym, but were unsure how to use it, or of its many advantages. Plus, it goes by several names which can be confusing, including the assault bike and the devil’s tricycle.

It has been a regular on the hardcore CrossFit circuit since 2015 and is now finding love with athletes such as tennis star Emma Raducanu and celebrities including singer Ellie Goulding and actress Jessica Biel.

Fitness platform Fiit is also a big advocate and it now offers fully interactive air bike classes powered by an AssaultBike as part of its subscription.

‘I just love the versatility and ease of use of the air bike,’ says Gede Foster, head of fitness at Fiit.

‘Whatever the session, you feel you’ve accomplished something big. You can quite literally feel yourself getting fitter each time you jump off the bike. It gets your body’s main muscle groups working simultaneously with the push-pull mechanics of the pedals and handlebars. You’ll work your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes as you pedal, alongside engaging the upper body as you move the handlebars. A strong core is also needed to pedal with high intensity on the air bike.’

Fiit has dubbed the air bike ‘the most efficient and effective cardio machine on the planet’ and say there’s nothing currently on the market to rival its capabilities.

‘The air bike opens up your mindset to what you’re capable of,’ says Gede. ‘There’s nothing quite like it and the output is totally up to you. The harder you pedal, the more resistance you create. To have a single piece of equipment utilising the upper and lower body simultaneously is not something to be reckoned with.’

And if you’re looking for a quality afterburn effect, the air bike can definitely help in that department. Known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the afterburn is the number of calories burned after you’ve finished exercising.

‘The afterburn will often be more dominant in the quads when using the air bike,’ adds Gede. ‘Often, people feel nauseous but it’s important to note this is not an accurate sign of how intense the workout was. You should work within your abilities rather than focusing on thrashing the body.’

Without proper recovery, intense exercise can lead to elevated levels of stress hormone cortisol. But studies show that active recovery, such as on an air bike, improves blood circulation and helps to remove waste products from the muscle breakdown that occurs during training.

‘The air bike is great for active recovery, as it allows you to increase blood flow to different areas of the body and provides movement without major impact to your joints whilst moving safely.’

Making the air bike work for you

Gede Foster, head of fitness at Fiit, explains how to make the air bike work for you, depending on your fitness goals.

‘Incorporating workouts in all three energy systems will teach your body how to be more efficient,’ she says.

‘Your body can adapt to different stimuli depending on how you’re training (slow and steady vs HIIT) and by tapping into the different energy systems, the stronger and more powerful you can be on the bike.’

Sprint

‘Think short, sharp bursts of energy, working max power. You’ll feel the lactic build-up as you tap into your ATP creatine phosphate energy system that’s utilised during short, high-intensity workouts. If you want to get better at working max power, you have to train here.

Metcon

‘Short for metabolic conditioning, this is anaerobic lactic training and training your body to work without oxygen. Anaerobic threshold training not only improves your VO2 max (a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise) but also your cardiovascular fitness. Metcon sessions will make you experience an intense burn, but you’ll find yourself coming back for more.’

Endure

‘This is where the magic happens. The intensity of these workouts is generally lower, but you will be working out for a longer duration as you work on becoming more efficient with how you produce energy. Training your body to work with oxygen, these sessions will improve your aerobic capacity as well as your ability to recover from hard efforts, quicker.’

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