5 Turbo Training Sessions for Better Fitness on the Bike

Turbo training can be exciting, challenging, and a sure way to getting you fit and fast quick. We all know there’s nothing quite like those long miles on the road to get the base miles in, but sometimes it is not possible and just because it’s cold, wet, windy, icy or snowy, it doesn’t mean you have to resort to sitting on the turbo trainer for two hours feeling utterly bored. You may even feel like you are getting to know the garage wall a little too well, or maybe you’re watching the clock hands stand still, swearing blind the clock has broken when in fact it’s just extreme boredom setting in – well no more! In this article we are going to teach you how to get the most out of a turbo training session and feeling accomplished at the end of it!

Turbo training sessions are great as they are very specific, you can really control what kind of training you do and monitor the effort you put in. These structured sessions get the most out of the time you have, and because the intensity is higher, it means you don’t have to spend as long on the bike. That’s already a positive!

Remember: you’re not necessarily achieving anything or ‘getting one over’ on your mates by trying to get out on the bike and riding in all conditions, here’s why it can actually be damaging to your progress:

  • Riding in cold weather can make you ill
  • Ice and slippy conditions can be dangerous
  • You also have to clean you bike more!

Turbo Training Sessions

Now, each turbo training session is different depending on what time of year it is, what events or races you have coming up, what discipline you do and how much time you have. Turbo is also very useful for people who work long hours and need to use the turbo on an evening or early morning and only have 45 minutes or an hour. It’s surprising how much you can hurt yourself in 45 minutes if you try hard enough.

There are some of the old favourites in here and some that just mix things up completely, what you choose all depends on your mood that day, or what you want to be getting out of the days training.

  1. Rock n Rollers Monday (… or Tuesday!)

    Ride Time: 45 mins

    Now let’s say you have managed to get a nice long ride in on Sunday and your legs feel a bit tired, Monday or Tuesday can be simple such as a quick roller session with a bit of your favourite old-school rock bands! A bit of AC/DC, Bon Jovi, whatever takes your fancy – after all, when else do you get the chance to play your favourite rock bands full blast? What a great excuse!

    The Drill: 45 mins of high cadence will flush all the ‘bad stuff’ out of the legs, get the blood flowing again and a sweat up.

    This is good to keep the legs ‘fast’ and add some variation into the week. Rollers require a bit of concentration as you have to balance yourself and keep central. If you close your eyes for a second or so goodness knows where you’ll end up! But because you need this concentration the time goes quicker, and it does help to improve some bike skills along the way. You may want to use them at a race to warm up, so it’s a good time to learn during the winter months so you don’t have that all-embarrassing moment when you fly off them face down in the car park in front of all your mates!

    Split the session into a few sections to help break it up:

    • Warm up for 5 mins.
    • 15 mins high cadence
    • 2-4 mins rest.
    • Then 10mins back on, followed by 3-4 mins rest.
    • Then 8 mins on followed by 3mins rest.
    • Finally do 5mins followed by a 5 min warm down.

    Aim to increase the RPM on each block. This session is really good for improving your pedalling style, it will help you to draw better circles and keep the legs sharp.

  2. Wacky Race Wednesdays

    Ride Time: 1 hour

    So now that your legs are all prepped for Wednesday, it’s time for a some prolonged efforts. This can be measured using either heart rate or power. If you have a power meter, then great, but if not heart rate can be used as well.

    • Start with a 10 – 15 mins warm up.
    • Next do a 10 minute Time Trial effort at threshold (90-95% of max heart rate)
    • Then 5 mins rest, 8 min at threshold again, followed by another 5 mins rest.
    • Next ride 5min at threshold followed by 3-4 mins rest.
    • Then 5 x 1mins at 90-100% of max with 1 min rest in-between each.
    • Warm down.

    This will really hurt and you will likely feel tired at the end of this one. No pain no gain. Ways to make this one more bearable is to invest in a Virtual Reality Turbo Trainer, this way you can race others and climb virtual hills or race on the track. But for those who do not have this, please learn to love the burn!

  3. Fast and Furious Fridays

    Ride Time: 50 to 70 minutes

    On your mark, get set, go!! This session is great as it really hurts but goes really quickly. Its over before you know it! This one is mainly used for the spring time when racing is coming up but it doest hurt to throw the odd interval session in to keep things spiced up.

    • Warm up 10-15 mins
    • 10 mins doing 1 minute on at threshold then 1 minute off (spinning)( repeat 10 times and do this 2-3 times.)
  4. Pyramids

    This pyramid sessions is old fashioned but tried and tested. This will ensure to keep you alert and prevents tedium whilst training on your turbo!

    Ride Time: 45 mins to 1 hour

    10-15 min warm up.

    • Then 15 second sprint 45sec off.
    • 30sec sprint 30 second off.
    • 45 sec sprint, 15 sec off.
    • 1 min sprint 1 min off.
    • 45 second sprint, 15sec off.
    • 30 second sprit 30 off.
    • 15 second sprint 45 sec off.

    Repeat the set 2-3 times.

  5. Social Saturdays

    Ride Time: 1 hour to 1.5 hours

    By the time it’s the weekend we can only hope that the weather has improved and you can get out on the bike. It’s been a hard week on the turbo so don’t overdo it today, make sure the weather is on your side and get in a nice social ride.

    But let’s say there’s been a massive dumping of snow and you are snowed in. Do a nice easy 3 x 20 mins at tempo, put on a film or you favourite TV series and enjoy the next hour and a half. No need to get out of shape and in a fluster today. This session replicates your Saturday or Sunday base miles. This is just a guideline so remember you can mix this up, swap and change things around to suit your needs. That’s the beauty about the turbo; it can fit in with you.

For most avid cyclist we would be kind of lost without the turbo. Cycling becomes a way of life, a routine, a habit even. So if you have been forced off the bike due to an injury or illness, the turbo can help to keep you fit whilst you are on the mend and curb those restless legs! After years of using one I would say it is an invaluable piece of kit.


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Writer and expert