If you’ve ever tried a fan or air bike, you’ll know it’s a pretty tough workout. But why is that the case? Here’s what you want to know.
There are two main reasons why air bikes are so tough to work out on;
- Its full body exercise. Almost all of the muscles in your body will be used which means your cardiovascular system has to work hard to get enough blood to all of them.
- Air resistance always matches to the force you put in and you can apply as much force as you want with your arms and legs as well as during pushing and pulling.
For a more in depth explanation about all those factors and what the best way to utilize these characteristics is; keep reading.
Why is a fan bike workout tough?
There are two main parts that play into working out on an air bike being tough;
- Full body
- Resistance type
Let’s take a closer look at those two things and why they make the fan bike such a hard workout.
The first reason why a fan bike is hard is that you use your whole body. Most other cardio equipment just uses your legs.
The goal of a cardio workout is to improve your cardiovascular health. You can’t do this directly. You have to use your muscles to get your blood flowing and your heart rate up. The harder you use your muscles and the more muscles you use, the harder your cardiovascular system has to work and the bigger the training impulse.
That means, adding in your upper body adds extra muscle mass to your workout which means your cardiovascular system has to work harder which makes the workout tougher. Of course there is an upper limit to how hard you can train but where that limit is depends on your fitness level and personal situation.
The second part to the explanation why air bikes feel tough is found in the way they create resistance.
Many exercise bikes will have a solid metal flywheel you rotate with the pedals. That flywheel in itself doesn’t create much resistance after you get it moving. Therefore, there will be a brake of some sorts (usually a pad or magnetic) to slow down the flywheel and increase the resistance.
Air or fan bikes are different. Instead of a flywheel, they have a big fan. Just like a ceiling fan, rotating it moves air. Air doesn’t want to move by itself so doing that costs energy. That translates into resistance at the pedals. But now you’re probably thinking, air isn’t that difficult to move, so why does it feel so tough?
You might notice on a fan bike that going slow is very easy but the faster you go, the harder you have to push and at some point you run into a wall where you just can’t produce more force to go faster. That’s because air resistance isn’t linear. If you want to move the fan blade twice as fast, you need to exert four times as much force. This means to go faster, you need a whole lot more power.
Think about cars. For the top speed of a car, wind resistance is very important. (It’s not the only thing but the biggest factor besides power) An average sedan like a Honda Civic with about 180 horsepower will reach a top speed of about 130 MPH. That doesn’t mean you’ll reach 260 MPH if you’ve got a car with 360 horsepower. To reach upwards of 260 MPH you need well over 1000 horsepower and a car that’s very aerodynamic.
Since the aerodynamics of a fan blade in your exercise bike doesn’t change, you to exert a lot of extra force just to go a little bit faster and that’s a big reason why it’s so hard. It means pretty much everybody can push themselves to the limits on a fan bike because you’ll always run into a point where you just can’t push the fan blade any faster.
Is an air bike tougher than other forms of cardio?
Does that make working out on a fan bike more difficult than other types of cardio? It really depends what you compare it to and how you use it.
Just by using your upper and lower body, it means you have the potential to work your cardiovascular system harder and also burn more calories per minute.
If you’re just going slowly, it probably won’t make much of a difference. An elliptical trainer might feel tougher at slow speeds because you also use both your upper and lower body and you have magnetic resistance that can also be set high at slow speeds. At high intensity an air bike will be tougher.
Rowing machines are the other cardio machine that often utilize air resistance. You also use your upper body during rowing. So you might think it comes really close. However, The air bikes still has the ‘advantage’ in how hard it is. That’s because with rowing, you have to use most of your power during the pull. To return to the starting position, you’ll use a little bit of energy but it’s not much compared to the pull.
On a fan bike, you have to apply force during pushing and pulling and it’s continuous. Because of the foot straps you can move the fan with the force of moving your leg up where on a rowing machine this won’t move the fan. Your arms and therefore whole upper body also have to continuously push and pull on the levers. This means your muscles don’t get the quick break like you do with rowing and you have the potential to expend more energy.
How to make the most of a fan bike
How can you make the most of working out on a fan bike? It’s tough and gets harder the faster you try to go. How can we use that to our advantage?
The best way to do this is interval training or HIIT. This is a type of training where you switch your training up between very high intensity and low intensity. Usually the blocks of high and low intensity are timed although you can also go by heart rate.
Because the fan always matches the resistance to the power you put in, it’s pretty safe to go as hard as you can. Unlike on a treadmill for example where you could fall and hurt yourself if you turn it up too high.
In its basis, interval training is just a certain amount of time of working as hard as you can and then a certain amount of time working at low intensity. Although there are a lot of different protocols you can follow.
High Intensity Interval Training has shown to have many benefits over low intensity cardio training like;
- Increased cardiovascular capacity
- Increased muscle growth
- Increased fat burning
Because fan bikes involve the whole body and the resistance is always matched to how hard you want to push yourself, fan bikes are a perfect piece of equipment for this type of workout. You can get your heart rate up very high very quickly and to reduce the resistance for the low intensity block, you just slow down and the resistance will lower without touching any buttons or knobs.
Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories
Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:
- Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and workouts, there is no better choice than the GymNext Flex. It’s super easy to use and set up with a phone app.
- Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
- Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.
To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.