The assault bike (also referred to as a fan bike or an air bike) is one of the most effective ways to develop cardiovascular endurance. I personally hop on mine every week for a killer cardio session.
For those who aren’t familiar, an assault bike is an exercise bike with arm handles that you can push and pull in addition to pedals for your legs. The handles move in sync with the pedals and both are attached to a large fan in front of the bike that provides air resistance.
Because the assault bike allows more motion of the body than a traditional exercise bike, there’s also more room for inefficient or ineffective movement patterns. My tips to improve your form will help newbies and veterans alike prevent injuries and optimize gains.
Assault bikes are great for people of all ages, weight, and fitness levels and workouts can be as simple as pushing, pulling, and pedaling for 20 minutes at a moderate intensity.
4 benefits of an assault bike
But first, let’s briefly look at some of the benefits of exercising with an assault bike:
The simultaneous use of the arms and legs on an assault bike provides a full-body workout that’s also great for burning calories.
Air resistance naturally increases the harder and faster you go, which means the resistance on an assault bike changes to match your effort in real-time.
Assault bikes are the perfect tool for interval training, a method where you alternate between exerting high-level and low-level effort, which can vastly improve your cardiovascular fitness.
An assault bike workout is low-impact, which protects your body if you’re overweight, recovering from an injury, or getting back into exercise after a long break.
How do assault bikes compare to other popular workout machines? Personally, I like the assault bike better than the elliptical because the larger range of motion gives the muscles of the arms and legs a more robust workout. I also like it more than the rowing machine because I find that rowing can exacerbate lower back pain.
Assault bikes are great for people of all ages, weight, and fitness levels and workouts can be as simple as pushing, pulling, and pedaling for 20 minutes at a moderate intensity. For a more challenging workout, try alternating between high intensity for 30 seconds and low intensity for 90 seconds.
Pedaling backwards on the assault bike can do wonders for your body. Spend the first half of your workouts pedaling backwards and you’ll notice how quickly your muscles fatigue.
7 tips to optimize your assault bike workout
Whether you’re a novice or a veteran on the assault bike, make sure to follow these seven tips for great form that’ll help you prevent injuries and optimize gains.
Tip #1: Proper seat height
Adjust the height of the seat so your knees are slightly bent (about 20 degrees) at the lowest point of your pedal stroke. This is the safest position for your knees and allows you to generate the most force. Not enough bend in your knees? You could get injured. Too much bend? You won’t produce enough force to get a good workout.
Tip #2: Slight forward lean
A slight forward lean of the trunk, or torso, is also important for force production. The exact amount of lean will differ from one person to another depending on body length, shape, and size. One way to find the perfect amount of forward lean for you is to take your hands off the handles and test the minimal amount you need to pedal aggressively without your hands. This should be somewhere around 10 to 20 degrees from the upright position.
Tip #3: Proper forward/back seat position
Most assault bikes will let you adjust the seat forward or backward. The ideal forward/back position for the seat on an assault bike is slightly more complicated than a traditional bike because of the added arm motion. For the arms, the best position should be where the elbow is slightly bent when your trunk is in a slight forward lean and the handle is furthest away from you. For the legs, it should be where you can draw a line straight down from the front of the knee to the center of the pedal when your foot is on the pedal and the pedal is at the furthest point forward.
If you’re lucky, the ideal forward/back seat position is the same for the arms and the legs. The higher end assault bikes have different handle positions so you don’t have to make tradeoffs. If you can only choose one, I’d go with the ideal seat position for the arms.
Tip #4: No movement of the trunk
Twisting, side-to-side, and forward/back motion of your torso should be avoided while exercising on the air bike. Even though you may be able to generate more force with your arms and legs with these motions, it comes at a cost of increased back strain. Keep your trunk still and your core muscles engaged to protect your back and to create a stable platform for your arms and legs to work.
Tip #5: No flaring of the arms and legs
Flaring is when your elbows and knees bow out to the sides during movement. This is common out of habit or to avoid discomfort from fully working the muscles. Flaring should be avoided for two reasons. First, it puts additional stress on your joints, which could result in pain and injury. Second, it doesn’t allow the muscles to work effectively, which means sub-optimal performance gains. To avoid injuries and optimize gains, keep your elbows aligned with your wrists and your knees aligned with your feet while cranking it out on the assault bike.
Tip #6: Equal effort with pushing, pulling, pedaling
Pushing, pulling, and pedaling should be given equal effort unless your goal is to isolate the arms or legs. I find that most people tend to focus more of their effort on the legs out of habit. Give equal effort to the arms and you’ll get a better workout and burn more calories.
Tip #7: Pedaling backwards
As a physical therapist, I’m constantly thinking about how to get neglected muscles to start working and familiar muscles working in different ways. Injury prevention, rehabilitation, and performance optimization often depends on it. Pedaling backwards on the assault bike is a practice that can do wonders for your body. Spend the first half of your workouts pedaling backwards and you’ll notice how quickly your muscles fatigue.
5-Day Assault Bike Challenge
Empowered with this knowledge, you’ll be able to hop on any assault bike and confidently use it like a pro. What better way to put this knowledge to use than with a 5-day assault bike challenge? Over the next five days, your challenge is to get on an assault bike and apply what you learned on a 20-minute moderate or high intensity workout. Give it a try and let me know how you feel by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving me a voicemail at 510-353-3104.
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.