Video: How to Use a Stationary Bike for Active Recovery

Active Recovery involves prefroming light exercises between your main sets to keep your body moving and your blood pumping.

Brock Armstrong
2-minute read
The Quick And Dirty
  • Recovering between sets can involve more movement, not just sitting on the bench.
  • Active Recovery maximizes your workout time and helps your body recover.
  • Using a heart rate monitor can help you know when you have recovered fully.

Recovering between sets of high-intensity intervals doesn't have to include sitting on a bench scrolling through Instagram or taking selfies in the gym mirror. In fact, you can continue moving your body in interesting ways (like pedaling a ProForm Pro 22 studio bike) while you recover.

Because let's face it, we came here to work out, not to make (or entertain) friends.

The workout I demonstrate in this video goes like this:

  • Warm-up with some easy cycling
  • 30 seconds of High Intensity (running on the spot with high knees)
  • Cycle easy again until your heart rate returns to your aerobic zone
  • 30 seconds of High Intensity (burpees)
  • Cycle easy again until your heart rate recovers
  • 30 seconds of High Intensity (jumping jacks)
  • Cool down with some easy cycling

You don't have to use a stationary bike or do burpees. You can do an easy jog between sets of bench press, or clean the kitchen between sets of pull-ups. Anything that keeps your body moving while also allowing you to get ready for your next set will do. 

Check out Get-Fit Guy's Hate Burpees? Here's How to Love Challenging Exercises to learn more about embracing exercises we all love to hate.

The great thing about active recovery is that it maximizes your workout time and actually makes your recovery time more effective by flushing metabolic byproducts out of your muscles quicker and keeping your momentum up. Like the old saying goes: a meat-sack in motion stays in motion. Or something like that.

Like the old saying goes: a meat-sack in motion stays in motion. Or something like that.

Measuring recovery

The key here is to make sure you are truly recovering between your hard sets. That means the movement you choose to do needs to be easy enough that your heart rate can come down and your body can flush the lactate from your muscles. In the video, I use an arm monitor and the iFit interface on my bike to keep an eye on my heart rate so I can see when I am back into my MAF heart rate zone. 

If you're training longer than an hour, you're making friends, not training.

Charles Poliquin

The heart rate formula I use and mention in the video is "180 - your age." So, for me, it is 180 - 49 = 131 (but I round it off to 130 for ease). This is called your MAF (maximum aerobic function) heart rate and it is correlated with being in a state of optimal aerobic effort.

I use this technique to be more efficient in the gym because like legendary coach Charles Poliquin (AKA Strength Sensei) once wrote, "If you're training longer than an hour, you're making friends, not training."

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.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.