Turbo trainer sessions that will take you from zero to hero

turbo trainer session

The weather has changed, the nights have become longer and darker and it becomes difficult to train outdoors during the week.

While even uttering the words ‘turbo trainer’ is enough to send shivers down the spine of some cyclists, indoor training remains an efficient way to make the most of limited time on the bike.

Try these four sets of turbo training sessions, and take your biking to the next level this winter.

1. Single leg pedalling drills (26mins)

Warm-up: 5mins easy spinning in smaller chainring and middle sprocket on the cassette.

Main set

  • 1min: clip out your weaker leg and rest it on a stool. Pedal one-legged, shifting down, if needed, to maintain 80-100rpm
  • 1min: spin with both legs
  • 1min: repeat the ‘dog muck drill’ with the other leg
  • 1min: spin with both legs
  • 1min: go back to the original leg and this time concentrate on the top of the pedal stroke by throwing the knee over the handlebars and by pushing the toes forward in the shoes
  • 1min: spin with both legs
  • 1min: repeat ‘knee over handlebars’ with the other leg
  • 1min: spin with both legs
  • 8mins: repeat main set

Cool-down: 5mins easy spinning

2. Threshold booster (41-65mins)

This session is designed to raise lactate threshold and your ability to perform near it.

Warm-up: 5mins spinning while increasing gearing/resistance, followed by 5mins of 10secs sprint and 50secs recovery.

Main set

3-6 x 5mins with 3min recoveries. Shift to the big chainring and work hard for 5mins (aiming for a heart rate 15-25 beats below your maximum or, if using power, FTP).

At the end of 5mins, drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and spin easy for 3mins. Repeat this work/recovery cycle for three to six reps depending on ability.

Cool-down: 10mins easy spinning

3. Stairway to heaven (42mins)

This is great for building hill strength, as well as mental toughness.

Warm-up: 10mins easy spinning, including some 10-20sec seated sprints in the second 5mins.

Main set

3 x 6mins of ascending difficulty with 2min recoveries.

Select the big ring but with a moderate sprocket. For example, 22t. Resistance should be at about a third of your turbo’s maximum. Ride moderately hard.

After 3mins, shift up two gears and try to maintain the same cadence for a further 2mins. Finally, shift up another two gears and ride hard for a minute out of the saddle.

Drop to the small chainring, drop the resistance and recover with easy spinning for two minutes. Shift back to the big ring but this time perform the ‘3mins, 2mins, 1min’ sequence with two more clicks of resistance.

Recover for two minutes again and then work through the ‘3,2,1’, again cranking it up by two clicks.

Cool-down: 10mins easy spinning

4. Cassette double pyramid (53-57mins)

Develops sustained climbing strength and pacing.

Warm-up: 10mins easy spinning

Main set

33-37mins of effort (depending on whether 9- or 10-speed groupset) in ascending and descending 1min increments. Zero your trip computer and select a fairly heavy resistance along with your bottom gear.

For example, 39 x 25. Ride sustainably hard, remembering you’ve got a long drag ahead and it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Every minute shift up one gear all the way through the block.

By the time you’re at the 12t, you’ll barely be turning the cranks. Keep going until you’ve been up and down the entire block twice. How far did you cover? Try to beat it next time.

Cool-down: 10mins easy spinning


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