Is Mountain Biking a HIIT Workout? (Explained!)

HIIT training is the most efficient way to lose weight, for this reason, you may wonder if mountain biking can be HIIT training so you can combine fun with weight loss.

Mountain biking has a great deal of potential as a HIIT workout. Mountain biking allows you to experience all three major HIIT workouts: sustained VO2 Max (light activity 50% – 64% MHR), fatigue resistance ( medium intensity 64% – 77% MHR), and race-like terrain (77% – 93% MHR).

Here’s a breakdown of how mountain biking compares to other HIIT workouts. Read on to find out how mountain biking can help you prepare for and dominate your next competition. You’ll leave the session more energized and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

Mountain biker riding aggressively

Riding Terrain Varies Widely in Intensity (Main Reason Why You Ride Can Be a HIIT Workout)

In mountain biking, you are forced to tackle different types of terrain and every trail is different. This variety of terrain types will bring different challenges to riders and will oftentimes force you to increase your power output to overcome them.

Technical trails will not give you a lot of recovery time from obstacle to obstacle but even the more challenging rides will have plenty of sections where you can relax a little bit, this combination of challenging and less technical sections will make your ride become HIIT training.

Depending on where you live the terrain can make almost every ride a HIIT training, I live in an area filled with hills and almost every ride has at least 3 climbing sections and some of them are very tough.

So a very intense climbing section followed by a fun downhill section will be the first interval and so on until the end of the ride, the downhill sections usually are less technical and so they give me the opportunity to recover.

If losing weight is your primary goal, for every 20-minute you should include a five-minute segment of intense riding, practicing these techniques will make mountain biking an effective HIIT workout.

Is Every Mountain Biking Ride a HIIT Workout?

Due to the variety of terrain technicality, every mountain biking ride becomes HIIT training, but the effectiveness of the HIIT training is correlated to your riding style and the trails you ride.

If you ride less technical trails and you are very good at maintaining your cadence then your ride will not be HIIT training, practically you can know how effective your ride is from a HIIT training perspective by how long your ride is. You won’t be able to sustain an effective HIIT training session for more than an hour.

As you may already know the shorter the intervals and the rest period between them are the more calories your body will burn in the recovery period after your training, so if you are just having a long and relaxing ride with your friends you shouldn’t even consider it HIIT.

If you always find yourself left behind on your rides, then you should consider incorporating HIIT at least 2 times a week and after 2 or three months you will notice that your fitness level is improved and you most likely will never be the last of your pack.

If you ride technical trails and your ride has more than one climbs your training most surely has a HIIT component.

If you want an effective HIIT training routine try rising your pace for about 5 min then lowering it for 20 min, do this going uphill for at least 5 intervals and your body will have an increased metabolic rate for at least 2 days after the training, very effective at losing weight but it requires you be in some kind of a good shape.

If you are in good shape and really want a challenging interval routine, try to incorporate the dirty 30s at least once a week, they are called this way because that is how they make you feel (really painful but incredibly effective). Uphill, go for 30 seconds sprints followed up by 30 seconds of recovery time (lower pace), do this for 5 to 15 times and you will feel like your feet are on fire, trust me I know.

Increased VO2 During Downhills (Why Downhill And Enduro MTB Races Usually are HIIT)

During technical downhill portions of your ride, you will naturally enter a state of increased VO2, practically this becomes the primary metabolic energy source for the anaerobic phase of a mountain biking race, your neuromuscular system fuels the high power output and short bursts of power.

Moreover, during a race, mountain biking XC athletes try to recover as quickly as possible to maximize their speed and performance.

During a downhill, a cyclist must perform high supra-maximal efforts repeatedly and quickly recover, these high supra-maximal efforts occur during technical downhill sections and can be as high as 70 kmhr-1.

The VO2 max of an athlete is usually measured as the volume of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute.

The metabolic rate associated with the exercise of downhill mountain biking is significantly higher than that of cross-country-style riding, this is due to the physiological demands of gravity-assisted mountain biking. In addition, the athletes must sprint to gain an advantageous position at the start of the race or on a single track.

Moreover, mountain biking demands the use of the anaerobic system several times in the course of a race, including technically challenging ascents, breakaways, and sprints to finish, this pushes the race effort into the HIIT territory.

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.