I’m not a huge fan of working out in Zwift using ERG mode. (ERG mode, if you don’t know, is a smart trainer mode where the trainer adjusts its resistance automatically so help you hit a certain target power level without needing to shift. In ERG mode on Zwift your smart trainer does not change resistance to match terrain.)

To be honest I find ERG mode boring, and (although it’s a minor thing) I think it’s good for real-life riders to modulate power through shifting and cadence instead of letting the trainer do it for you.

With that said, if you enjoy ERG workouts that’s great! For myself, though, I like Zwift workout solutions that translate to the real world. One of my favorites is the “Peak 8” HIIT session.

First: What is HIIT?

The basic idea behind High Intensity Interval Training is alternating short, high-intensity power bursts with longer, low-intensity recovery periods. Most HIIT sessions are 30 minutes or less and can be done in a variety of ways including cycling, running, rowing, or a mixture of aerobic exercises.

HITT training offers a lot of benefits, but for me it boils down to two things:

  • First, HIIT training gets improved results over “normal,” more steady state cardio training. (You can do your own research to confirm this, but HIIT training burns more fat and builds more muscle than traditional cardio work.)
  • Second, HIIT training yields more results in a shorter workout, which is great for time-crunched cyclists. Here’s a video from the boys at GCN which talks (around the 3:30 mark) about how one study showed that 30 second max effort intervals done for a total of 1-2 hours per week yielded the same benefits as steady-state “base training” of 10-12 hours per week. Wow!

For more on HIIT training see this PDF from the American College of Sports Medicine.

The Peak 8 Workout

The Peak 8 is simple in its structure. It is 20 minutes long and includes 8 30s max effort intervals (hence the “peak 8.”) So your Peak 8 session will look like this:

  • 3 minute warmup
  • 30s max effort, 90s recovery (repeat this 8 times)
  • 1 minute cooldown

That’s it! All you need is a timer. Once you hit the three minute mark, you’ll do a 30s max effort interval every time the clock hits an odd minute (so at 3, 5, 7, etc). Your 90s recovery interval should have you spinning but not putting out any real effort, so you can recover enough to give another max effort.

Just Like Real Life

This workout can be done in real life riding or on Zwift. It can be done on hills or on flats, with wind or without, in a group or solo. It’s a simple workout that yields big results. Give it a try and let me know what you think!