Fan Bike - The Ultimate Cardio Training Tool article by Marty Gallagher

Fan Bike - The Ultimate Cardio Training Tool

Why the ancient Fan Bike blows other cardio equipment devices into the weeds

The Fan Bike has been around for decades. This iconic cardio equipment device has stood the test of time. A Fan Bike is the technological equivalent of a Wild West steam locomotive, all mechanical, it’s harshness, hardiness and surprising multidimensionality have made it the favored aerobic training device of the athletic elite.

The Fan Bike is rugged and raw, unpolished and primal. It has the obvious advantage of being able to work all four limbs, arms and legs, equally and simultaneously. Less known and equally important: A Fan Bike can be pedaled and pulled backwards, effectively and instantly doubling the exercise menu.

The Fan Bike makes the arms and legs equal partners in creating the sum-total of the aerobic effort.

A Fan Bike can be pedaled and pulled backwards, thereby working the posterior chain. All of which is totally lacking in legs-only, forward-only cardio equipment devices.

The modern Fan Bike has an LED display that shows the rider RPMs and Watts generated. These two expressions of effort make it possible for the user to create cardio personal records, performance best efforts in each Fan Bike training drill. These PRs are expressed numerically, the highest WATTS reading generated, or highest number of RPMs generated during a drill.

The Fan Bike enables the trainee to stress one, two, three or all four limbs, individually or together, forwards or backwards. The cardio effort can be “shuttled” around the body in a very strategic and calculated fashion.

Quad-limb Fan Bike Core Protocol

For each Fan Bike drill, our procedure is the same

  • Warm-up gradually
  • Pick a drill, begin light and easy, slowly elevate core temperature
  • Gradually pick up the pace, warm-up to 50% of capacity
  • Allow the body to acclimatize at each subsequent intensity level
  • Move to 70% of capacity: the body is now completely awake and alert
  • Move to 85% - do a quick check – does every muscle feel fine? If so…
  • Push the accelerator to the floor: 100% of what you are capable of
  • Hold 100% until you fade…
  • 100% + efforts are very short, 5-10 seconds max
  • Shut the sprint down at any hint of pain or discomfort – live to fight another day
  • Intensity had a report card: highest WATTS generated, or highest RPMs attained
  • Be cognizant that intensity/capacity is a shifting target, differing session to session
  • Some days capacities are enhanced, other days normal, other days diminished
  • Regardless if capacity is diminished, enhanced or normal, we work to 100%
  • Gains occur by repeatedly generating all-out effort, safely and consistently
  • Sweat is a positive indicator of real effort
  • Log workout performance: seek to exceed current limits
  • Continually assault the barriers
Assault fan bike for quad limb cardio training.
Assault fan bike for quad limb cardio training.


Once a 100% all-out max effort in a drill is attained, decelerated, shift into the slowest, easiest warm-up iteration of the next sequenced exercise. Now take this drill to 50%, then 70%, then 85% then mash the accelerator to the floor and go all out, 100% + as long as possible (not long.)

One example: with feet resting on the Fan Bike footrest pegs, work up to 100% effort in “arms-only, push only, going forward with an over-grip” drill. Attain 100% of capacity and generated a 29 WATTS readout.

The athlete then segues into “arms-only, pull only, going backwards with an under-grip” drill. Attain100% of capacity and generate a 27 WATTS reading. Both peak WATTS readings are noted and later logged. After going 100% using just the arms – all-out forward and all-out backwards – now what?

Legs only forwards, then legs only backwards. Then you could do arms and legs together going forward while standing. Then backwards. You get the idea. Rotate the effort. While one part of the body is generating a 100% sprint-style effort, other parts of the body are resting, waiting their turn at bat.

Rotate the exertions and rotate the recovery. Specific body parts are maximally taxed, then rested. Other body parts are bought online and taxed maximally in turn. This strategy enables repeated maximum exertions. Here are a few different Fan Bike drills…

  • Arms & legs             forward
  • Arms & legs            backwards
  • Arms & legs forward – standing up
  • Legs only forward
  • Legs only backwards
  • Arms only push (over-grip, “bench press” the handles)
  • Arms only push (under-grip)
  • Arms only pull (over-grip row)
  • Arms only pull (under-grip row)
  • Arms only push and pull (burn it out, fast as possible)
  • Left leg forward
  • Right leg forward
  • Left leg backwards
  • Right leg backwards
  • Right arm forward (push)
  • Left arm forward
  • Right arm backwards (pull)
  • Left leg/right arm forwards or backwards
  • Right leg/left arm forward or backwards

Why would anyone purchasing a cardio training device select an aerobic tool that can only go in one direction, forward, and uses legs alone to generate 100% of the cardio effort? Aerobic equipment toos that depend on legs alone to create the totality of the exercise effort are woefully inadequate when compared to the astounding possibilities of quad-limbed/forward-backward cardio

Consistent and intense cardio, cardio exercise with a purposeful muscular effort (sprinting) builds locomotive-like endurance while infusing muscles with additional mitochondria. Intense cardio triggers the release of hormones: adrenaline, endorphins, GH, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, etc., these beneficial hormones flood the bloodstream and are a telltale precursor of the adaptive response. The hormonal release is a positive indicator that the training effort has been productive.

Intense cardio training builds and strengthens internal organs, flushes arterial walls, power-washes away clinging plaque and sludge as torrents of blood rip through veins in a supercharged circulatory rush. The heart muscles and lung muscles accelerate and send fresh blood coursing to working muscles. Enriched blood delivers healing nutrients, carrying away toxins and waste products.

Comparing a contemporary stationary bike, a standard treadmill, or any legs-only/forward-only cardio device to a Fan Bike is akin to comparing checkers to chess. Why be purposefully stuck with a single-dimensional cardio workout tool when you can explore cardio training in four dimensions?!

To shop the latest fan bikes and exercise bikes visit the IRON COMPANY upright exercise bikes page HERE.

RAW with Marty Gallagher, J.P. Brice and Jim Steel Podcast


About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.