OCD: Pressure Cooker

Welcome to our first installment of OCD—Obsessed with Cycling Drills. Yes, we are definitely obsessive about everything to do with indoor cycling drills including the music, cues, and objective. Pressure Cooker does exactly what the name implies: it places the body under continuous and increasing pressure. You get to choose whether to put the muscles or lungs in the pressure cooker.


Objective: Muscular Endurance, Muscular Strength, Aerobic Capacity
Intensity: Zone 4 – Zone 5
Cadence: 60–70 rpm, 90–100 rpm



  1. I utilized this drill in a profile that I created for my class this week, and I LOVE it!! I teach on Keiser M3 bikes, so I had the same question that others had. I decided to modify to keep it simple for my riders. I had them start at our target cadence at 70% RPE, as instructed. However, I had my riders add 1 full gear every 30 seconds. So, we were adding 2, subtracting 1, and so on. It worked GREAT!! VERY challenging by the end of each one, but excellent.

    I turned it into a complete ride. So we did 3 “pressure cooker” climbs (5, 6, and 7 minutes respectively) with about a 4 minute “downhill” ride between each. I had them start each downhill in total recovery at a target pace, and then we added a gear each minute for active recovery that got more “active” as we progressed through the downhill sections. However, I told ppl to not exceed threshold. We switched in the 2nd half of the ride to steady state hill climbs (started at about 70% RPE and added 1 gear each minute to threshold but no higher) for our “active recovery” between 2 “pressure cooker” fast efforts for aerobic capacity (6 and 4 minutes respectively.) These were TOUGH! But the ride was a great change, full of awesome benefits, and a real feeling of accomplishment at the end. 🙂

    My favorite pressure cooker climb was a 6 minute effort at 65 to Rob Dougan’s Clubbed to Death (7:15) which worked SO well with the 30 sec gear changes.

    Thank you so much for the drill and all the awesome info you and ICA provide for us!! It’s helping me bring more value and benefit to my riders, and it’s helping me to really grow as an instructor! 🙂


    1. This sounds awesome! Thanks. And I love the idea of Rob Dougan’s Clubbed to Death. That is definitely a timeless classic!

  2. I’m a little late to this party, but If you are having them do the lower cadence version, can they stand for part of it? Also, would it be too much to do the drill twice-once with power & once with speed-if I kept each drill shorter?

  3. Thanks for this one Tom! I incorporated this into one of my profiles a couple of weeks ago & my classes loved the overall ride! One of my hills was a bit shorter, so I had them add a couple more up front before taking it off, then added back to finish the song, just to even it out a bit & it was tough, but also a great last climb.

    1. Author

      Excellent Tracy! It sounds like you added some pressure to the pressure cooker. A great last climb to finish the ride (and riders).

  4. if you are asking riders to choose the cadence they plan to use how do you, the instructor, choose the cadence that matches? thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Lisa, this is a great question. The instructor should choose a cadence that is ideal for the objective or training effect. For example, if the objective is muscular strength, a cadence between 55-65 rpm is ideal. My recommendation is to use music with a similar tempo.


  5. Author

    Thanks everyone for the great comments! We are very excited (and obsessed) about this new addition to ICA.

  6. Can’t wait to use this , very excited for this series OCD !!!!!

  7. excellent drill. I will be using it this weekend for sure! Thank you.

  8. Thank you so much, this is a great way to start the day.

  9. I will use this drill and look forward to more!

  10. love this series of OCD already! Thanks for including music ideas as well as cues!

  11. On bikes that have gears (Keisers for example) would this drill translate to adding 4 gears than taking off 2?) I noticed that you used the term small resistance, rather than gears. Thanks for your

    1. Author

      Barbara, this is a very good question. I’m always cautious about using a gear or 1/4 turn of a knob because the result can be different from bike to bike. For many riders, depending on the initial gear, adding 4 gears will shut them down.

      On the Keiser, one can actually add 1/2 gears. I recommend encouraging riders to become aware of the change in resistance as they move the lever.

      1. Tom, half gears, really? Even on the earlier M3’s? If so, this is great! Is the half-gear the point where the display fluctuates between the number and the next higher?

  12. Love this drill! Thanks!

  13. love this one, and love the name. I’ll use this “fo sho”

  14. I’m really looking forward to this series – guess I’m a little OCD too.

  15. I LIKE it! thank you! Great reminder!

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