Fitness Guide: Spinning

Complete Guide to Spinning – Indoor Cycling as an Exercise Workout

Spinning is a popular indoor cycling workout done as part of an organised group class, usually at a gym or fitness centre. The aim of a spin class is to help you build strength and endurance as well as practice intervals, race and recovery techniques that make up cycling.

In this article, I look at what you can expect from a spinning class, the health benefits associated with spinning and what equipment and prior experience you’ll need to get involved.

What is Spinning?

When you attend a spin class, you’ll typically find yourself in a room with 10+ other people and certified class instructor. There are different spinning workout brands such as LeMond, Reebok or Schwinn, but generally, you’ll be lead through set routines that simulate different terrains and inclines as if you were riding a bike outdoors. Depending on the objectives of the class you’ll practice things like hill climbs, sprints and intervals.

Spin classes deliver an intense cardio workout and it’s possible to burn around 500 calories during a 40-minute class – making it ideal for those looking for a fat burning exercise routine. With proper equipment setup, spinning is less damaging to the body than other cardio exercises such as running. While some people might prefer riding outdoors, for some people this is not practical, and a good spinning instructor will use varied routines, music, visualization and other motivational techniques to keep workouts interesting. Spinning also has the advantage of being a sociable form of exercise that you can do with friends regardless of the weather.

Equipment Needed for Spinning

Spinning is done on specifically designed exercise bikes which are fixed to stationary stands. The bike will have a main flywheel and a device that allows you to increase or decrease the resistance on the wheel so you can simulate different hill gradients. Good quality bikes will also have specially shaped handlebars, padded seats and multiple adjustment points so you can achieve a safe and comfortable posture when riding.

With bikes provided during the class, no other equipment is needed to take part in a spinning class, but you might want to buy cycling shoes for added comfort and a sports water bottle for easier hydration. And if you want to take the workout home with you there are a huge range of home exercise bikes that are ideal for DIY spinning workouts. If you enjoy this format, there are now special shoes available to make your peddling that much more effective.

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Specific Spinning Workouts

As well as adjusting the resistance on the bike’s flywheel, the other variable that riders can take advantage of is changing pedal cadence. In layman’s terms, this means changing how fast you pedal. The faster you pedal, the more energy you use and during a spin class, the instructor will use different scenarios to increase and decrease how fast you’re pedaling.

For example, during a sprint, you will cycle for between 10 to 25 seconds at a max rate of 110 RPM. The aim is to exhaust you and push you to the 82-95% max heart rate range. To avoid injury and to get the most of the workout it’s important to maintain even pedal rotations and to keep you pedal RPM between 60 and 110 at all times.

During classes, you’ll practice five main cycling positions that are all intended to work different muscle groups in the legs and body:

Seated flat: This position requires you to sit flat on the saddle and position your hands in the middle of the handlebars (known as hand position one). This is the lowest intensity of all the positions and is used when riding flat surfaces and warming up/down. You should be aiming for an 80 – 110 RPM pedal speed.

Standing flat / running: For this position you position your hands at the end of the handlebars (hand position two) and raise up from the saddle so that you stood upright, your thighs are straddling the point. Once again you should aim for 80 – 110 cadence.

Jumps / lifts: For this position you’ll switch between seated and standing for periods of between two and eight seconds. Your hands should be at position two and you should keep your cadence between 80 – 110

Seated climb: Seated with your hands at position two, you’ll increase the resistance on your flywheel to simulate going uphill and lower your cadence to between 60 and 80.

Standing climb : With your hands spread wide on the handlebars (position three), set the resistance high, stand, and then apply as much force as you can on the pedals. Your cadence should be between 60 – 80.

More advanced classes will introduce other movements such as running with resistance, jumps on a hill, seated flat sprint, seated hill sprint and standing hill sprint.

Conclusion

Outdoor cycling isn’t for everyone but the exercise benefits of cycling itself shouldn’t be ignored and spin classes are great for casual involvement. Like many workouts, it requires personal motivation and a good instructor to remain interested, but if you do stick at it, you’ll see a fast improvement in your overall fitness.

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