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Spin Bike Workouts for Beginners

Fitness experts love to argue about what type of exercise is best. They’ll quote (and misquote!) studies, talk about things like functional versus non-functional exercise, compare calorie burning, and a host of other characteristics.

On paper, at least, this can make it appear that some workouts are better than others. However, the reality is quite different, and almost all forms of exercise can do you good.

Ultimately, the best type of workout is the one you enjoy and can do regularly. After all, for a workout to produce results, you need to do it several times a week and for many months, if not years.

For example, interval training might burn more calories than slow and easy jogging, but if you hate sprinting and cannot bring yourself to do it, this information is all but irrelevant. Similarly, body weight and free-weight training might be better than using resistance training machines. Still, if you don’t enjoy doing barbell bench presses and back squats, machine leg presses are better than nothing.

In this article, we’re going to look at stationary cycling and provide you with three spin bike workouts for beginners. That’s not to say spinning is the best workout. It’s just one of many that you can use to get fit, burn fat, and improve your health.

Spin Bike Workouts for Beginners

How Long Should A Beginner Ride an Exercise Bike?

Beginners enjoying an exercise bike class

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

This might sound like a lot, but it’s actually only 30 minutes five days out of seven.

This amount of exercise will improve your cardiovascular fitness and health and could help you manage your weight when combined with a sensible, sustainable diet.

If you are new to exercise, and especially spinning, riding an exercise bike for 30 minutes straight may be too much. Don’t let that put you off. Just start off doing 5-10 minutes three times a week and increase the length and frequency of your workouts gradually over the coming weeks and months.

Also, make sure you don’t go too fast; you don’t have to ride like a Tour de France racer to benefit from cycling.

Instead, ride at a comfortable pace where you can speak in sentences without undue stress. This should equate to around 60% of your maximum heart rate. Use a heart rate monitor or work out your training heart rate like this:

220 – age in years x 0.6 = 60% of your maximum heart rate.

Add a minute per workout and a workout per month, and you’ll soon be clocking up the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. However, there is no need to rush and do too much too soon. Ultimately, any exercise is better than no exercise.

Is Spinning A Good Way to Lose Weight?

Riding an exercise bike or going to a spinning class is a very good way to lose weight. Stationary cycling burns around 600 calories per hour, more if you really push yourself. Given that one pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories, it’ll take a little less than six workouts to burn off a pound of fat. You’ll lose weight faster if you also reduce your food intake.

However, it’s worth mentioning that spinning won’t preferentially burn fat from your belly. Fat is stored and then burnt according to your gender, hormone levels, and genetics. With spinning, you’ll lose weight from all over your body and not just your abdomen.

There is no way to preferentially burn fat from your stomach, not even if you do lots of crunches and sit-ups. That’s just not how your body works.

Is Spinning OK for Beginners?

Spinning is an EXCELLENT exercise for beginners. The reasons for this include:

Low-Impact

Unlike jogging and running, spinning involves zero impact, which means it’s easy on your joints. High-impact activities like running and jumping put a lot of stress on your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine. If you are overweight or just not very fit, this can lead to unwanted aches, pains, and injuries. There are no such issues with spinning.

Easy to Learn

Once your spinning bike is set up, it’s just a simple matter of getting on and pedaling. There are no tricky techniques to master or skills to learn. As such, spinning is a very instant workout; you can get started straight away.

Adjustable

The resistance on spinning bikes is straightforward to adjust and goes from very light to extremely heavy. As such, this is a workout that will grow with you. Better still, if you go to a spinning class, you can work out with advanced exercisers just by keeping the resistance low.

A Good Lower Body Workout

Beginner spin bike class

Cycling is an excellent way to tone and strengthen your legs. Riding an exercise bike works your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. If you want good-looking legs, spinning can help.

There are a few downsides to spinning you should consider before you sign up for a spin class or buy a bike for home use…

Comfort

Spinning bike saddles are notoriously narrow. Some riders find them very uncomfortable. Adding an aftermarket gel seat cover can help, as can wearing padded cycling shorts. You’ll gradually become accustomed to sitting on a bike saddle. However, initially, at least, the length of your workout may be determined by your seat tolerance.

Lack of Feedback

Spinning bikes usually have a large flywheel, a friction braking system, and not much else. Unlike ellipticals and treadmills, very few spin bikes have flashy LCD or LED screens. If you want to be entertained as you work out or want things like preprogrammed workouts to follow or know how far or fast you’re going, spinning may not be for you.

Minimal Upper Body Exercise

Your upper body won’t get much of a workout when you ride a spinning bike. If you want to work your legs and your arms at the same time, a rower or elliptical may be your best choice.

Sweaty!

Spinning is one of the sweatiest workouts around. With no headwind to keep you cool, you’ll soon warm up and start to perspire. This probably isn’t much of an issue if you are at a spin class, as the flooring should be designed to resist sweat damage.

But, if you work out at home, you may need to put your spin bike on a waterproof sheet or mat to protect your floor. Cut down on perspiration by placing a fan near your bike.

3 Easy Spin Bike Workouts

While there is nothing to stop you from jumping on your spin bike and pedaling at the same speed for 20-30 minutes, that’ll soon get old. Instead, try one of our tried and tested spinning workouts for beginners.

Precede each workout with 3-5 minutes of easy cycling to warm up. Then do some gentle stretches and joint mobility exercises before getting back on your bike. This will make your workout more comfortable and may reduce your risk of injury.

Workout 1 – Variable RPE

This workout uses RPE to determine your speed. RPE stands for the rating of perceived exertion. 0 is very easy, while 10 is flat out, and 5-6 is your comfortable pace or about 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. Adjust the resistance on your bike, so you feel you are working at the prescribed intensity level.

  • Minutes 1-4 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 5-8 – RPE 5
  • Minutes 9-10 – RPE 7
  • Minutes 11-13 – RPE 5
  • Minutes 14-16 – RPE 7
  • Minutes 17-20 – RPE 4

Workout 2 – Up Hill, Down Dale

Couple doing spin bike routine

This workout also uses RPE and simulates climbing five progressively steeper hills.

Each hill takes two minutes to ascend and one minute to descend. Try to remain seated for the first three climbs and then stand up if necessary for the last two.

  • Minutes 1-4 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 5-6 – REP 5
  • Minute 7 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 8-9 – REP 6
  • Minute 10 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 11-12 – REP 7
  • Minute 13 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 14-15 – REP 8
  • Minute 16 – RPE 4
  • Minutes 17-18 – REP 9
  • Minute 19-24 – RPE 4

Workout 3 – Stand Up, Sit Down Pyramid

This short but sharp workout lasts a little over ten minutes. Add a five-minute warm-up and cool down, and you’ll be all done in about 20 minutes.

Choose two levels of resistance; one where you can sit down and pedal comfortably, and one where you need to get up and pedal standing up to keep the flywheel spinning. Alternate between these two levels using the intervals below:

  • Sit for 15 seconds
  • Stand for 15 seconds
  • Sit for 20 seconds
  • Stand for 20 seconds
  • Sit for 25 seconds
  • Stand for 25 seconds
  • Sit for 30 seconds
  • Stand for 30 seconds
  • Sit for 35 seconds
  • Stand for 35 seconds
  • Sit for 40 seconds
  • Stand for 40 seconds
  • Sit for 45 seconds
  • Stand for 45 seconds
  • Sit for 50 seconds
  • Stand for 50 seconds
  • Sit for 55 seconds
  • Stand for 55 seconds
  • Sit for 60 seconds
  • Stand for 60 seconds

Bottom Line

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced exerciser, spinning is a great workout for burning fat, getting fit, and losing weight.

Unlike running, it’s a low-impact workout, so it’s easy on your joints. It’s also easy to learn and won’t take long to master. However, you may find the seat on your spin bike is somewhat uncomfortable, so it may be worth investing in a gel saddle or bike shorts if you are going to spin regularly.

Gyms often have spin bikes, and many offer spinning classes. There are also spinning studios that specialize in this form of exercise. That said, spinning bikes make excellent home workouts, especially because they’re very space-efficient and reasonably quiet during use.

The main drawback of spinning, after saddle sores, is that they only work your legs. Your arms are involved a little when you get out of the saddle to climb hills or sprint, but they really don’t see a whole lot of toning or strengthening action otherwise.

If you want to work your arms and legs together, a rower or elliptical may be your best option. Otherwise, end your spinning workout with some bodyweight upper body exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups.

Whether you ride on your own at home or in a class at the gym, spinning is a very effective workout. Is it the BEST way to exercise? Not necessarily. But it could be the best workout for YOU!

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Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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