What is a Spin Class?
If you want to get fit, there are lots of workout options to choose from. You could go for a run, hit the pool for a swim, or head to the gym to pump iron. If you prefer a more sociable workout, you could go to a group exercise glass. Zumba and step are good options.
But what if you prefer a group exercise with less hard-to-learn choreography? Maybe it’s time to try a spin class!
What Is a Spin Class?
Spinning, also known as studio cycling, is a group exercise class in which participants use stationary spin bikes. Lead by an instructor, spinning classes are typically set to music and involve a range of cycling activities including seated and standing sprints and hill climbs. As you can imagine, the health benefits of these classes are great especially for the heart, muscles, and joints (1).
Spinning was the brainchild of cyclist Jonathan Goldberg who later became known as Johnny G – a name synonymous with this type of workout. In the late 80’s and early ’90s, Johnny G peddled (pun intended) his “spinner” bikes in numerous New York gyms and spinning, now was born.
Spinning and other studio cycling classes took off and quickly became one of the most popular group exercise classes. Subsequently, many gyms and fitness centers have invested in bikes, and some have built specific rooms to house studio cycling classes.
How Long Do Spin Classes Last?
One of the great things about spinning classes is that there are lots of different versions and interpretations so that you can choose the right class for your current fitness levels. For example, some classes are as short as 30-minutes, which makes them ideal for beginners and anyone who is on a tight schedule.
Other classes last 40-60 minutes and these are aimed more at intermediate riders. Some classes last right up to 90-minutes and are definitely meant for advanced exercisers. Even if you pace yourself early on, a 90-minute class will challenge even the fittest participant.
So, which length of spin-class is right for you? If you are new to spinning, you should choose a shorter class to make sure you can complete it all. You can always upgrade to a longer class when you feel ready.
It’s also important to remember that a short but intense spin class can be just as rewarding and productive as a longer, easier class. Just because you can’t make it to a longer class does not mean you won’t get great results from spinning, especially if you crank up the resistance and work hard.
The Advantages And Benefits Of A Spin Class
Spin classes offer several noteworthy advantages and benefits, especially when compared to other group exercise classes. These pros include:
Easy to pick up – unlike a lot of group exercise classes, there are no complicated routines or steps to learn. Spinning is easy to pick up, even if it’s been years since you rode a bike. With a short learning curve, you can start enjoying all the benefits of spin-class right from the get-go.
Structured – because they are led by an instructor, all you need to do is follow their lead. Your instructor will steer you through the workout from warm-up to cool-down via various hill climbs, sprints, tempo rides, and easy recoveries. All you need to do is listen to your instructions and do your best to keep up!
Low impact – where things like aerobics classes and running involve a lot of impact, spinning is a very low impact activity, making it easy on your joints. This is an important consideration if you are overweight, or have a history of ankle, knee, hip, or spine problems.
Time-efficient – going for a bike ride outdoors invariable means lots of starts and stops, which can add a lot of time to your workout. They are non-stop, which means you can cram more exercise into less time for a more efficient workout.
Safe and comfortable – riding a bike outdoors invariably means coming into close proximity with other road users. Lousy weather and badly-repaired roads can also add to your riding experience. In contrast, spinning is much safer and more comfortable. Injuries in spin class are few and far between, and you don’t need to wear a helmet!
Superior calorie-burning – depending on how hard you pedal, spin-classes can burn between 400-600 calories per hour. This can have a significant impact on weight loss. Of course, to lose weight with spinning, you may also need to adjust your diet. But, if you are eating healthily, a few weekly spin classes should help you shed those unwanted pounds.
Great for aerobic and anaerobic fitness – spinning is an aerobic activity which means oxygen and fat combine to provide you with energy. However, most classes involve hill climbs and sprints, which are anaerobic activities. Anaerobic means without oxygen. Combining these two types of exercise in one workout means you can develop a much higher level of fitness than you could with pure aerobic training.
A good workout for your legs – spinning works all of your major leg muscles, from your calves up to your butt. Seated sprints and standing hill climbs will build strength and endurance and increase muscle tone too.
Motivational and fun – with the upbeat music and instructor leading your spin class, studio cycling workouts are both motivational and fun. Even if you are having an off day, working out in a group can help increase your motivation so that you end up having a good workout anyway.
You control the intensity – while the instructor leads you through your workout, it’s up to you to determine how hard you work. You have control of your bike, and you can increase or decrease the resistance according to how you feel.
You will be encouraged to work as hard as you can, but it’s up to you how to interpret those instructions. A simple twist of the resistance control is all you need to adjust the intensity of your workout.
Furthermore, a 16-week study followed a group of girls participating in spin-classes and the results showed positive changes in body composition, physical fitness, and blood variables, more so in spinning exercise groups as compared to general bicycle groups (2).
The Drawbacks And Disadvantages Of A Spin Class
The downsides of studio cycling are relatively few, but you should still consider the following before signing up for your first spin class.
Popularity – because spin classes are very popular, they are often over-subscribed, and you may find it hard to get into your chosen class. Most gyms use a booking system, but that means you can’t just work out as and when you want. If you’re going to attend regular classes, you’ll need to set and stick to a workout schedule. If you are busy, this may not be practical.
Saddle soreness – They are usually fitted with narrow, racing bike seats. These can take a lot of getting used to. Some sensitive users may find saddles uncomfortable, especially in longer classes. You can avoid saddle soreness by wearing proper cycling shorts or using a removable gel seat cover.
Minimal upper body work – while you can’t avoid using your arms in spin class, your upper body won’t receive the same exercise benefits as your lower body. If you want to develop all-over fitness, you’ll need to find some time for upper body exercises after or between spin classes. Other workouts, like CrossFit, Body Pump, and circuit training work the whole body in the same workout.
Lots of sweat – even the fittest exerciser will end up in a puddle of sweat after a spin class. When you ride a bike outdoors, your movement through the air produces a cooling effect that prevents overheating. They are stationary, which means you will get much warmer and sweat more too. If you don’t like to get very hot and sweaty, you may not like spinning.
Muscle soreness – your first few spin workouts may come as a shock to your muscles. New workouts often cause post-exercise muscle soreness. While not serious, this soreness can be uncomfortable and can even affect your mobility for a few days. The good news is that, after just a few classes, you should find that your muscles soon get used to the demands of spinning. Muscle soreness will soon stop being an issue.
Setting Up Your Spin Bike
Before you start your first spin class, you should introduce yourself to your instructor and ask them to help you set up your bike correctly. An improperly-fitted bike will make your workout much less comfortable and enjoyable. The main adjustments are:
Saddle height – the seat should be set so that, at the bottom of your pedal stroke and with your foot flat, your knees are slightly bent. If the seat is too low, you’ll put too much stress on your knees and thighs. But, if it’s too high, you may rock painfully from side to side on the narrow saddle.
Saddle position – spin bikes usually allow you to move the saddle forward or backward. This adjustment can be useful for riders with long legs. Adjust the seat forward or back so that, when your knee is bent, it is directly over the center of the pedal. This will minimize knee stress.
Handlebar height – your handlebars should be level with or slightly above the height of your saddle. If your bars are too low, you may suffer back pain and end up with too much weight on your arms.
Pedals and toe straps – most are fitted with toe clips and straps to hold your feet securely on the pedals. Toe clips and straps make it easier to pedal correctly, as well as allowing you to slow down using your legs instead of the brakes. The toe straps should be snug but not so tight they cut off the circulation in your feet. The balls of your feet should be over the center of the pedal.
Whether you want to lose weight, tone up, or get fit, spin classes can help. Safer and more time-efficient than riding a bike outside, spin classes are fun and motivational. You can make them as easy or intense as you like by adjusting the resistance on your bike.
Spin bikes are customizable so that you should be able to enjoy a comfortable workout. However, some users may find that saddles are a little on the narrow side, and that can lead to saddle soreness. You can avoid this problem by wearing padded cycling shorts or using a gel removable gel saddle cover.
Set to music and lead by an enthusiastic instructor, spinning is a fun and motivating way to work out. With no complicated moves or choreography to learn, it’s an instant workout that’s easy to pick up. Spinning is popular for a reason – it really works!
- Harvard Health. 2019. Give spinning a whirl.
- J Exerc Rehabil et al. 2017. Effects of 16-week spinning and bicycle exercise on body composition, physical fitness and blood variables of middle school students. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5667616/