“It’s Pilates on the Bike”
By Michael Ferrante
The Spinning program, with its roots firmly planted in road cycling, sound fitness and health principles, and safe practices on-the-bike, continues to suffer from reckless teaching modifications from some instructors. These instructors apparently believe that the fundamentals of the Spinning program are not sufficient enough to produce exhilarating, beneficial and pleasing rides for their students. Consider the following:
The Spinning Fundamentals Make Sense
As a member of Mad Dogg’s team of international Master Instructors, and a sounding board for my fellow instructors at Healthworks Fitness Centers for Women in the greater Boston area, I often have to defend the reasoning behind sticking with the core Spinning hand positions and movements. Recently, I was asked my
opinion on allowing riders to ride in “aero” (time trial or triathlon) position on the Spinner; and hovering, a practice that encourages riders to lift out of the
saddle and push way back to the rear of the bike while pedaling.
Avoiding these two contraindicated movements actually offers instructors an opportunity to promote the exceptional depth of the Spinning program when it comes to sound safety and cycling principles. Riding a Spinner bike in aerodynamic position is biomechanically inefficient. The geometry, or dimensions of the Spinner,
actually mirrors the geometry of real road bikes not triathlon or time trial frames. Hence, riding a Spinner with arms out stretched/elbows resting on the
handlebars puts added strain on a rider’s lower back and also restricts pedal stroke power because knee alignment over the spindle of the pedal is moved forward. With hovering, by lifting off the saddle, moving the hips back and stretching the upper body, the knee alignment over the pedal spindle is moved back and this can lead to knee, back and shoulder injuries.
Mixing Methods Makes a Mess
Additionally, I recently had a phone call from a local health club manager seeking advice on how to cope with a Spinning instructor who had riders squat while pedaling in standing flat position. When confronted the instructor defended this practice by saying – no joke here – “It’s Pilates on the bike.” Huh?
My response to this scenario is one I’ve used scores of times when fielding questions on mixing one or more fitness methods while actually riding a Spinner. As
instructors, follow this simple guideline: Any movement or practice that you would not execute outside on a
road bike should not be brought into the Spinning program.
This holds true for squats and any work on the Spinner with free weights, bands, tubing or weighted bars. This messy mix of fitness training techniques creates an unsafe Spinning experience. A rider’s hands, for example, should only be used for gripping the handlebars for stability, adjusting bike resistance, using the brake pad mechanism or for drinking water and toweling off. Additionally, weight training requires solid footing to help stabilize the body and this footing cannot be found while pedaling a bike.
The Chemistry of Spinning
With all the tools the Spinning program offers – varied terrain and terrain combinations; gear/resistance changes; practical cadence parameters;
guidance on heart rate, perceived exertion and profile design – there’s no shortage of ways for instructors to be creative, inspiring mentors in health and fitness. Factor in the element of music and instructors have all the pieces
to create the right chemistry that makes the Spinning program the ultimate indoor cycling choice.