When we consider the wonders and accomplishments of the SPINNING program, we are often amazed at the benefits to both mind and body that are possible; however, no fitness program is entirely self-sufficient, and we need to consider the things that SPINNING classes cannot forge within us as we look to cross-training modalities. These will both inform and be informed by our riding efforts, but for the time being let us focus on the advantages of resistance based cross-training.
As we ride, we travel (even on stationary bikes) along the sagittal plane (i.e., forward and aft). (We do in fact shift our weight while in standing movements, and our upper bodies may laterally shift in response to pedaling while in the Seated Flat; this minimally addresses the frontal plane, but probably not suffciently so, and while not accounting for the transverse plane.)
Given the planar defaults of the SPINNING program, then, our concerns are these:
1.) At the very least, we customarily involve all three planes of motion in everyday existence. Our fitness programs really do need to account for this. Otherwise, there may be a risk of injury.
2.) Without using all three motions in the context of exercise, certain muscle groups become neglected, which results in overactivity on the part of major prime movers (e.g., hamstrings). We then reap things like reciprocal inhibition, which means that the overactive group produces length-tension changes in the opposing muscle group (i.e., antagonist). In other words, tight hamstrings prevent the quadriceps from attaining a full contraction.
3.) Length-tension changes in muscle then alter tendon and joint movement which is what leads to injury.
What are some of the more neglected muscle groups, then? I would list, at a minimum, the transverse abdominals, gluteus minimus and medius, and possibly the vastus lateralis (outermost/lateral quadriceps sub-grouping). For the vastus lateralis, certain fibers are more likely to be recruited during lateral motion in the frontal plane: for example, during a side lunge or step up, the lateralis fibers are more thoroughly recruited than during a simple knee extension.
Now that we have reviewed the need for and some parameters of resistance based cross-training for us in the SPINNING program, it would behoove us to discuss some viable options, even though there are so overwhelmingly many out there. We shall strive here to generate as much general and functional cross-fitness as possible, without surrendering the specificity of training that we need. Part two of this blog will explore this in greater detail, but please allow me to leave you with this: the great Mark Allen, six-time Ironman Kona world champion, suggested on at least one occasion (in an article for active.com) that endurance athletes ought to weigh the benefit of cutting up to 25% of their endurance training time in favor of a well executed resistance component to their training. He assured his readers that performance benefits would be soon to follow. Are we agreed that he knows a little something about those?