When South-African born cyclist Johnny Goldberg built a stationary bike in his garage to maintain his training regime while minimizing the time away from his home and his then-pregnant wife, he never anticipated this simple training adjustment would develop into the fitness phenomenon recognized today as spinning.
These high intensity, 40-minute classes provide pulsating music, strength in numbers and a structured plan that allows you to work off of your rate of perceived exertions.
Each class has a focus in terms of the body’s physiological capabilities, and with the 40-minute maximum time in the saddle, the rider avoids overtraining, fatigue and motivation levels continue to peak throughout the periodized mesocycles. Understanding the science behind spinning and the body’s natural adaptions that can create a myriad of positive training effects in the body.
Creating an efficient ride
Spinning requires a hybrid of capabilities, including but not limited to climbing “long” and “short” hills, which requires the rider to increase the resistance and at certain intervals come out of the saddle, along with incorporating intermittent sprints or accelerations and also riding for a measurable period of time. Spinning burns anywhere from 500 to 800 calories per class, with riders maintaining 65 to 75 percent of their maximum heart rate outside of sprint peaks and hill climbs.
Proper body alignment is important to avoid injury and to maximize energy efficiency. Elite athletes do not often differ greatly in their physiological resources, but using these resources most efficiently contributes to the most effective ride. The seat should sit at a height that allows the knee to create an angle of 25 to 35 degrees at the bottom of each pedal stroke and the arms maintain a slight bend while grasping the lower part of the handlebars.
EPOC: the exercise after-burn
While spinning does not involve using the body’s total mass to propel movement due to the distribution of weight on the seat and the handlebars, the major muscles of the body still engage to complete an efficient ride, including the spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, biceps, pectoralis major and minor, triceps and the quadriceps.
With all of these muscle groups engaged during the ride, the body maximizes its ability to burn calories while capitalizing on the benefits that high-intensity interval programs offer in terms of elevated metabolism and increases in lean muscle mass, long after completion of the ride. This elevated metabolism referred to as EPOC, or excess-post-oxygen consumption is more commonly understood as the exercise after-burn. After a strenuous workout, oxygen consumption levels remain elevated above resting levels in order to help the body return itself to its pre-exercise state.
The body’s physiological mechanisms responsible for this elevated metabolism include the replenishment of oxygen stores, phosphagen re-synthesis (ATP-PC) lactate removal, increased blood circulation and increased ventilation. Generally, it takes anywhere from 15 to 48 hours for the body to recover and reach its resting state, with other factors such as age, intensity, and duration influencing the total timeline.
Hybrid training effect
The spin class creates a hybrid training effect that tests the body’s physiological capabilities including strength, endurance and intensity and the major body systems including the energy pathways, the body’s cardiovascular system and also the muscular system.
All of the energy pathways are utilized during a spin ride, including the creatine-phosphate, or immediate energy system which propels the rider’s energy through the first 10 to 15 seconds of riding, until the anaerobic system takes over, which lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Finally, the oxidative or aerobic pathway is the final supplier of energy, emphasizing the cardiovascular system which takes the rider through the majority of the class.
With each system utilized, the body improves mitochondrial density, lactic acid tolerance and the body’s ability to turn on those fat-burning enzymes. The muscular system contributes by testing the rider to exert enough force to overcome the resistance indicated by the current interval of the ride, to maintain endurance by pedaling for extended periods of time, the speed to pedal quickly during accelerations and finally the power to sustain forces for a measurable period of time.
Other training effects that take place from participating in spinning include expanded lung and diaphragm capacity, increased heart stroke volume, increased red blood cell content and finally an improvement in capillary density. These effects not only aid the body in general strength and conditioning but can help with weight maintenance, body fat reduction and help to ward off heart disease, diabetes, and increased blood pressure and cholesterol.
Spinning not only offers the rider an effective and challenging workout but also helps to enhance their neuromuscular connection, more commonly known as the mind-muscle connection. Spinning provides an environment where a lack of concern about handling or road safety exists, which allows the spinner to more accurately engage the mind as well as the body.
The rider can focus on their technique and form, gauged and monitored by the forces applied to the pedal, along with breathing patterns and muscle fiber engagement. It is also a great workout for off-season riders because the spin bike replicates the fit, resistance, type of pedaling and movement in and out of the saddle that a cyclist would experience on the road or trail.
With pulsating music chosen by the instructor to replicate the tempo or intervals of the ride along with dimmed lighting, an atmosphere of extreme focus and motivation is provided. Finally, having the ability to train inside or outside allows an uninterrupted training regime, despite inclement weather conditions.
Best of both worlds
Since its inception in 1989, spinning has become a staple in gyms and fitness centers everywhere. Spinning offers a total body workout that provides the rider with the best of both worlds: a group structure to provide motivation with an environment that still offers individual intensity and focus. If you are looking for a great off-season workout to supplement your cycling, or just want to add a new challenge to your workout regime, spinning provides both a stimulating and intensive workout.
Yours in Health and Fitness,