SOUL CYCLE does it with bands and weights

By Jennifer Sage On November 21, 2011 Under Contraindications
Since Soul Cycle has seen practically meteoric growth and nothing but positive press in newspapers, journals and television spots over the past few years, I thought it might be a good idea to reprint an article I wrote 20 months ago. It seems every single week I hear of club owners or instructors lamenting how unknowing and uneducated students ask why they aren’t lifting weights in class or doing what Soul Cycle is doing. The reason they aren’t is because they are intelligent owners and instructors who know and understand proper technique and don’t want to risk injury to their students. Unfortunately, the students don’t realize that. 

No one has dared question the methods of programs like Soul Cycle outside of a few trainers like me to small audiences on blogs or forums or Facebook groups…yet.)

Soul Cycle
March 12, 2010, By Jennifer Sage
OK, now I’ve seen it all! I thought the “pole dancing” moves in an indoor cycling class took the cake (Angela’s Joy Ride). But that one was so silly that you know it was just a fad and that most reasonable people would laugh it off. But these people at this NY club actually believe they are doing something beneficial.

Please tell me you’ll never do this! More importantly, please tell me you think this is totally out of line.

And this is in the “Best of NY Health and Self” of NY magazine? Really? What would they know?

Anyone who is a personal trainer, or who is very familiar with weight training, knows that in order to get benefits – real benefits – from a pulling action when resistance training, you must plant your feet firmly against the floor, or brace them against something. Otherwise you won’t be able to use a weight substantial enough to cause any adaptations in the muscle, that is unless you are starting from a place of substantial weakness.

Notice the instructor is fit and strong. But you know what? She didn’t get that way by pulling resistance bands from a ceiling while riding her indoor bicycle, I can promise you. Is it lost on the riders that she isn’t even on a bike as she is leading the class?

Remember back to when you’ve encountered a heavy door that was hard to open; when you tried to open it the way you open every other door and pulled on it, it pulled you forward? So what did you do? You planted your feet and leaned slightly back to get the darn thing open, right?

OK, so maybe some of these women (although there’s one guy in the way back corner I think) can pull pretty hard on those bands…they look pretty strong and fit. But wait! If you pulled a heavy band downward while sitting on a bike, you’ll be lifted off your saddle, even just a tiny bit, just like that heavy door pulled you forward. And when that happens, you won’t be able to apply a consistent force to the pedals and your power output will drop.

I’ll get back to the power issue in a second, but first, notice that many of the riders have cycling shoes. To resist being pulled out of the saddle they’ll have to pull upwards on the cleat to pull their body weight downward in order to pull down on those bands. If you didn’t have cycling shoes, you’d press the top of your foot against the toe cage. Doing this is the exact opposite of what one should be doing when pedaling a bike – pushing downwards to apply a force to move the pedals against the resistance! If you’re pulling upwards with your feet (even for a tiny segment of the pedal stroke), you certainly can’t pedal properly, and you can never have much resistance on the bike, can you?

Back to the power output: here is the silliest thing about this “SoulCycling.” When your power drops, your effectiveness drops. And with that, so does the benefits, and the potential results. Less caloric burn, less weight loss, less performance improvement, less endurance, less strength gains (in the legs).

Oh, and don’t get me started on the sentence that says, “…clenching your core…”


Just as with most contraindicated movements or stupid circus tricks on a bike, things like lifting weights, bands, pushups, core work, etc; by trying to do both at the same time, neither one can be effective.

Here is a novel idea: why not just ride the bike? Then when you’re done, do some weight lifting and core work?

It’s sad that they can get away with calling this a “Spin” class (here is one time when I would love to sick Mad Dogg on them)!


(NOTE Nov 2011: Most of the latest press since this article in the NY Magazine, or in the videos of interviews by business development groups – yes you can find those on Youtube – they now are very careful to not say the word “Spinning®” or “Spin®”. Hopefully that is because Mad Dogg Athletics did go after them. But the public still doesn’t know the difference, and that is the problem.)

More articles on unsafe techniques and classes:

Let’s Ignore Science and Do What We Want on a Bike (Soul Cycle)
The Seven Deadly Sins of Spinning
This Could be The Craziest and Most Dangerous Indoor Cycling Class I’ve Seen
How Cyclists Should Approach Indoor Cycling Classes
The How-To Guide for Hovers


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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt Grasela
    November 22, 2011
    11:34 am #comment-1

    This past summer I moved to NC; I had to quit teaching for a few months and during that time I rode outside in the beautiful NC weather. The principles of Keep It Real are so dead-on, especially once you get used to riding outside and them come back indoors to ride. The main “issue” I have always had is that I pedal too fast and too light to really benefit from my indoor cycling workout.

    Riding outside and paying attention to my body compared to the gear and type of road I was on gave me an understanding that when we are on a bike, you are hitting every major muscle group in your body WITHOUT crazy acrobatics.

    I can’t do crunches on my bike outside, but my “core” muscles are definitely stronger. I can’t do biceps curls or triceps extensions while I’m in traffic, but riding some of the hills around Charlotte has definitely given me more muscle tone in my arms as my body works to keep me balanced and moving forward.

    My advice after reading this article – start to ride the bike; really ride the bike. You won’t have time or energy to waste on this nonsense and you will get the results you want.

  2. Shirin
    November 22, 2011
    5:31 pm #comment-2

    Keeping it Real…..
    Ride the bike…. Really ride the bike….
    They sound great to me!

  3. Melanee
    November 22, 2011
    6:52 pm #comment-3

    I support what you’re saying and I understand all the reasons. Stick to riding the bike. Do your resistance/weight workouts on a different day so you can devote all of your energy to one or the other.

  4. Kathy Ehrlich-Scheffer
    November 22, 2011
    6:57 pm #comment-4

    As a studio owner I’m constantly encountering the “so you’re like Soul Cycle?” question. My answer is always the same. “Yes, in that Cycledelic is a dedicated indoor cycling studio with many amenities and conveniences, including mood creation elements. No, in that we do not teach or advocate unsafe or ineffective movements on the bike.” From there, folks are divided into two camps. I have the outdoor riders and the beginner exercisers who breathe an audible sigh of relief and offer their sincere thanks; and then I have the folks who ask, “Why? Soul Cycle is/was/sounds fun.” To those folks I offer the following: “illicit drugs and eating fast food are deemed fun and enjoyable by many people, too, but it doesn’t make them good for us.” Using resistance tools on bike is a gimmick. It is snake oil; smart marketing to get butts on bikes. I’m sure that many people do find it “fun.” I’m sure many are even sincerely misled into thinking it’s effective. We often hear what we want to hear, and if we are hearing that we can get more bang for the buck using resistance tools on the bike, our busy schedules and our inner need to be entertained almost demand we believe it. That doesn’t make it true, it doesn’t make it safe and it doesn’t make it effective. What it makes is more revenue for Soul Cycle. Throw a power meter on those bikes and see what kind of “results” those gimmicks actually produce. It usually takes just one class for me to win over the folks who think they need aerobics-on-a-bike in order to get a good workout. Seeing the power numbers is believing. Add to that that they can in fact have fun and engage in safe and sound training, and they’re converts. Cycledelic still uses special effects lighting and elements that help shape the mental experience that is indoor cycling; those elements can actually enhance the experience and yes, get people to work harder, more safely. But resistance tools? Save them for off the bike! Just ride the bike!!

    -Kathy Ehrlich-Scheffer
    Star 3 Spinning Instructor
    Stages Certified Instructor
    AFAA Certified Personal Trainer
    Owner, Cycledelic Indoor Cycling Studio, Rochester, NY

    • Lorie Bickford
      November 24, 2011
      1:22 pm #comment-5

      Hi Kathy!

      I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Especially love the part about throwing a power meter on the bike, since we recently got ours and even though I coach my classes using lots of cueing about perceived exertion, feeling the road under you, etc… having those meters was a real “ah ha” moment for many of our riders when they could finally see what I meant when I encouraged them to either add (for our “hamsters”) or reduce (for our “mashers”) resistance to optimize the power they were producing.

      Looking forward to being a fellow affiliate for Cycling Fusion’s Winter Training!

      JoyRide Cycling Studio

  5. Per Drews
    November 22, 2011
    7:17 pm #comment-6

    Far out, dude…..
    They should try a test with me. There is no time to “play”.
    It is hard from start to finish. Road training transferred to the spin-bike.
    Run the racer or mtb on the road or the woods, and learn real cycling.

  6. Chuck G
    November 22, 2011
    8:09 pm #comment-7

    Classes like that give cyclists reasons to make fun of and avoid training with us. Time to raise the bar and reboot the indoor cycling industry, the very thing Jennifer advocates! I’m so on board with getting back to the core of proper indoor cycling.

    I ride outside, and have competed in duathlons. None of the training and science for cycling performance includes crazy moves or gimmicky things like bands or weights while riding.

    As I say to my indoor cycling classes, if you want to do push ups, squats, and weights, go to the other class rooms or weight room. If you want to increase your cardio fitness and get a work out using sound cycling principles, then take a ride on the bike with me!

  7. Richard mullins
    November 22, 2011
    8:52 pm #comment-8

    If you have to ‘jazz’ indoor cycling up like that then you clearly have little knowledge of basic boi – mechanics 101, if you did, why would you even consider doing such silly and stupid things on an indoor bike?

    On study abroad in 2008 on a cold December morning (from Ireland so I did not take well to NY winters!), I went to a class on a Sunday and was shocked by what the lady told us all to do, having small dumbells in our water bottle cages. Then a room of students freee wheeling doing upper body ‘workout’. I didn’t partake in this ‘ritual’.

    THINK! Why do they do what they do? Can they even answer that from a safe and effective workout perspective?

    That cold December Sunday, I would have preferred to walk in the cold naked from Soul Cycle all the way to the Staten Island ferry port.

  8. Fanny Danesh
    November 23, 2011
    1:50 am #comment-9

    Jennifer, you are single-handedly restoring the integrity to Spinning classes. Bravo on your persistence and hard work……

  9. Lorie Bickford
    November 24, 2011
    1:14 pm #comment-10

    Ditto, ditto, ditto to all the comments above!!

    Once again Jennifer I’m saying THANK YOU!! This is the kind of thing independent studios, and progressive thinking gym cycling programs, are up against.

    An enterprise similar to Soul Cycle opened up in a neighboring city, McMinnville, Oregon (we are in Salem) shortly after our studio opened in Dec. of last year. While we struggle to get people to take notice and get some positive media coverage of our studio, that focuses on “keeping it real” (you are our inspiration!!); that “fad studio” using unsafe techniques received local TV news coverage!!! Extremely frustrating!! Here are a couple of their class descriptions:

    CycleMac: A 45 minute indoor cycling experience with cardio pumping music, weights and core exercise. The best full body workout that you

  10. Barry Goppman
    November 24, 2011
    2:47 pm #comment-11

    I have been an avid cyclist for more than 35 years. I also have taken and instructed Spinning/Cycling Classes for more than 25 years. From my experience/point of view when “focus distracting techniques” are employed in class it is due to the lack of understanding of what elements/techniques need to be used to challenge/enhance fitness. Boredom of class members from doing the same thing over and over week in and week out is where these distracting elements came fromg in my mind. If you go back to the basics of Spinning as developed by Johnny G all of the elements of class were there to help one tune into their body and it’s athletic performance under stress. From the “non-sing a long” music to the heart rate monitors all pushed class members to focus on their effort. These if you will, “non-pure” elements are all their because instructors have gotten away from the core purpose of the program. Many times this is because the big/corporate type club owners key goal is to give a fun experience vs. A fitness experience to participants. To me it is the instructors responsibility to focus on giving people a positive fitness experience. If your teaching at a facility who doesn’t let you/want you to do that then maybe you might need to re-think some things. Sorry if this is a little to soap-boxy for some, but I like Jennifer am a believer that cycling is the key to our classes.

    Barry L. Goppman
    Cyclist, Triatlete, Lifetime Certified Spinning Instructor.

  11. Meh
    August 26, 2015
    2:09 pm #comment-12

    If calorie burn efficiency is the only concern, we should all give up cycling and open up pools since we can’t compete with the calorie burn rate offered by swimming. The bottom line is that fun, safe classes are increasing the exposure of the indoor cycling workout and everybody stands to benefit as a result. Instead of putting others down or making snide remarks, try civility and/or collaboration. Maybe pitch performance cycling (pure cardio) as a form of cross training with full body cycling.

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