The Seven Deadly Sins of Spinning®

By Jennifer Sage On September 13, 2011 Under Contraindications, Form and Technique, General Advice

This is a hilarious rendition of what NOT to do in a Spinning® or any Indoor Cycling class, by ICA member Juliet Underill, that she first wrote as a response to someone’s post on Pedal-On. I urge you to share this with every instructor and program manager you can. If we can’t get to them with science, maybe we can get through to them with humor! The following is Juliet’s post in full. Thank you Juliet for making thousands of instructors across the globe smile! =)

What not to do in Spinning
The Seven Deadly Sins of Spinning®
By Juliet Underill

Thou Shalt Not Hover! It doth not work thy glutes, it doth not mimic mountain biking but you shall be cursed with an aching back!

Thou Shalt Not Performeth Isolations! This move offends thy knees and helps not in strengthening. The burn you feeleth is from the Devil himself and makes you no faster, no stronger, no cooler and no wiser!

Thou Shalt Not Spin Like a Hamster who Smoketh Crack! Super high cadence with little or no resistance will surely causeth thy Lady Parts (or thy Boy Bits) to feel as if they are being scourged by demons! Lo, though some sinners think they looketh cool with feet that fly, they surely will burn from the fires below (if thou knowest what I mean).

Thou Shalt Not Overload thy Resistance and Grind Slowly! Do not burden my peoples with an overload of Resistance that would surely cause them to have to strain and clutcheth the handlebars. They will surely suffer from multitudes of joint problems.

Thou Shalt Not Performeth Push Ups on thy Handle Bars! This doth not work thy Pecs and doth surely decrease the number of teeth in thy head if thou slippest.

Thou Shalt Not Dip Thy Shoulders Down! Cornering or contrived upper body movement doth nothing to improveth thy upper body and doth taketh away from the true aerobic training of Spinning.

Thou Shalt Not Sucketh in Thy Core! Thy core shall remain supple and thy people shall be commanded to do deep diaphramatic breathing. Thou shalt work thy core in Pilates Classes.

There are more sins that are Venal in nature like aero position, stomping on the pedals, bouncing, and chatting in class but the big sins will send you straight to hell. The very best resource is Jennifer Sage’s Ebook “Keep It Real.” It has the very best specific information on the whats and whys of all the contraindicated moves you come across. The best rule of thumb that I still carry with me is “if you wouldn’t do it on the road, don’t do it in class”

Spinning contraindicationsFor more information on Keep it Real, click here.

45 Comments Add yours

  1. liveon2wheels
    September 14, 2011
    1:30 pm #comment-1

    Absolutely priceless! If I find any instructors who need repentance, I’ll send them to your priestess Juliet. I especially like the “the burn you feeleth is from the devil himself” 🙂

  2. Jennifer Sage
    September 14, 2011
    1:58 pm #comment-2

    I need to ask Juliet to create a Bonus Deadly Sin that is fast rising to become one of the more popular havens of evil: lifting weights in class!

    • Jenn
      September 19, 2011
      12:35 am #comment-3

      I agree with you regarding not lifting weights in class. Can you recommend an article about not using weights while on the bike?

      • Jennifer Sage
        September 19, 2011
        1:12 am #comment-4

        Jenn, yes I can!! But it’s not written yet. I am working on an article myself, but I am thoroughly researching it by interviewing a lot more experts in the industry. Hopefully it will be done soon and you will hear about it here on this blog and on ICA. Also, and this is pretty big news, I should be featured in a major newspaper article on this very subject in the near future. Stay tuned!!

  3. May
    September 14, 2011
    2:24 pm #comment-5

    Sorry, I don’t agree with this keep it real stuff. My participants want a fun indoor class, if they wanted real they would hit the road! Seriously hate this “Elite” attitude some cycling instructors have. Your on a stationary bike….IT’s NOT REAL and because it’s not real you are safe to do different things;)

    • Daffyd
      September 14, 2011
      2:48 pm #comment-6

      These are great. And “keeping it real” is not about being “elite”. Hovering and grinding overload the knee joint and put your clients at risk. Pushups are dangerous and ineffective. If those of your methods of being “fun”, you need some new ideas.

      I also propose the following two venal spin sins:

      Thou Shalt Not Blare
      Thou shalt not simultaneously blare music at ear crackling volume and shout endless, incoherent instructions. It’s annoying and is a sure way to lose clients.

      Thou Shalt Vary the Pace
      Endless exhortations to go harder, harder still, super hard, now really double-top-secret hard, are tiresome. As instructors, we fall into the harder is better trap and really it’s just a failure of imagination. Life is not one big super hard hill. Effectively burning fat and earning fitness is about getting the body to do new things, not just givin’ ‘er.

      • Simon
        February 6, 2013
        1:32 pm #comment-7

        I also do not agree with May – the whole point of not doing certain movements or techniques in indoor cycling classes is because they are not safe on either an indoor bike, a turbo trainer or outdoors, it’s not because instructors are being elitist. I’ve seen someone chin themselves during dips before and end up with bust lip and loose teeth having lost their grip, anther person ended up in a doctors surgery with swollen knee joint form mis-coordinating the dip with the pedal stroke and causing massive load to go through one knee joint.

        I’ve also spoken to a girl recently who damaged her knee from doing very high rpm with little resistance and lost control of the flywheel – been told she cannot do any weight training, cycling or running for weeks now due to ligament damage and small rupture of the medial meniscus, it may require surgery to rectify if it doesn’t heal sufficiently.

        Another individual (male) slipped a disc in his neck because the instructor had them leaning left right, centre and all over the place (granted it was probably on its way anyway from other activities or lack thereof).

        I know from past experience of knee problems that doing so called ‘fun’ exercises in damaging to various muscles and joints in the body (squats into the frame for one, massive resistance with hands behind your back being another). I’d done 1000’s of road miles, trekked across mountains in Africa and spent countless gym hours training – I spent 45mins in a spin class with a dodgy instructor and came away with knee pains because I follwed the profile instead of listening to my own knowledge and sense.

        If the instructor cannot make the class engaging from one week to the next without resorting to unsafe and uncessary movements they simply lack the training knowledge and the imagination to structure a class. Work on your music and your profiles and you shouldn’t need to resort to the bizarre to make the class interesting.

        I’m going to blow my own trumpet here, I don’t do anything that isn’t akin to outdoor cycling and my class is always full (or very close to it) and if I go on holiday my regulars take a break from the class rather than go to another instructor since they are sick of being run through the bizarre and uneccesary exercises that others insist on doing.

    • kmcgre0108
      September 15, 2011
      3:40 am #comment-8

      May, you are seriously deluted by the “fun.” Obviously, you have had no real training in the physiology of exercise. Indoor cycles are built on the pattern of road bikes. The body positions are based on established exercise physiology. You inadvertently injure your cliental by being “fun”. Get REAL sister! Don’t dance on the bike! Pushups are for the floor. Hovers are back-breakers! Get REAL, sister.

      • Joe
        August 19, 2015
        4:44 pm #comment-9

        I have an instructor who has us hover while using very high resistance over long periods of time. I strained my lower back and was barely able to get in and out of my car.

    • cylist & spinner
      October 25, 2011
      4:25 pm #comment-10

      Here Here, i agree its not real cycling its a fitness class just like body combat is not martial arts. It should be fun and interesting & if people enjoy the content then its each to their own.
      I do stand, hover, spin & ride heavy hills on my road & mountain bike but i love a good spin class as well
      Some people get so shirty over there things, if you dont like it…dont go

      • Jennifer Sage
        October 25, 2011
        7:20 pm #comment-11

        Really? Body Combat – almost even more than a Spinning class – should absolutely be based on the proper mechanics of kicking and punching. If it isn’t, then the participants run a very grave risk of getting injured. Just because you do it to music doesn’t mean you eschew proper technique or biomechanics.

        “If you don’t like it, don’t go”?? Students do not know technique, they don not know what is potentially good or bad for them. They look up to the instructor to teach them properly. If an instructor has the viewpoint of “if you don’t like it don’t go” then that instructor should not be teaching. Period.

        We instructors, of every type of group fitness classes, have an obligation to our students, and to our industry, to know what the heck we are doing. I even wish there was a fitness version of the Hippocratic Oath.

        • cylist & spinner
          October 25, 2011
          9:10 pm #comment-12

          I have been doing all of the deadly sins for years…& guess what ..no injuries & yes body combat has rubbish martial arts technique but the classes are full and they are still licensed to run, therefore probably no injuries there either. If you want a boring steady pace with limited up or downhills why go to a class where you should be pushed & motivated. With regards to science & form, you can still keep good form doing these techniques if you have a good instructor. The same way avoid these “tricks” and still have poor technique & bike set up…it all comes down to a good instructor & yourself

          I have no injuries from spin or body combat with great techniques but loads of injuries from martial arts cycling on the road, usually falling off…lol so my experience contradicts these sins

          • Jennifer Sage
            October 25, 2011
            11:02 pm #comment-13

            Cyclist & Spinner,
            Most injuries do not happen overnight or in a single moment. Most are cumulative and happen over time. Usually, it’s a student who does not come back because “Spinning hurts”, so the instructor or club never hears about it. That is probably 99% of injuries or discomfort. Instructors who do these “7 Sins” who say “my students have never been hurt” simply just do not know the truth because they just don’t know, or they don’t take the time to connect with their students and get to know them. (Or they are ignoring it, or it hasn’t happened yet.)

            You say “you can still keep good form doing these things if you have a good instructor”. OK, in your very best form, go do deep duck walks down the length of a football field. Those were a common “technique” used before instructors /coaches really understood body mechanics. Even doing them with “the best form” (an oxymoron) will cause great discomfort and potential injury to your knee joint.

            Your comment does not make sense – you say Body Combat has “rubbish martial arts technique” (what’s that mean?) “but the classes are full and they are still licensed to run” (not sure what that means either) “therefore probably no injuries either”. ?? Amazing how you think you can know that. Here are just a few people discussing various injuries in similar classes: http://www.groupfitness.org/forum/topic/10394-injurys-from-body-attack/ There’s a sprained ankle, foot pain, and a broken pelvis, ankle and rib (all different people) all on just the first page…

            You have apparently not read all the comments on this thread that discuss biomechanics and technique – otherwise I can’t imagine you would continue to defend ineffective techniques. I would like to know what your education is in that area of biomechanics, anatomy, exercise physiology, or even functional training. I’m not talking about an initial certification of any of these programs (Spinning, Body Combat, etc) but additional further CED that actually teaches you some proper exercise science. (Most initial certs for a type of class barely scratch the surface). For anyone to defend these moves, it necessarily comes from someone who does NOT have additional education in any of these areas.

            You haven’t been injured? Good for you. I bet you have been fit for a long time. I bet you also have been doing GX classes for a longtime, and probably are athletically inclined. Many many students in our classes are not, and those are the ones who usually get injured or feel discomfort and who don’t come back.

            But, you are leaving out one of the most important arguments for abstaining from these techniques: their ineffectiveness at doing what they purport to do. But that requires a little knowledge of biomechanics, physiology and even physics to understand that, so I’m not sure if this discussion will do you any good (unless you decide to go educate yourself further).

            The proof would be to simply put a good quality, well-calibrated power meter on the bike and try to hold the same average power while doing squats, pushups, weights, etc. It is simply not possible. In simple terms, outdoors, if your average cycling speed cruising down the road was 18 mph, and you tried to pedal for a mile while doing pushups, your speed would most definitely drop well below 18 mph. (Forget for a moment that those pushups aren’t doing diddly squat for you pecs). And if your speed drops, your power drops. If your power drops, your effectiveness has dropped, and so does how many calories you burned. (We do not have speed indoors, so one must extrapolate from power).

            Hence, stupid circus tricks on a bike that not only do not do what they claim, also take away from your potential to burn calories.

        • Simon
          February 6, 2013
          1:35 pm #comment-14

          I used to teach martial arts (Karate) and was a senior grade – body combat is wrong on so many levels and taught by many people who really don’t know what they are doing.

    • ruth armstrong bull
      April 12, 2014
      9:07 am #comment-15

      I 100% agree with you. I feel the same I teach indoor cycling for 45-60 mins. I make it intense/fun/varied as I can while keeping it SAFE. Think my class would soon hit the road so to speak if I didnt include certain variations. VERY BORING

    • Justin
      September 24, 2015
      10:59 am #comment-16

      This is not”Elitist”. This is just safe! And realistic. I’m sorry your class party-cipants want fun. (I’d suggest Zumba) But, if you are, in fact, a Spin Instructor, your obligation is to train them safely and effectively. So stuff your insecurities, and get to the business of providing what they need, not what they want. Who know, they may actually enjoy accomplishing something close to the real road experience. I’ve done this as a Star 3 Spin Instructor for 15 years. Have a good day…

  4. Jennifer Sage
    September 14, 2011
    2:54 pm #comment-17

    so, you think safety and effetiveness should be comprimised in favor of circus tricks? What is not “real” about an indoor bike, just because it doesn’t move forward? The angles are pretty much the same, and the way forces of the drivetrain work are pretty similar (except for the flywheel, which has implications on pedaling – and in fact, make it even more ineffective and dangerous if correct positioning and output are ignored). The way the body works on and interacts with that bike is the same as a bicycle outside, so we need to respect the huge body of knowledge (cycling science) that is available to us (in fact, did you know that cycling is the sport that has been tested LONGER than any other sport in the world? Over a century of scientific testing)! Do you know anything about physics? How forces are applied to the pedal, or the flywheel? Do you know anything about biomechanics and how the joints and muscles work best at certain angles and when they are taken out of those angles (as they are in many of the popular contraindicated moves, or 7 deadly sins), the effectiveness of the muscles is reduced and the joint is put in a very disadvantageous position? (and in some popular moves like isolations or squats, potentially very dangerous to the meniscus and cartilage of the knees – not to mention the low back). Add to that the fact the the joint is turning at 80/90/100/120 times a minute (or faster), with the inertia of the flywheel pushing the tibia into the femur if the rider isn’t pedaling properly (and is instead being ridden by the bike, which is so common).

    What if you can have fun AND effective training (and not end up at a physical therapists)? That is possible, and that is what ICA does – train instructors to keep it fun AND real. My classes are very fun, and the participants are far more fit (and burn more calories) than if they took a class filled with circus tricks.

    You say: “It’s NOT REAL you are safe to do different things”
    What you are saying is the very same thing as someone going into a kickboxing class and telling the instructor, “I am not a real kickboxer, so don’t bother with that technique stuff. Make it fun, make stuff up. Since I’m not really doing it, I am safe to do different things!” or a new participant going to an Indo-Row class and saying, “I don’t row outside, I never have and I never will so technique be damned. Who cares if I get injured – keep it fun!” Would someone get on a treadmill and say to the trainer, “I don’t run outside, so I can do whatever the heck I want and flop all over! Don’t you dare try to correct my form! I’m not REALLY running so I am safe!”

    It is no different than saying that about indoor cycling – preposterously silly.

    If a personal trainer gave you 1-lb weights and said “do 100 curls”, or sat you in a chair in front of a desk and said “put your hands on the desk and do 100 pushups – you’ll train your upper body” or (even more stupid) “do crunches while sitting upright, you’ll train your core”. That trainer should be fired because he is lying to the client and doesn’t know his exercise science. But why is it (or should it be) OK in an indoor cycling class? It ISN’T! IT SHOULD NOT BE! Because it’s lying to the participant to tell them it does something that exercise science has proven does not work (in other words, the trainer/instructor is selling them snake oil) and the instructor doesn’t know his or her exercise science or training principles.

    It’s SCIENCE, not a “philosophy” of a program.

    Instructors MUST know their exercise science. If they do not, they will HURT their students.

    • PamB
      September 14, 2011
      6:50 pm #comment-18

      You would love our program. Please check out http://www.stagesindoorcycling.com.
      Based on sound science and with the use of an accurate power meter/console our goal is to help cycling instructors/studios/coaches/trainers, etc to provide safe, effective cycling programs based on participants goals – not just ‘party on a bike’ 🙂
      Although I do love me a fun fog machine and disco ball on occasion….;)
      Thanks for a great read…

  5. anna gustafson
    September 14, 2011
    4:03 pm #comment-19

    Nicely written. Indoor Cycling is like sex, safety first, fun second. Change up the order and see what happens.

  6. juliet
    September 14, 2011
    5:48 pm #comment-20

    May, I gaurantee you that I can create classes that are rockin’, effective, safe and FUN!!!!

    Contraindicated moves are a crutch for those that feel their classes need something else to be engaging enough to make your members happy.

    If you were in a running group and the coach had you squating and holding your upper body perfectly still while running, would that be somehow better just because it is ‘different’? What if you leaned your body forward and stuck you booty way out and ran a few laps? It makes your running ‘more unique’ but not more effective and certainly compromises your joints.

    It is not elitest because I used to do a few of these NoNos when I was first certified and not really confident that just designing a class with the classic moves was enough. When we learn better, we do better.

    I didn’t understand WHY those moves were so bad (and I am a former Physical Therapist). I went to WSSC, other continuing ed, read Jennifer’s excellent book, and connected with other more experienced instructors. I learned so much and will never go back to those practices.

    Wanting to hold on to the CI moves in spite of the fact that they are NOT effective and NOT safe is something that I just can’t really understand. FUN and Effective are not mutually exclusive.

    • anne
      September 14, 2011
      6:20 pm #comment-21

      I agree on some level. BUT – the moves are not harmful (a few hovers, a fast sprint, or engaging the core to work the abs in position 3.
      I think the elites should stay on the road or run their own spin classes. The few classes I have taken from the types focused on their status are dull. They sit in the saddle and usually talk intermittently about themselves.

  7. PamB
    September 14, 2011
    6:44 pm #comment-22

    It is not “elitest”. It’s called ETHICAL. You have an ETHICAL obligation to not injure ANYone in ANY class.
    Bravo for posting this! Fun and Effective are NOT mutually exclusive…and you can’t have ANY fun if you’re injured…:)
    Pam Benchley
    Master Educator Stages Indoor Cycling
    “Delivering Measurable Progress”

  8. Jennifer Sage
    September 14, 2011
    7:33 pm #comment-23

    how do you “work the abs by engaging the core in position 3”?
    It isn’t functional, doesn’t make your abs stronger, doesn’t make you ride better, or look better or feel better or protect the back any better. Like Juliet’s example, go for a run, and then hold in your abs (in the name of “working your core”) – you will soon see how silly that is! You won’t hurt your back by running without holding in your abs though. Same with cycling – you will not hurt your back if you don’t “suck in the core”. But what you WILL do is limit a fluid movement (riding or running), and more importantly, limit the intake of air (and hence, O2) which is the lifeblood of aerobic activity. So why do something that actually hinders the activity you are partaking in??

    It is very puzzling some of the claims made by instructors who do these things (again, it comes down to not knowing exercise science or biomechanics very well).

    If you want to train your core – do it OFF the bike. Than, and only then, will you be doing yourself some good.

    A boring instructor is boring because he or she is boring and hasn’t been taught how to teach others, not because he or she is riding properly.

  9. julia
    September 14, 2011
    8:44 pm #comment-24

    I am shocked to see instructors arguing about this. Safe. Effective. Exercise. And yes, I am sure there are outdoor cyclists who teach a boring class – because some folks are just not good motivators or creative but the structure for indoor cycling should be foundations from outdoor cycling. Some fitness instructors believe that they are teaching a fun class because they do so many crazy things but…I get loads of students that say they left a facility because of those shenanigans.
    I will say that I ask folks to “from hip girdle to shoulder girdle” (which is core) keep integrity, shoulders back etc. You make me think I should word it another way…although I’m sure my students don’t believe they are doing Pilates in my class. : )

  10. Elizabeth
    September 14, 2011
    9:20 pm #comment-25

    Oh my goodness, I love this! One of the reasons I’m a member of ICA–so much good, solid info that is actually usable in my indoor cycling class. For those who appreciate the “Seven Deadly Sins. . .”, I would encourage you to purchase “Keeping it Real” if you haven’t already. I refer to it all the time to ensure my students get a great ride. And. . . by the way, we have a blast 🙂 Thanks, Jennifer for all you do!

  11. Jennifer Sage
    September 14, 2011
    11:46 pm #comment-26

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I appreciate other viewpoints too. However, if one is going to argue for the safety and effectiveness of another viewpoint it would be nice to see some scientific support, and a reasonable argument, and not just “you guys are elitists”. Reminds me of the way a 12 year old might argue. Or if someone is going to counter “science” with a statement like “it’s not fun” then methinks that person shouldn’t be int his business of teaching exercise. Afterall, like Pam says, don’t we as instructors have an ethical obligation to do things that should not injure our students as well as do things that actually do what they purport to do (as in, work the upper body or core).

    It’s been a long time goal of mine to provide even more scientific and expert support for why these things shouldn’t be done indoors – Keep it Real gives a good amount of support, and most is extrapolated from the cycling world (as it should). But I am gathering even more data and statements from PhDs, biomechanists and exercise scientists, and within a month or two I will be publishing it and going mainstream.

    Julia, although you don’t want to be flopping all over the handlebars because your core is completely disengaged, I don’t think most people ride like that. Our core muscles essentially do what they’re supposed to do – the intrinsic muscles of the spine and hips don’t let us fall apart. No need to give that any lip service – it’s working the way it’s supposed to. We don’t need to be holding in the abs to “engage the core” but it doesn’t sound like you’re doing that. Cycling and running are two activities that do not need more of an engagement of the core muscles than they already do – they know how to protect us. The core muscles need to be strong BEFORE we run or ride. You wont hurt your back on a bike – especially an indoor bike – UNLESS you are doing these contraindicated moves! Cyclists really should work their core muscles well (off the bike), especially the back, to help them with long hours in the saddle. If you already have a weak core, you might experience low back pain after riding a lot but you aren’t going to get hurt because you didn’t hold the abs in on that ride. A strong core also helps cyclists to be a more powerful rider in general, because it is through a strong core that they can generate power in the hips. Hence….that’s why there are pilates classes! 😉

    The fitness industry has gotten everyone afraid that if they don’t “engage the core” or “suck in the abs” that you’ll get hurt. It really is taken way too far to the extreme. Cyclists, real cyclists, let the abdomen hang out, so they can belly breathe and take in the most amount of O2 per inhalation possible. And they never get hurt from not holding in the abs. And they are on a bike that moves! If it’s good for them, then it also is acceptable (and beneficial) to non-cyclists riding an indoor bike that does not move!

    Posture is another thing. By telling your students to maintain the integrity of the shoulders (pull the shoulder blades back) you are helping them with good posture. A lot of people have poor posture on the bike, and it will take a little conscious engagement of muscles that are weak to help them get out of that poor position. But of course, don’t take it to the extreme, where they feel like they are riding as stiff as a guard at Buckingham Palace! You want to stay loose and relaxed, yet strong and powerful.

    All that to say (sorry, long winded), your wording is probably pretty good, but no need to go into it too much in your classes. 😉

  12. Luciana Marcial-Vincion
    September 15, 2011
    2:15 am #comment-27

    Kudos to Juliet and Jennifer for the fantastic post and most excellent dialogue! I’ve always found it quite amusing and curious why instructors feel that the stationary quality of an indoor bike should exempt them from embracing good science and practicing appropriate safety. The greatest coaches/trainers/instructors in the world got to where they are because of 2 things: the know their stuff (i.e. educated about science!) and they are master motivators – lo and behold the two things that make a class great: it’s FUN and SAFE.

    As Juliet said, a running coach would never have his students squat and isolate the upper body while running. It’s just silly nonsense. So why in the world would a cycling instructor do the same in the name of being “fun and different”? Once again, silly nonsense. I believe when more instructors understand that indoor cycling is a sport with relevant and specific biomechanics, then the “fun and different” elements will seamlessly align with “safe and effective” and we’ll have a healthier and happier world! Most definitely when instructors study the science of exercise on a much deeper level, no doubt they will be appalled at any contraindicated movements they have been doing, and will never go there again!

    Great dialogue! Thanks!

    Luciana Marcial-Vincion
    M.A., Exercise Physiology
    Spinning Master Instructor and Team Manager
    Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc.

  13. juliet
    September 15, 2011
    5:22 am #comment-28

    It is amazing to see how much commentary this little article has generated. I dashed it off pretty quickly to put a comical twist on the question of CI moves but if I could be serious for a moment, the information for the 7 Deadly Sins was from the “Bible” written by Jennifer Sage. She wrote the “Keep It Real” and it is, without a doubt, the very best information on CI and more. Those who want to hang on to the CI moves, I challenge you to also provide information on all the benefits of doing hovers, isolations etc.

    I have learned so much from this site, the ebook, and Jennifer’s Blog that I really must place the credit where it is due. Because of all the information I have gained from Jennifer (and so many other fantastic instructors), I know I can create a class that has sound training principles, awesome music, creative cues that really connect with my riders AND still make it fun!

    I have to express my gratitude for all the mentoring and encouragement. I have endeavored to model myself, as a spinning instructor, after Jennifer and am happy to continue to sing the praises for “keep it real” and the web site. Thank you again Jennifer

  14. Pru
    September 15, 2011
    10:31 am #comment-29

    I’m just going to add a very quick point… why are your students in the class? If they want a CV workout, then they are in the right place. If they want to tone their core/glutes/pecs/quads/hamstrings/any other body part that the crazy CI moves claim to work, they need to go to a class which works those parts.
    A student would not go to a toning class and expect to have a great CV workout. So why go to a CV class expecting to tone? It all comes down to trying to fit too much in to one class – people want to get fit in one quick hit, and if there is a class that claims to burn calories and strengthen/tone the body at the same time, then wow, that must be the right class to do! Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

    I can safely vouch for the fact that a safe, non CI move filled class can be a very effective and enjoyable workout, having had the pleasure of taking one of Jennifers classes recently.

  15. Abby
    September 15, 2011
    10:32 am #comment-30

    Chris Charmical teaches some of your sins. Hmmmm. I think he knows what he is talking about. After all he is Lance Armstrongs trainer. Stomps with high resistance, Single leg isolations, aero spinning and hovers. Doing hovers on a spinner/spinning bike does hurt your back, but if you use a much better Keiser bike, hovers and aero positioning are much more natural. Chris Charmichael uses rollers in his classes. It doesn’t get much more real than that.

    • Simon
      February 6, 2013
      1:49 pm #comment-31


      Using rollers in a class means you are probably using a proper bike; in which case it’s likey the bike is specifically set up for the individual and that they are also likely to be an experienced cyclist. Leg drills are taught to professionals for maximum muscle efficiency but it’s an advanced technique not usually suited to general population or indoor cycling classes.

      I ride on the road, I’ve ridden bikes for years and I can ride in aero position both on a road bike and in a spin class and still hold the kind of power outputs I’d expect to yield because my body has the range of motion required to exercise effectively in that position – but I NEVER teach it because I know that the range of people and abilities I have in the class means that it would put some people at risk of injury.

      Ultimately the instructor has a duty of care to stay within the bounds of correct specified techniques to avoid injuring participants. Often, people do not know the different between pain due to workload and pain due to something being over-stressed – the common misconception of no pain no gain, or ‘it’s hurts so it must be good for me’. Paul Chek would disagree, his take on it is that if it hurts, it’s likely that it’s bad for you.

  16. Jennifer Sage
    September 15, 2011
    5:22 pm #comment-32

    perhaps you don’t understand what the basic philosophy of the Indoor Cycling Association is. As a cycling coach, my goal is to bridge that gap between what is taught in the world of endurance coaching (cycling and triathlon) and the indoor cycling environment. I want to bring the science of cycling and training to the indoor studio, so that we are doing indoors what is proven to be EFFECTIVE and SAFE for outdoors. That is the foundation of the Keep it Real principle – utilizing the training techniques and principles of cycling. Brought into the indoor cycling studio, there are several things one needs to be aware of – even if one is teaching those cycling principles: we are dealing with a different population and we are dealing with a few differences in the bike that have huge implications on what will and will not work. A few of the differences are the fact that the bikes don’t move either forward or laterally (Real Ryder bikes move laterally, but still aren’t exactly like an outdoor bike because they are hinged at the front and back) and the very important difference of a fixed drive-train and a heavy flywheel (some heavier than others) that adds inertia to the pedaling motion, and thus, can do some of the work for the rider if they aren’t aware of it (many students are very unaware of this fact).

    It is precisely because I do follow the principles taught by coaches and exercise physiologists like Chris Carmichael, Joe Friel, Hunter Allen, Thomas Chapple, Arnie Baker, David Ertl, Allen Lim, Andrew Coggan, and many more, that I can say with 100% certainty (and I would bet, with 100% support from these coaches) that these movements do not work and are detrimental to both cyclists and non-cyclists alike – ESPECIALLY when you take into consideration the difference in the bikes and a class setting with potentially unfit students mixed in.

    Chris Carmichael has a very specific market. Though some are “only” category 4 or 3 riders, they are still long-time cyclists working on developing their cycling skills for outdoor events, some of them training for Ironman or criteriums or La Ruta, etc. Many of his riders are even more skilled than that – semi-pro and professional riders. This is not the general market for an indoor cycling class. The average student in an indoor cycling class does not have the skill or fitness level to handle many of the higher level training techniques. Sure, through the Keep it Real philosophy, I promote the concept of “train the Joes like the pros” (to borrow a phrase from a fellow fitness presenter, Brett Klicka). However, you still have to be very careful when it comes to power moves, or high strength moves, or even speed work that requires great neuromuscular skill. You mention that “afterall, Chris is Lance Armstrong’s trainer”. Ummm, are you saying that you think we should ask of the average (non-cycling) student to do what Lance Armstrong did for his training – in volume, intensity, duration and power output?

    Chris Carmichael would never ask a rider to stick his butt way back over the saddle and pedal at 80/90/100rpm or more, under load. If a cyclist moves the hips fore or aft, it is to get more power in whatever they are doing (for example, in a time trial or triathlon, they will move the hips forward a bit, but they are still seated). But any change is still within the range of functional biomechanics for the hips and the muscles associated with pedaling, without putting the joints at risk. Hovering a few inches way back over the end of the saddle is not. And yes, with the extension it requires of the lumbar spine, a hover can most definitely injure the low back, especially in a less fit, less skilled, unfocused student (sound familiar? They are most of your students!).

    When arguing that “Chris Carmichael does stomps or single leg isolations…”, you must know that they do those on a finely tuned road bike on a trainer, a bike with a free-wheel and not a fixed gear and flywheel. They are also using a bike that is perfectly fit for the rider (i.e. costs a lot of $$). Single leg isolations are excellent for a road rider on a bike with a free-wheel (or maybe even a “fixie” but a fixie does not have a flywheel). Have you ever done them? They are VERY hard! Then get on a spin bike and guess what? They are really quite easy. You know why? Because of the drive train and flywheel helping you out. Hence, you don’t get the neuromuscular benefits that you do on a road bike when it’s you and only you dong the work at higher speed. On the other hand, in an indoor cycling class setting on fixed geared bikes when the students aren’t always very fit or focused, they can be a recipe for disaster. There is a lengthy explanation in Keep it Real as to why.

    Stomps? Very different on a free-wheeled bike vs a Spinner bike. But the biggest danger in an indoor class is due to the average fitness level of the students. These require lots of skill, strength and power. If you knew every single person in that room had been training for a long time, had a lot of technical skills (as in a finely tuned pedal stroke) and had an excellent power output for his/her size and weight….then maybe. Even then, as I say in Keep it Real, if a cyclist needs to develop that kind of power by doing “stomps”, it is usually towards the end of the “Build” phase of a periodized program, or even a few weeks prior to the race that they are training for, then they really really should be outside on their bikes doing those kind of power moves, not indoors on a fixed gear bike…

    The average student in an indoor cycling class has no functional need for “stomps”.

    You bring up “aero-positioning”…. Why is the Keiser bike more “natural” to you? It depends on one’s size. For a short person, the Keiser bikes are extremely unnatural, and the v-shape of the frame makes it impossible to bring the handlebars closer (fortunately they are creating new handlebars that move fore/aft). If you try to ride aero in that position (if you are short in stature) your elbows would be way far forward of your shoulders – most uneconomical and uncomfortable! But the aero position itself is not recommended for any rider cyclist or not. Why? Because very very few riders can be set up safely and effectively in the same way that they are on their bikes outside. And if they do not ride outside, then why are they trying to ride aero? It doesn’t make sense…you don’t need to be aerodynamic indoors!

    In 2004 Joe Friel was a consultant for me on a project I was creating for MDA and Spinning (The Cadence and Heart Rate Continuing Education Workshop). I had never felt comfortable with the aero position indoors and asked him about it. We discussed that fact that good riders spend a lot of money and a ton of time dialing in their aero position to perfection. Micrometers make a difference to them. This is what Joe said, “I would never, ever, let any of my riders ride a bike in the aero position that wasn’t their own, perfectly dialed-in set-up. Too much risk. They are at risk to injure their back, training with that bike doesn’t respect the specificity principle, and therefore, it will not be effective training for them.”

    Speaking with other triathlon and cycling coaches, they all agreed, especially since a triathlon or time trial bike has a different geometry than a road bike. Those bikes have a steeper seat tube, hence putting the rider’s hips more forward, closer to the handlebars. As a result, the hip angle is more open as well, which does not impinge effective breathing. A Spinner bike has the geometry of a road bike, not a TT or tri bike, so an aero-position is even less recommended – the hip angle is compressed, breathing is hindered, the shoulders are stretched out and the neck is in hyperextension. None of those are good things!

    And finally, Abby, for the life of me, I cannot understand your argument about rollers. What the heck do rollers have to do with solid stationary bikes that do not move? After all, we are talking about indoor cycling classes here…

  17. Mairead
    September 15, 2011
    7:39 pm #comment-33

    I was going to Spinning class for two years and popping two advil before each class before I realized that good form , bike set up and good practice meant that the constant backache I had was not just part of what I had to put up with to get my regular buzz. It wasn’t just put your head down an rock it out.

    I learned all that from Miss Jennifer Sage her amazing podcasts and her great ebook.

    I can see why people are defensive re the fun stuff , but the real riding and the fun riding are not mutually exclusive at all . Combined they are amazing. I want to dash up to people so many times to correct their form to show them how much better it is when you’re doing it right -My own students loved being reminded to be al dente today !

    Opening the mind to both will help everyone enjoy the ride ! Safety can put a huge smile on your face and make sure you don’t get lumps and bumps in all the wrong places too .Jennifer and the indoor cycling association really know their stuff and as I have learned over the last few years are great fun too. Education is good … a little can be a little dangerous but if you stay the course you will see the process unfold and make you really light up as a teacher and as a cyclist .

  18. Jade
    September 16, 2011
    12:35 am #comment-34

    I would like to add one more sin: Thou shall not humpeth the bike! Taketh your amorous rhythm to a private studio. Thou dost not need to see one buck and grind whilst on a bike.

  19. Beth
    November 3, 2011
    1:45 pm #comment-35

    As a student, I have broken about all of these commandments … and paid for it. I started spinning about 12 years ago and had to stop several times due to hurting myself on multiple occassions, including clutching so hard I hurt my shoulder, too much resistance makes me stomp on the peddles and hurt the arch of my foot (even with shoes). Amen for these commandments, and thank you! I work on good technique during every class now.

  20. elisabeth alves
    July 12, 2012
    2:07 pm #comment-36

    I agree completely!Some instructors,have no regard fr our health and safety in class!x

  21. Timothy Holmes
    June 8, 2013
    11:42 pm #comment-37

    I have been an indoor cycling instructor for three years and participant for 6 years. I have ridden the Seattle to Portland 205 mile bicycle ride for the past 10 years, last year coming in 20th of 10,000, have participated in a 70.3 Ironman . . . . and have found aerobars to be VERY advantageous. Greg Lamond was the first to use them in the Tour de France and now all Tour de France participants use them. I assume it’s because there is an advantage to using them.

    I’ve also recently been taught that “they” discourage the use of the aero position in indoor cycling classes because of the risk of low back pain. The only time I’ve ever experienced LBP in riding a bike is when the seat was back too far or the stem too long.

    Aero position offers the indoor cyclist another position as he/she may start to experience strain on the wrist or pressure on the “sit bones”. The position may create some neck muscle fatigue so I will instruct the student who wishes to use the aero position to bring the head down more and the eyes up. Bending the body forward (correctly) will also increase the diameter of the IVF (Intervertebral Foramen) allowing any possible pressure on the lumbar nerves to be decreased.

    The following two research articles address the aero position in cyclists. “International Journal of Exercise Science” states in their article
    “Subjects were requested to ride in one oftwo different riding positions; being on the
    drops or on the aero bars (similar to the
    brake position with arms stretched further
    forward). The results of this study
    identified a trend toward increased flexion
    and axial rotation of the lower lumbar spine
    with a loss of co-contraction of the
    multifidus muscle in nine cyclists with nonspecific
    chronic LBP (2). Furthermore,
    increased upper lumbar spine rotation and
    flexion was reported to be associated with
    no back pain (2).”
    I believe the article is stating that those riders with chronic low back pain, when riding with aerobars experienced no back pain.

    Does anybody know of any research supporting the evidence that aero position of cycling causes low back pain?

    Dr Timothy Holmes DC

  22. Michelle
    June 19, 2013
    8:50 pm #comment-38

    Loving all the information coming out of the comments. I ask my students “why are you coming to class?. Their responses are mixed and most are about getting healthy or working on their fitness goals. What they expect from me is, education, coaching, knowledge of the activity and support. They do not expect me to entertain them. If they wanted that, all they would have to do is walk mindlessly on the treadmill with the TV in their face. There are so many instructor still doing ” The Seven”, that coming to my class students are relearning indoor cycling and loving it. I visit other instructor classes and have an idea why many people are afraid to try Indoor Cycling. They kill people and those new to cycling never come back and tell others how bad it was. That is not Fun or Entertaining. I work hard in my class to have balance. The balance of nurturing the new students and challenging my regulars. So I am always working on “Keeping it Real”. Thank you Jennifer, for being that voice, the voice of reason.

  23. Barry
    February 25, 2014
    7:27 am #comment-39

    As a Physiotherapist I would certainly agree that with your butt back past the saddle and pedalling against resistance is asking for trouble. One of the most important things for both Indoor and outdoor cycling is correct set up which has been mentioned already. I see a lot of cyclists in my practice with common ailments of back pain and knee pain, quite a few I can fix just by sorting out there bike set up, whereas with others flexibility and core issues need addressing. When I teach an indoor cycling class I always check that participants are ok with bike set up before starting the class and during the class I constantly focus on posture. As for high resistance slow pedalling, I agree with JS why do it !!! There is a reason why road bikes have a lot of gears, it is to allow you to spin rather than grind and ruin your knees. High level elite track sprinters may well hit 200rpm on the last lap but the rest of us mere mortals do not need to and I find 60-120 is ample

  24. Barry
    February 25, 2014
    10:12 am #comment-40

    Hi Timothy
    I could not access the first article via the link but the second one I could. Although limited due to only using 10 subjects it was interesting in that they said untrained cyclists (Spin enthusiasts possibly) were better off in the upright rather than aero position, I never use the aero position in any class I teach simply because I always felt it could potentially cause low back pain and compromise efficient breathing patterns, also indoors there is no need to be aero as there is no wind resistance.
    With regards to the other study showing poor multifidus activation, numerous studies by Hodges,Hides,Jull and Richardson identified a link between LBP and multifidus dysfunction and as it is a segmental deep stabiliser being in a flexed position could affect its ability to stabilise the lumbar segment due to passive insufficiency. i did my MSc research looking at multifidud activation with lumbar spine flexed and in neutral and found that in the flexed posture multifidus activation was compromised. This is another reason why I prefer to teach spin classes with a good posture

  25. Sarah
    January 17, 2015
    9:40 pm #comment-41

    Well, I have learned so much from this site too, the ebooks, especially Keep it real. With all the information I have gained from Jennifer (and so many other fantastic instructors), I know I can create a class that has sound training principles, awesome music, creative cues that really connect with my riders AND still make it fun! I refer to this ebook all the time to ensure my students get a great ride.
    Thanks again Jennifer.

  26. Kate
    November 11, 2015
    12:43 am #comment-42

    “This doth not work thy Pecs and doth surely decrease the number of teeth in thy head if thou slippest.”

  27. Kathy Obst
    November 15, 2015
    12:42 pm #comment-43

    Hi Jennifer
    Is this book still available for purchase??? It looks great!
    Thank you

  28. Francesca
    January 21, 2016
    8:58 am #comment-45

    Love the list! So many people do these sins. Keeping it true to outside rides helps.

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