Ask the Expert: To Jump or Not to Jump

Jumps can be controversial. They are a big part of the curriculum of some indoor cycling programs; others avoid them or list them as contraindicated. I believe it depends on the form and speed with which you perform them.

Here is a question from Renee that highlights the common challenges many instructors face with jumps:

 

Hi Jennifer,
Can you give me tips for how best to teach jumps? I have never been comfortable teaching them, don’t teach the crazy 2-count or “popcorn” jumps, but use seated/standing climb alternates as my method. I need to improve the application of this movement as members like them and they are good to put in when subbing. I just haven’t found the right rhythmic count or feel of music to best deliver these.

For those who know me, it’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of “jumps” in the traditional Spinning® sense of rhythmically rising out of the saddle every 2 beats, especially for extended periods. As a Spinning master instructor for 12 years (until 2009), I taught them to new instructors at orientations and occasionally included them in my conference sessions. But I added a caveat to use them sparingly, to not go too quickly or do them for very long, and stressed quality over quantity.

What do I have against them? Over the 21 years I’ve been teaching Spinning and training instructors, I’ve found that jumps are among the most misunderstood techniques on an indoor bike. When done poorly, they are a sloppy movement that has no functional benefit whether you are a cyclist or not. They can potentially be dangerous to the student and/or reduce the effectiveness of the workout due to poor form, sloppy pedaling, or insufficient resistance. Even at conferences observing a room of instructors, I’ve noticed many simply cannot demonstrate good form while jumping; therefore one can assume they are not teaching good form to their students.

However, when done with control and good form, they are fine. I also realize that one must pick one’s battles. Many indoor cycling participants love jumps. Instructors love teaching them. I admit they can be fun, and they can provide a distraction to the hard work, while at the same time they serve to engage students. By placing riders’ focus on the rhythm of the movement, it helps distract them from discomfort or the perceived boredom of just riding a bike. This, I believe, is why jumps are so popular.

Many of the instructors I know who ride outside have told me they never teach jumps, except in the way described below that mimics a “real” jump in outdoor cycling. If that’s you, bravo.

But if your class loves jumps and you enjoy teaching them, that’s also fine. Let’s examine how to perform them in the safest and most effective manner possible so your riders can still benefit from and enjoy their favorite move.

First, let’s look at three ways jumps should not be taught, then four different ways to teach them in the most effective manner. I will list those in the order of most to least cycling specific.

Three ways NOT to jump

How about you? Do you like to jump? Do you now have more ideas for adding effective jumps to your profiles?

21 Responses to “Ask the Expert: To Jump or Not to Jump”

  1. DawnDoll says:

    I agree with you 100% Jennifer! I now teach at a studio and in a city that has no real riding programs and is nearly 100% rhythm riding (popcorn jumps, tapbacks, ab crunches, pushups….). I hesitate to teach the “science” to my riders as I am afraid that they won’t understand it and it will either make me or make other instructors appear to be wrong in their techniques. Any suggestions on how to teach the science without degrading the entire program?

    • Dawn, we have an article coming out by Cori Parks that will sort of address your question, at least in terms of addressing something contraindicated when you are subbing (i.e. don’t put down the other instructor and offer your way “just for today”). But, it could certainly be a complete article in itself.

      Can you send me an email to jennifer@icafit.com and tell me more? What are they doing, and why are you afraid they will misunderstand the science.

  2. AddiePana says:

    I found this article to be extremely helpful. I am guilty of doing ‘popcorn’ type jumps for the entertainment value as well as believing it was a good core workout. I am happy to be armed with the science behind jumping and the correct language to be guiding my students in effective and safe jumping. Looking forward to implementing this week! Thank you!

  3. Thomas Whitaker says:

    I am a road biker who tries to “keep it real” in my classes. To the chagrin of some of my triathlete and biker students, I will occasionally include some jumps in my profiles. For those who choose to do them, I suggest they determine the pace of their jumps. For those who decline, I suggest some other type of standing or seated surge. My question pertains to some of my riders who take other classes where they are encouraged to jump with hands off the bars. It seems unsafe and unnecessarily acrobatic. Those same students also pedal backwards, hover, and climb slowly (well below 60 rpm) with hands behind their backs. Should I address these practices, or look the other way and cringe. Incidentally, I am one of three “Spinning” instructors at our facility and the other two are not cyclists. Suggestions ?

    • BrianThomas says:

      Thomas, you should ABSOLUTELY address these types of “acrobatics”…just arm yourself with the SCIENCE of why they concern you before you talk to your students. It’s a lot harder for folks to argue the science rather than the “style” of a class. Not addressing them tacitly facilitates and reinforces those behaviors in your classes. As Thomas Dolby once sang, “She blinded me with science…” blind them if you can.

    • Yes, you should address them. I’ll see if we can create some more guides at ICA for how to address these specific techniques.

  4. ElaineDernoga says:

    Fantastic article, thank you Jennifer!!!!

  5. VirginiaHarger-Grinling says:

    Great information on both form and safety

  6. MarkStrong says:

    Thanks Jennifer – I’d never have thought of “lifting themselves up by stepping downward on the pedal” as a way to describe the load needed for a jump. A bonus find in a great article!

  7. Lynda Bodden says:

    Great info here! Thx!

  8. Sevana says:

    Thank you so much! This is awesome stuff!

  9. Colleen Fisher says:

    Great article, Jennifer! Thank you! 🙂

  10. KathyObst says:

    Thank you for this very informative explanation! I love having the knowledge and science behind questions asked by students.. ThankYou for always keeping me informed! I’m so happy I belong to this association😊

  11. Bill Roach says:

    Tons of content here. Thank you.

  12. CatrionaO'Sullivan says:

    Great article! Thank you! 😊

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