Spinning has become a massive fitness craze in recent years. Many people now talk about their spin classes and spin instructors and the impact that spinning has on their weight loss or health. But what is spinning? As far as the novice observer can tell, they are using exercise bikes. But, these bikes definitely don’t look like the ones that we have been using at home for the last 30+ years. So what is it about this type of bike that makes it different? What are users really gaining from switching to this type of workout and should we say goodbye to the exercise bike?
A spin bike gets its name from the continual motion of the pedals on the bike. There is a fixed-gear system within the flywheel on the bike. These flywheels are generally bigger and heavier than those on exercise bikes. The idea that is that the pedals keep your legs moving for a better motion and rhythm as you workout. Even if the bike slows down, you don’t come to a sudden halt and lose all momentum. This approach can make it easier for users to keep going during their classes and see better gains. By comparison, the standard exercise bike (upright, recumbent) is a lot more responsive to what you want to do – even if that means stopping completely and giving on on the session.
The other difference here is the posture created as users work out. The idea here is that users get to work out with the body leaning forward towards the handlebars. This can seem unusual to those that are used to the more traditional upright bikes where you keep more of a straight back and keep the handlebars more at arms-length. The concept here is that it mimics the design of road bikes and the posture you would have while riding. That was one of the original aims here. These indoor stationary bikes were designed as a way to train and maintain your form during the cold wet winter months.
For some people, this is definitely true. There are users that will use this spin bike for training that see this as the ideal substitute for being on the road. The shape and intensity of the bike help them stay on track and train for big events. It also works the muscles and cardio pretty well. It isn’t just the “professionals” that make gains here. Spin classes remain popular because attendees see the benefits over their old exercise bikes. They get to push harder and further on these cooler machines and see the difference in their fitness, tone and weight loss goals.
One of the main differences here is the potential for HIIT - high-intensity interval training. This is a popular way to work out where you work in bursts of fast-paced and slower-paced sessions. It is meant to be a better route to fitness if you have the strength and discipline to handle it. Some people love it and can use the spin bike to create these explosive bursts and work their legs really hard for short periods. The rest periods aren’t complete rests because of that continual motion on the pedals. There is also the opportunity to stand up on these stronger, heavy-duty machines to increase the intensity further.
Not necessarily. There are some clear fitness benefits to using this alternative type of bike for those that are able to handle the intensity and style. However, traditional exercise bikes still have their benefits for those that want a more leisurely pace during their workout. After all, exercise bike routines are meant to be simple with low-impact motions for on-going fitness goals. Some people with mobility issues may also struggle to get comfortable and secure on a spin bike compared to an exercise bike.
This is where it is important to highlight the benefits of the recumbent exercise bike for those with pain issues and poor mobility. Exercise bikes are a great tool for those that want to rehab injuries, improve their tone or start an exercise plan from scratch. They are accessible, user-friendly and comfortable. This is enhanced when using a recumbent bike that has a reclined backrest and padded armrests. Here users only have to think about the gentle motion of the pedals and work at their own speed. By comparison, a spin bike can be a very intimidating option for those that have not used anything like them before. Even those that like to cycle can look at an intense class and say “not for me!”.
Another benefit of choosing an exercise bike is that the majority of products will have more features available to users. Spin bikes tend to have one clear goal – to get you working those legs at the right intensity level. Some with have a basic console, pulse sensors and not a lot else. Exercise bikes are more likely to have more settings and programs included. They may also have more comfort features for at-home users. Therefore, you can still create a great workout plan with these less intense machines.
In the end, it isn’t about which product is the best or the most effective because the impact will vary depending on your needs. Road cyclists and those that appreciate the intensity of the spin class will always choose the spin bike. But, that posture and continual motion aren’t going to suit everyone. They are great for road racing training and HIIT but not so good for newcomers and those trying to rehab injuries. In the end, you have to look at that posture, the fixed-gear pedaling motion and the idea of HIIT. If this sounds like your version of hell then look past the bright colors and cool classes and stick with the old-fashioned exercise bike instead.