Yes, you can lift weights on the bike, and here’s why.
Last week I had a member ask me after class if it was “safe” to use hand weights while on the spin bike because she’d read somewhere that it was one of the top no-no things to do in a cycling workout.
I did a little digging to see what people are posting out there, and as suspected, most of what I found were blogs written by fitness “experts” on the various “gimmicks” they’ve seen or despise about cycling classes. I use the term “expert” loosely here — because like me, these experts are by and large just other instructors who teach different classes. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I do want to share some thoughts on the subject since I happen to teach my own cycling class using weights on the bike (I call it PowerCycle). So before someone tells you that I don’t know what I’m doing in that dark room with the loud music, consider this:
- When we’re lifting, we’re not really cycling. I break up my class so that when it’s time to pick up handweights, it’s after a period of work that builds to an intensity where the legs welcome (need) a recovery period. I typically format my class as a 25-minute warm-up to increasing intensity period (with the intensity coming from a specific focus on intervals, hill repeats, tabatas, etc.) wherein the last 5 minutes is used to push the legs to all-out fatigue before allowing them to recover for 3-4 minutes. During this recovery period, participants go to seated coast and I guide them through a series of compound exercises using the weights (that means we’ll be using at least two muscle groups at a time for all exercises).
- When we’re lifting, we’re not really lifting. Critics of using weights on the bike will say it’s a waste of time because you can’t really build strength using such a low weight for a short period of time. I never promote the idea that lifting hand weights for 3 minutes on a spin bike is a way to “get swoll.” That doesn’t mean it’s an empty effort though. I also teach a strength training class and at least once a week, that class precedes the PowerCycle class I teach. The 3 minutes of compound upper-body exercises is like the “cherry on top” of my weight-lifting cupcake. Using the right-sized hand weight (I use 5lbs) you can absolutely feel the effects of the weight after 3 minutes. For those who don’t lift, they will report back that they “feel” something – it might not be the feeling of building actual muscle, but it could be the feeling of starting to get comfortable with the idea that strength training can (and should) be part of one’s fitness routine OUTSIDE the cycling room. And I’m okay with that. We all start somewhere.
- When we’re cycling, we’re really cycling. In addition to my certifications to teach strength-training classes and cycling classes, I am a USAT certified triathlon coach who has completed a number of endurance races in the past 20 years from marathons to multiple half and full IRONMAN races. The format of my class may vary from the type of riding I did when I needed to train for 100+ miles on the bike, but I’m very well versed in how the resistance knob, pedal speed, bike fit and overall “landscape” of the room impact the cycling experience, and I know how to translate those things to the idea of “outside riding.”
- We don’t do anything willy-nilly. I change up my PowerCycle playlist and the workout every two weeks. This guarantees that the class is always fresh while giving participants the opportunity to tackle the same “course” more than once. I average about 4 hours of prep for every 52-minute class I teach. Two hours is used to find the right music and arrange the playlist appropriately (I blend all kinds of genres together, and I’m very particular about the order of the tracks so that everything flows). One hour is used to test ride the music and see what feels natural to do on the bike — sometimes I pick a song and plan it as a hill, but it wants to be a fast-paced interval once I’m riding to it. The last hour is used to refine the playlist based on the actual ride, and then organize my teaching guide to I can replicate the experience in class. All that being said, I know what every minute of my class is meant to achieve for the participants. There are no gimmick movements and no wasted seconds.
Still not convinced? Come and try a class. PowerCycle happens every Tuesday at 5:30 PM and every Saturday at 9:00 AM, at Elevate Dewitt. And don’t forget your first class is always free! Fill out the form below to try indoor cycling classes at Elevate Fitness.