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Spin Class Basics—Stretches, Time Commitment and Regularity

Spin class is a great way to prepare for an upcoming bike tour, especially if you don’t have your own bike or inclement weather prevents you from getting outside. Though a spin class is an entirely indoor workout performed on a stationary bike, it’s still an effective way to build both your muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance in the months leading up to your big ride.

What’s Spin Class?

Spin class is a cycling-inspired cardio workout. It’s often set to high-energy music, and an instructor guides you through a visualization of an outdoor workout.

spin class

Backroads Pro Tip

Think spin classes will be monotonous? Think again! Every class is complete with long hill climbs, short sprints and coasting.

What Can You Expect from a Spin Class?

In a typical spin class, your instructor will take you through a brief stretch and warm-up before getting into the main workout, and you’ll finish with a cooldown and final stretch. A spin class typically lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

Throughout the session, your instructor will shout commands, such as “gear up” and “find your flat road,” but you’re always in control of your workout’s intensity via the resistance knob located under the bike’s handlebars. You can also choose how fast to pedal (your cadence, or number of revolutions of the crank per minute).

Why’s Spin Class Such an Intense Cardio Workout? 

Spin class is the ultimate workout for getting both your body and heart in shape. Because of the nonstop nature of spin class—with little to no breaks over the course of the workout—it becomes all about endurance for your muscles, heart and mind. Spin class not only works your body’s largest muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and core), but it also improves your body’s ability to circulate oxygen and blood.

How Often Should You Go to Spin Class?

Given the high intensity of a spin session, it’s best not to overdo it—especially when you’re first starting out. Attend spin class anywhere from two to three times per week to reap the maximum benefits. Going more than that can actually push yourself past the point of it being beneficial to your fitness. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found doing a spin class workout every day can actually lead to fatigue and performance decline.

What Stretches Should You Do before and after Spin Class? 

As with any exercise, it’s a good idea to stretch before and after a spin class to avoid injury and to improve flexibility. Your instructor will likely walk you through several stretches at the start and end of your spin class that are focused on relaxing your upper body and stretching the muscles in your lower body. Here are a few of the most common stretches done before and after spin classes.

Pre–Spin Class Stretches

Shoulder Rolls: With a straight back, roll your shoulders forward and backward at least five times in each direction.

Neck Stretches: Tilt your head to one side with your ear directly over your shoulder. Hold the position for at least a count of five, and then repeat on the other side.

Wrist Relaxers: With one arm straight in front of you (making a stop signal), pull your hand back toward you by the fingers with the other hand until you feel a stretch in your wrist. Hold for at least a count of five, and then repeat on the other side.

Lower Back Twist: Sitting on the bike, put one hand on the handlebars and the other hand behind you until you feel a twisting sensation in your lower back. Hold for at least a count of ten, and repeat on the other side.

Post–Spin Class Stretches

Chest Opener: With your feet clipped into the bike, come to a standing position. Point your toes to the floor as you bring your hips forward and arch your back. You should feel the stretch in your abs and chest. Hold for as long as you like, and then repeat with your other foot forward.

Forward Fold: This move will stretch your calves and hamstrings. With your feet still clipped into the bike, stand up out of the saddle. Hold the end of each handle while you shift your body back by straightening your legs. Do this until you begin to feel a stretch in your calves or hamstrings. Hold for as long as you like, and then repeat on the other side.

Standing Hamstring Stretch: Standing next to your bike, swing one leg up to rest your heel on the handlebars. Reach toward your toes with your opposite hand. Keep both knees almost locked as you bend forward. You should feel the stretch in the hamstring of your extended leg. Hold for as long as you need, and then repeat on the other leg.

Standing Figure-Four Stretch: Standing next to your bike, cross the ankle of one foot over the knee of your other leg. Sit back until your crossed leg is parallel with the floor. Hold for at least 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.

Quad Stretch: Standing next to your bike, kick your left leg back, and grab your toes with your left hand. Use the bike for some extra stability as you pull back on your leg until you feel a stretch in your quad. Hold for as long as you need, and then repeat on the right leg.

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