This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Controversies in Indoor Cycling

From a recent ACE newsletter comes an article about indoor cycling safety. It's called Controversies and Contraindicated Moves in Indoor Cycling By Stephanie Harris, M.D. I've posted the contents below:

Since the introduction of Spinning, indoor cycling has become a significant force in the group fitness arena. Companies involved with indoor cycling have developed their own styles which are presented to group fitness instructors as "the" way to teach cycling classes. Many different formats have evolved and the sport has gone through a significant evolution. Instructors continue to search for ways to make the classes more interesting or more intense, often at the expense of safety and form. As with all aspects of fitness, change occurs as the fund of knowledge expands and instructors need to think critically. A review of the cycling literature suggests there are contraindicated moves and teaching situations that have evolved which are not beneficial for students. Although not everyone may agree with all of the following information, it is a compilation from multiple sources (Spinning, Schwinn, Precision, Keiser, 24-Hour Fitness and Reebok Cycling).
Instructors are constantly pressured to provide intense workouts in shorter periods of time. As a result, cycling classes often lack adequate warm-up and cool-down. Proper progression building to higher intensity levels helps the body to prepare for increased work loads and is important for injury prevention. Adequate cool-down is essential to prevent pooling of blood and the possibility of dizziness or fainting. This guideline is similar to any group fitness class.
Pedaling at high cadences with too little resistance (standing or sitting) results in sacrificing form for speed and a decrease in caloric expenditure. Pedaling at very slow cadences with high resistance can result in premature fatigue and can be inefficient metabolically. Both can put undue stress on joints (especially knee) and muscle. Cadence and resistance need to be balanced to safely increase workload. The most efficient riders ride at cadences between 60 and 90 RPMs (recommended limits range from 50-120 RPMs) with the resistance set to prevent "bouncing" or to increase workload within the class format.
Rapid lifts (jumps or hurdles) out of the saddle or excessive numbers in a row (such as 100 or more) have been used as a method to increase intensity. Often they are done at high cadences with too little resistance. This technique sacrifices safety and form.
Cycling without hands (except during posture breaks) in order to increase the workload (such as in a climb or seated with high resistance) can compromise the knee joints. Also cycling posture must change producing stress on the low back.
Cycling without a saddle or lowering the saddle so that participants cannot sit down has been used as another method to increase intensity. A number of safety issues arise including the danger of not being able to sit if the bike malfunctions or the participant gets tired. Changes in position (e.g. standing to sitting) help to decrease the injury potential.
Hovering with the hips back and off the saddle with the arms fully extended to the ends of the handlebars produces excessive hip flexion which can stress the low back and alter pedaling form forcing the knees outward.
Standing starts with resistance have been used to simulate race starts. If used, they should be limited in number and reserved only for the very fit. The amount of stress on the knees, limits the usefulness of this technique.
Stretching while seated or standing on the bike is thought to be less safe and less adequate for the improvement of range of motion than stretching off the bike. Inadequate time spent stretching increases injury potential. Stretching off the bike but also including the bike as a prop for assisting the stretches is a great way to end the class!
As instructors we strive to keep our classes interesting and fresh. However, we must not lose sight of the need to provide a safe environment for all participants. We also need to move forward as information changes with ongoing research. Interesting and fun classes using formats that are scientifically sound can be taught without the use of controversial or contraindicated moves.

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