What is Spin Class? Everything You Need to Know Before You Ride

Okay, so you’ve heard people talk about spinning. Maybe you’ve even met up with friends after spin class and they’ve told you how good of a workout it is. Either way, you’d like to find out for yourself about the benefits of taking spin classes.

A spin class, or studio cycling class, is an instructor-led stationary cycling class. And the truth behind the hype is—it works. Thanks to a program designed specifically to give an incredible workout and create a fun, high-energy atmosphere, many people consider spin classes their favorite way to exercise.

How Many Calories Does Spin Class Burn?

The number of calories burned in spin class can range from 400–1,100, depending on duration and intensity. Another way to think of it is for every ten minutes you spend in the saddle you’ll burn between 100 and 175 calories. This caloric burn rate is nearly twice as what you might expect from a regular stationary bike workout.

Those kind of numbers are pretty good motivation to give it a try! A major reason spin class is so effective is that you’ve got a pro guiding your workout. One of the biggest advantages of spin class is that the instructor is trained to give you a high-intensity interval (HIIT) workout that maximizes your time on the bike. This turns the class into a fat-burning, muscle-toning session you won’t regret.

What is Spin Class?

How Should I Prepare for My First Spin Class?

You can feel a little better about taking the plunge into your first class already. You’ll have an instructor with you the whole way, giving clear directions at every step. Still, a spin class may seem daunting at first. The good news is, before you ever get into the classroom there are a few things you can do to make that first class easier. These tips will help ensure you have a great spin experience.

Choose your Studio

Spinning has a very inclusive culture and studios tend to pride themselves on welcoming newcomers. It may pay to check out spin studios in your area and see if any are offering deals for beginners.

Reserve your Bike in Advance

Most spin studios have online registration. Check out the location you’re interested in online and register for a date. Don’t wait until the last minute! Classes can fill up quickly, especially on weekends.

Dress for Success

In spin class you’ll be sweating…a lot. What? You thought you’d burn that many calories without breaking a sweat? Dress in lightweight comfortable clothes that you’d wear if you were going for a run. No need to break out the bike shorts, the classroom should be air-conditioned enough to help keep you cool while you ride.

Show up Early

As a first-timer headed to spin cycle class the studio you will probably be asked to fill out a quick waiver before you get on a bike. In addition, you may need to be fitted for cycling shoes, which the studio should have available for your use. Getting in the door early also means you’ll have a good chance of reserving a bike in a spot where you feel most comfortable. Arriving 10–15 minutes before the scheduled class start should give you plenty of time to get everything taken care of.

Make it Known you’re a Beginner

Take the time to introduce yourself to your spin instructor before class and let them know it’s your first time. You may be tempted to try to fly under the radar as a first timer, but letting your instructor know you’re new has big benefits. This may prompt them to give you an overview of what makes their class unique. It may also help remind them to explain things in more detail and give you a couple of tips during the class.

Set Up your Cycle

Okay, you still have a few minutes before class starts. You’re looking at the cycle you’ve chosen and wondering, “Does spin class work? And if so, how?” Well, it all starts with a properly adjusted bike. The saddle (the seat) should come up to the top of your hip bone when you’re standing beside the bike. Another way to judge the correct height is to climb on board. While seated and pedaling your leg should extend until it is almost straight, with just a little bit of bend it. Make sure not to go high or you’ll end up hyperextending your leg when you’re at the bottom of your stroke.

The handlebars can be adjusted in whatever way feels most comfortable for you. Remember, your core should be doing most of the work of keeping you upright so the handles shouldn’t be relied upon for support!

The resistance of the pedals can be changed by turning the knob behind the handlebars. Dial in a resistance that feels right for you. If you feel like your pedaling is out of control, turn up the resistance. If you can hardly turn the pedals, reduce the resistance. Also, keep in mind your instructor will probably ask you to turn the resistance up at certain points in the class, so start with a level that’s moderately challenging.

What Should I Expect at My First Spin Class? 12 Keys

  1. A High-Energy Atmosphere

    One of the benefits of indoor cycling is the communal spirit. Everyone is in it together, pushing themselves, and working to get better. Yes, this goes for the pros too! Spin classes are upbeat and positive, and your neighbors are usually pretty close to you in the classroom. This also means no one’s there to judge you. As long as you come in with a great attitude and you’re ready to learn you’ll find yourself at home.

  2. A Soundtrack for your Ride

    Come prepared for loud music in most spin studios. Many instructors use the music they’ve chosen to pace the workout and drive the energy. Often, it’s loud enough that the instructor will use a headset mic to be heard over the music. While this may seem like a lot, the positive is that no one can hear you cursing on a brutal hill climb. If you typically like things a little quieter bring a pair of earplugs—it’s totally normal. Also, you might want to choose a bike that’s positioned a little further away from any wall mounted speakers.

  3. Strange Footwear

    Although some spin studios feature bikes with toe-cage pedals, many spin cycles use pedals with clips designed for specialized shoes. If you’re an experienced road cyclist this concept is familiar to you, but if you’re new to spin the first time you slip into a pair of cycling shoes can be a little strange. However, there’s no need to invest in shoes up front. Many spinning studios offer shoe rentals to class attendees.

  4. The Feeling of Being “Clipped In”

    The beauty of pedal clips is that you can stand, pedal, and focus on giving 100% of your effort to the workout without fear of your feet slipping. The strange thing for many beginners is that you can (and should) actually move the pedals by pulling up. This may be strange at first because your feet won’t come away from the pedals. This can lead to a very vulnerable feeling. Don’t worry! You can unclip your feet by turning your heel outward. After a session or two, you’ll be clipping and unclipping with ease.

  5. Nonstop Action

    Spin cycles are based on the fixed gear bicycle design, meaning it requires effort to slow down as well as speed up. You can’t just stop pedaling! But that’s not a bad thing. This spirit of action is what spin class is built on. The class will begin with a warmup but after that expect a lot of variety.

    Your instructor will let you know when to change the resistance on your bike, when to stand in the pedals, and when to sit, and you’ll be doing all of these things often.

  6. Tap Backs

    You’re also in for tap backs. What are tap backs? They are an exercise performed when standing and pedaling. You will push your hips back and down until you are almost sitting in the saddle before you come back up. It’s almost like a squat while pedaling. Follow your instructor’s lead, as well as the cyclists around you, and you’ll get the rhythm of the workout. Oh, and you’ll also feel the burn in your quads in glutes. Tap backs are an amazing workout.

  7. Hill Climbs

    Hill climbs are an essential component of spinning. Your instructor will let you know when to ratchet up the resistance on your cycle. The increased resistance simulates the extra effort required to climb a hill on a road bike. Decreasing resistance after a successful hill climb is one of the most satisfying feelings in all of the exercise. It’ll make all the hard work feel worth it.

  8. Your First Class Might not be like Other Classes

    Each spin instructor likes to do things a little differently. In addition to changes in resistance, pedaling speeds, and other variations your instructor may even have you do push-ups on the handlebars as you pedal. Who said spinning wasn’t an upper body workout?

  9. You Won’t be Sitting Much

    When you picture road bikers you might be thinking of them bent over the handlebars, seat firmly planted in the saddle. This position is great for road biking because it reduces wind resistance and maximizes speed. But spinning is indoors and stationary, so we don’t have to worry about that. Some of the benefits of spin class on your body are due to the fact that the program includes a lot of time spent pedaling while standing.

    If you’re wondering “Can spinning tone your stomach?” the answer is that it absolutely can. This is because of the standing position used through so much of the class. Standing while pedaling requires you to engage your core as you ride. This means abs, great ones. Spinning is much more effective for working stomach and lower back muscles than traditional road biking.

    How much time you spend in or out of the saddle depends on the instructor and class style. Some spin classes contain almost no seated time. It’s an amazing workout, but you might discover the time you spent adjusting your seat wasn’t as important as you thought.

  10. Giving 100% Effort

    In your first class don’t put pressure on yourself to be the top performer. Take your cues from those around you and do the best you can to take on everything the instructor asks. You’ll get the most out of spin by following the program the instructor has laid out for you. It will take a little while to get the rhythm of some of the movements, so don’t get frustrated if you feel like you’re lagging behind. It all gets easier from here.

  11. Time Will Fly

    “How Long are spin classes?” is a common question for many before they tackle their first class. Of course, you want to know how long you’ll be expected to pedal and push yourself to the limit. The thing is, the answer depends. An average spin class is 40 minutes, with 60 minutes being quite common. Marathon 90-minute classes are not unheard of, but definitely not recommended for your first time.

    The one thing you’ll find in your first class is that the time will pass quickly. The tap backs, hill climbs, sprints, and pace changes mentioned earlier will keep you engaged mentally as well as physically. You’ll have made it through your first spin class before you realize. No matter how fast it passed, once you step off the bike that shaky feeling in your legs will remind you of the hard work you did.

  12. You Will be Sore

    In the unlikely event that you’re still wondering “What muscles does spinning work?” after you leave your first class, you’ll have the answer by the next day. Sure, you could’ve guessed that spinning works your quads, and those tap backs will target your glutes, plus we mentioned the abs and lower back, but you’ll definitely feel it in your calves too! You may feel it in the upper calf, just below the back of your knee. This is a good soreness. It means you had a great workout.

    Don’t get discouraged if you wake up the day after your class feeling like you couldn’t manage another hill climb even if you wanted to. This is normal, and after a good stretching routine you’ll feel a whole lot better. Before long you’ll be asking about the benefits of spinning every day.

Benefits of Spinning

So you survived your first spin class. You just had one of the best workouts of your life and now the soreness has set in. Don’t stop there! The health benefits of spin class will become more and more apparent the more you go. And that soreness? Once you’ve gone to a few spin classes it won’t be so intense.

Is Spinning a Good Way to Lose Weight?

One of the top reasons many people turn to spin is for weight loss. It’s absolutely fantastic for this purpose based on the caloric burn over a short period of time. If you spend your hour in the gym spinning, you’ve made a great investment.

But the key to any routine is to stick with it. Back up a spinning regimen with a cardio-complementary diet and you’ll see the benefits more quickly than you might think. One class will give you a great idea of what spinning has to offer but settling into a routine will introduce you to a community dedicated to positivity and health. You’ll see that the benefits of spin class go far beyond the number of calories you burn.

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