4 Ways to Mistake-Proof Your Movements in Indoor Cycling

It’s easy to get caught up in simply pushing the pedals around and around with indoor cycling. But if you don’t pay attention to your form or technique, you may not get the results you came for. (Even worse, you might get hurt!) Here are four common movement mistakes people often make in indoor cycling classes, with advice on how to correct them and why you should.

1. Focus on the Upstroke

Many indoor cyclists have a heavy down stroke — they’re really just pushing down on the pedals again and again — which makes their pedal strokes less efficient and limits their power.

A better approach: With each pedal stroke, concentrate on pulling up from the knees as your legs come around the back stroke, rather than just jamming down on the pedals. Besides taking a load of pressure off your knees, focusing on the upstroke provides the added benefit of boosting your momentum. Once you get good at the upstroke, make a concerted effort to keep your pedal strokes super smooth all the way around, with both legs working together: When one leg pushes, the other pulls up. With practice, the motion should become seamless.

2. Get Off the Pogo Stick

While riding a standing flat, it’s not unusual to see people bouncing up and down on the pedals as if they were on a pogo stick. That’s not a good thing because doing this places undue pressure on your knees, ankles, and feet; plus, it doesn’t engage your quads, hamstrings, or calf muscles the way your pedal strokes should. Think of it this way: Just as you don’t want to have too much lift or bounce to your stride while jogging or running — because it would force your lower body to absorb more shock upon landing, which is hard on your muscles and joints — the same is true with indoor cycling.

Your best bet is to focus on keeping your head steady, your body loose, and your legs moving in light, easy circles while riding in an upright standing position.   

3. Use the Correct Hand Positions 

When riding in a standing position, it’s not uncommon to see people with lots of resistance on the bike and their hands on the back of the handlebar (position 2).

The problem is, pushing a heavy gear in this position places excessive stress on your lower back, your quads, and your hip flexors. It’s fine to be in this upright position if you’re doing a standing flat. But if you’re climbing a hill in a standing position, your body should be hinged slightly at the hips and your hands should be out front in position 3; this way, you can engage your hamstrings and glutes, as well as the muscles in the front of your thighs, and generate more power and momentum. Riding in this position will also help prevent your lower back from swaying forward and back, which can lead to muscle strain, the way it might if you were riding with too much resistance while standing up straight. 

4. Slow Down but Don’t Stop

It’s not unusual to see people add so much resistance on a hill that their pedal strokes grind to a halt or they become fatigued and sit still on the bike. If you get tired — and who doesn’t now and then?! — it’s better to lower your resistance and slow your pedal strokes but to keep your legs moving.

This will help prevent your leg muscles from cramping and you from feeling dizzy. Think of it as a brief recovery interval. It’s the same idea as when you’re running or jogging: If you felt winded or tired, you’d likely pause and walk for a few moments, rather than coming to a complete stop; once you regained your equilibrium, you might get back to your workout or you’d keeping walking as part of your cool-down. But you wouldn’t stop abruptly because doing so is too jarring to your body.

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