Posture Pointers for Indoor Cycling

What to do (and what not to) with your body in a cycling class


You might think there’s nothing special to riding an indoor bicycle—you just hop on and start pedaling, right? Well, not exactly. To get the most out of an indoor cycle class without injuring yourself, it’s important to adjust your bike settings to suit your body and to pay attention to your form throughout the ride. Of course, cycling form matters when you’re riding outside, too, but in an indoor class, the intensity of the training, coupled with the fact that you don’t have to deal with wind resistance or balance challenges, makes minding your posture even more essential.

Here are five posture pointers to heed during an indoor cycle class:

Place your butt on the widest part of the saddle. Hinge forward at the hips and engage your abdominal muscles as you reach for the handlebars. Your knees should be aligned with your hips and your feet, whether you’re riding in a seated or in a standing position; if they flare out to the side, your seat position may need to be adjusted.

Align your upper body properly. Your spine should be straight, not rounded or slumped (make sure your handlebars are high enough so you don’t feel neck or back strain). Your shoulders should be relaxed and down (meaning: they should not be visiting your ears!). Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you ride and keep your elbows in line with your wrists and your knees (no chicken-winging allowed!). Try not to bend your wrists too much, to avoid placing unnecessary strain on them, and don’t grip the handlebars too tightly (you don’t want white knuckles).

Keep your weight over the pedals. That means stabilizing your weight in your hips so that your knees stay over the center of the pedals. Don’t lean on the handlebars when you’re seated or standing; off-loading your weight this way cheats you of some of the benefits you’d get from maintaining an upright posture and it places excessive stress on the wrists and forearms.

(When you’re in a standing position, you should feel the nose of the saddle brushing against the back of your upper thighs.) Also, avoid using hand position three while riding in the saddle—a taboo move!

Keep your feet flat. It’s a mistake to point your toes as you pedal because this engages the wrong muscles. Instead, press through each pedal stroke with a flat foot, driving from the ball of your foot, to reduce pressure on your knees and strain on your quads. Similarly, pull up from your knees and toes on the upstroke.

Hold your head up. If you let your head flop or fall forward as you ride, you’ll set yourself up for neck strain—and partially impair the flow of blood and oxygen to your head, which can cause lightheadedness or dizziness. Keeping your head in line with your neck and spine helps ensure proper breathing and a steady flow of oxygen to your brain, which can help you feel good and maximize your performance. An indoor cycling class is hard enough without increasing your chances of feeling winded unnecessarily.

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