Taking the Dread out of Jumps

What you need to know about doing jumps safely in indoor cycling.

When it comes to jumps, indoor cyclists tend to fall into one of two camps: They either like doing jumps or they can't stand them. In my experience, the second group seems to be much larger than the first. Personally, I can sympathize with both perspectives; however, I do see the value of jumps—rhythmically coming in and out of the saddle—but only when they’re done right. What that means is: Jumps should be done in a reasonably paced, measured fashion with good form, and for short periods of time.

The key is to avoid moving out of and back onto the saddle too quickly and to maintain good cycling posture throughout. This way, jumps will serve a purpose: Helping you transition smoothly between sitting and standing positions while keeping your body weight over the pedals, a move that’s helpful for mastering standing flats, standing hill-climbs, and accelerations on an attack or a breakaway, for instance.

Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of jumps, with advice on how to incorporate them safely.

The Upside of Jumps

They can be fun and energizing because they offer a diversion from the usual seated or standing drills. This helps ward off monotony and boredom and distracts cyclists from whatever discomfort they may be feeling. Jumps are also a great cardio pick-me-up—they are intense!—as they increase heart rate and help you build muscular endurance and power. They also offer a good way to take brief saddle breaks to give your hips, groin, and quads a respite from the pressure.

To keep them safe, jumps should be performed at a pace of 16 counts, 8 counts, or occasionally 4 counts. That means, 16 counts up then 16 counts in the saddle, 8 up then 8 down, and so on. Ideally, your music will have enough beats per minute (120 or higher) to help you pedal to the beat and time your jumps easily.

At any rhythm, jumps should be smooth, seamless, and well coordinated, as you lift and lower your body, keeping your hands at the back of the handlebar. You should have moderate to high resistance on the bike, and your pace (or cadence) should stay above 70 RPMs, perhaps briefly surging into the 90s.

The Downside of Jumps

The frantic up-and-down pace of single-count jumps, two-count jumps, and popcorn jumps (super-fast jumps that go up-down-up-down, with no count in between) is hard on your lower back, hips, and knees and potentially injury producing. It’s difficult to maintain proper form during these fast-paced moves, and hard landings on the seat could lead to lingering saddle soreness after your ride. If you have knee issues, think twice about doing jumps at all because of the risk of throwing your knee alignment out of whack.

Even if you can get a spike in your heart rate while you’re doing jumps, your power output will likely be reduced because you won’t be able to maintain fluid control of your pedal strokes. This means you won’t be getting as fabulous a workout as you may think you are so don't overdo it with jumps.


The Take-Home Message

When done for short periods (no more than a few minutes at a time), with appropriate resistance, and at a reasonable pace, jumps can be beneficial for cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, and coordination. But doing them at a frenetic pace, without enough resistance on the bike, can cause more harm than good. So do them safely and sensibly but don’t stress about them: Simply focus on moving smoothly and fluidly in and out of the saddle while maintaining good cycling posture. Concentrate on getting into the rhythm of what you’re doing, enjoy the break from the usual cycling moves, and then return to your ride feeling invigorated and powerful. 

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