The Right Ways to Ride in a Standing Position

How to stand and deliver better results in indoor cycling.

There are times in every indoor cycling class when riders are eager to get out of the saddle. This is typically after they’ve been riding on a seated flat for a long stretch during an endurance ride or pushing heavy resistance on a seated climb. Some purists claim that the only legitimate reasons to ride in a standing position are during a standing climb and during sprints. That may be the case if you’re riding outdoors but that’s not necessarily true in an indoor cycling class.

Here are five times when it makes sense to ride in a standing position indoors—with tips on how to execute these moves properly:

Standing climbs: During a standing climb, you can throw your body weight into each pedal stroke, which allows you to handle greater resistance on the bike. Rather than just hammering down on the pedals, as you might during a seated climb, climbing in a standing position allows you to aggressively drive the pedals forward then pull up on them between the 6 and 9 o’clock positions. This helps recruit more muscle groups such as the hip flexors and hamstrings.

Jumps: It’s true that people don’t do “jumps”—rhythmic transitions from a seated to a standing position—during outdoor rides. But they’re a useful drill to help you develop the skill to launch a burst of acceleration that allows you to pass someone during a race or pick up your pace on a switchback. When done with the proper alignment, cadence, tempo, resistance, and balance, jumps can help you develop greater muscle endurance and aerobic capacity.

By keeping your movements in and out of the saddle fluid and consistent, you’ll avoid placing excessive stress on your joints. Doing super-fast jumps, by contrast—often called “pop-ups” or “popcorn jumps”—can strain your lower back, hips, or knees. 

Sprints: When you stand and sprint, you can generate maximal power in your pedal strokes by pouring your weight into each one.

Think of this as an explosive movement, in which you’re driving each pedal stroke by putting gravity on your side in a standing position. Just be sure to have enough resistance on the bike to keep your standing sprints safe.

Power boosts: When you’re riding for a long stretch in the saddle—say, during an endurance ride or a long seated climb—you can get saddle fatigue and your efforts can begin to flag. Adding a bit of resistance and rising to a standing position allows you to power up your pedal strokes for 15 to 30 seconds at a time before you return to the saddle and resume your previous effort.  

Recovery intervals: After an intense hill-climb or speed intervals in the saddle, taking a stand for a period can help you recover from a hard effort. The shift in position will likely feel good, and standing while pedaling will allow you to shake out and stretch your legs, and get ready for the next challenge. Again, be sure to add enough resistance to support your body weight before you stand and recover.

If you are reluctant to ride out of the saddle, rest assured: Anyone can do it—with the right technique. Here's how: Add enough resistance to help you stay balanced and stable in a standing position, then come out of the saddle and stand up on the pedals without turning them. Gently shift your weight forward and back until you find the sweet spot where you can keep your body weight directly over the pedals without leaning too far forward (which would put pressure on the elbows and shoulders) or too far back over the saddle (which requires lots of arms strength to hold you up). Once you feel comfortable and steady on your feet, start pedaling while keeping your back flat and your elbows slightly bent. Now, you’ve got the hang of it!

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