by Angela Reed-Fox
Cadence, muscle fibre, and getting results with indoor cycling
Every part of the indoor cycling session you design should have a rationale behind it, and cadence is one of the components which will help determine whether a challenge is safe, effective and efficient – or not.
You'll have come across that one rider who, no matter what you have planned for the class, ends up pedalling at around 40-50rpm at such a high resistance that they're having to recruit their upper body to help power every. single. pedal stroke.
Doing this puts too much strain on the joints and the back – and the risk is exacerbated if they haven't warmed up adequately to start with. This is a problem that you'll most often encounter in newer riders who think that they need to make the session as hard for themselves as possible if they're to get any benefit.
So what's happening in the muscle?
Muscle fibres are fast or slow twitch. Slow twitch fibres (type I fibres) have more mitochondria which means they're able to create more energy through the aerobic system, using oxygen and burning fat. Fast twitch muscle fibres (type IIa and IIb) are a little different. Type IIb fibres create energy anaerobically (fuelled by glucose stored in the muscles) – these are the powerful short-burst fibres. Type IIa can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism and so share features of both type I and type II fibres. Hill-climbing at 70-80rpm uses more of the aerobic fibres which enables greater aerobic endurance (and therefore great fat burn).
Thinking about the different muscle fibres then with regard to class challenges, you'll be using more fast-twitch (type II) fibres during short, intense challenges such as sprints (up to 1100rpm) and heavy climbs (around 60-70rpm), and conversely, using more slow-twitch, aerobic-friendly muscle fibres during endurance sets such as timetrials and flats at 80-90rpm, and working climbs around 70-80rpm.
Keeping an idea on what muscle fibres you're wanting to use, or what energy system you want to concentrate on will determine how you design your session. You'll be targeting fast-twitch muscles for short periods of intense power (whether slow or faster cadence), and slow-twitch muscles which take longer to fatigue for extended challenges and longer intervals at a moderate cadence.
So the cadence, and the power that you'll be coaching along with it will determine the result you'll expect your riders to get. If you're coaching short intervals with high power and a cadence above 100rpm or below 70rpm, you'll be training for strength and using more of your fast-twitch muscles; if you're coaching longer intervals at a moderate cadence (70-90rpm) you'll be coaching endurance, improved aerobic capacity, and fat burn.
Sign up for preferential treatment! (We promise not to flog your personal data or play fast and loose with it.)
by Angela Reed-Fox
How indoor cycling gives your riders what they really want
Riders need results. They want to burn fat, tone muscle, get those other healthy outcomes - but don't want to sign their life away on a stiff gym regime. So what can you do?
Not all forms of exercise, or indeed exercise classes, are created equal. You can dedicate a lot of time to some, and not see results for months - if at all. However, indoor cycling done properly brings a wide variety of benefits:
High calorie burn
Compared to many other activities, studio cycling gives the best burn - particularly when you teach riders to apply the correct cycling technique.
Partly due to the high calorie burn during the session, and partly due to the type of activity, riders wil be torching fat like there's no tomorrow. Mix in aerobic work with high-intensity intervals, allowing appropriate recovery will have your riders accomplishing a high fat burn during the session as well as afterwards too.
Great for heart health
Paying close attention to heart rate zones, and designing your session without neglecting the lower aerobic zones will help to reduce riders' blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Firing up the metabolism
Because studio cycling done with the correct technique uses resistance, the large muscles groups such as quads (front of thigh), hamstrings (back of thigh) and glutes (bottom), riders will be toning these muscles - an more muscle tissue means their metabolic rate will increase, meaning they burn more calories at rest. Don't forget to coach proper technique to enable your riders to fully benefit from this.
Strengthens the core
Again, refining your riders' technique will increase their gains here. By strengthening the core muscles, they'll improve your shape as well as improve posture, decrease likelhood of experiencing back pain, as well as improving stability and balance.
If your venue uses cardiotraining technology you'll be able to keep a more informed eye on your riders, and in turn, they'll be able to take control of how their workout goes - keeping it safe, yet challenging. Not only that, but the technology has been known to flag up issues which upon medical investigation led to riders receiving life-saving intervention and surgery. Get your venue manager to talk to us about cardiotraining software - we can provide useful advice - and we can supply the software too.
Measurable workouts for greater motivation
It's so difficult to stay motivated when you can't see the results. Using bikes that track power output, particularly the modern type bikes that have actual numbered gears rather than the older 'twisty knob' technology, riders can see how they're getting stronger, and push themselves to the next level. Also, cardiotraining is great for motivating riders. We really like the MyZone heartrate belts - riders can earn points for every minute they spend in the active heartrate zones. This is a great feature for keeping riders on track and promoting a bit of healthy competition, as well as being able to track real improvements.
Go at your own pace and intensity
Combining the cardiotraining technology and providing plenty of options for those who need it, you'll be able to give a great workout at every level. We strongly recommend venues offer different sessions with differing levels of intensity in order to increase the effectiveness of each class. While it is true that any rider should be able to go to any class and get something from it, it is also true that a focused class will bring far superior results. Offer different classes, and offer options in each one. Best of both.
There are many reasons why riders might not want to add impact to their joints - and studio cycling is low impact. They'll be getting a great resistance and cardiovascular workout, but without pounding your joints. Less injury, more results. (just keep an eye on technique for extra effectiveness.)
Get done and dusted quicker
Studio cycling is efficient exercise. Because of this, your riders will get results faster, and therefore not need to spend so much time exercising (even though it's fun) - so they can spend more time doing other things. Make sure you plan your sessions effectively, have a rationale for each feature you add (or don't add!) and when you're managing your class, remember to coach technique for added effectiveness.