Fitness Friday – Building Your Own Spin Workout

Happy Fitness Friday Friends! This week’s topic comes from my old friend Matty Danger (hi!) who asked how to get in a good spinning workout without the class.

These tips are best used on a spin bike or indoor trainer. I’m going to go over some of the “moves” you can do on the spin bike, then ways to put them together. I’m assuming those of you rocking out to your own spin class are “intermediates.” But if bike set-up and basic technique is something you want me to go over in a future post, let me know and I will!

Okay… let’s review our options.


Easy Seated Spin
This is your recovery. On a scale of 1-10 you’re at about a 3 or 4. Your butt is planted in the seat, your hands holding wide, and just enough resistance to feel it under your feet. But you could probably do this all day.

Seated Sprint
You’re in the seat and spinning your legs as fast as they will take you. A little bit of resistance is needed so as not to hurt your knees and to keep your butt from bouncing in the seat. On a scale of 1-10 you’re around an 8 or 9.

Seated Climb
You’re still in the seat, but the resistance is cranked waaaaay high. It feels like you’re biking through mud or… up a really big hill! You’ve got to work on pushing down and pulling up with your feet. This can be anywhere from a 7 to a 9 on that scale.


Standing Climb
There are sub-categories for this one!

Basic Climb
You’re out of the seat and the resistance is high to counter your bodyweight. Your butt is above and in front of the seat a little, your hands at the top of the handlebars. You sway back and forth as you push up and down. Depending on the resistance and speed, this can be anywhere from easy to extremely hard.

The Hover
The resistance is high and you’re out of the seat – but just barely. Stick your butt back to slightly hover over the seat. Your  butt and thighs will need to work hard to keep this position. Try not to sway and keep it as steady as possible. Usually at a slower pace.

The Jog
The resistance is still high and you’re out of the seat, except this time your torso is upright and almost against the handlebars. Hands are close together on the handlebars right in front of you. Speed is a little faster. Engage your legs more by trying not to move your upper body.

Standing Sprint
Essentially a standing climb…. just reallyreally fast ;) Lower the tension a little for this one so you can get the speed, but not too low so you don’t throw your knees out.

You’re going along at your seated pace and – quick! Jump up a few revolutions in standing! Now back down for a few seconds in the seat. And back up to standing! These are really fast-paced, turning your legs no more that 6 times in each positions. You have to keep the resistance high for these so it’s enough to counterbalance your weight in the standing jumps. And on a scale of 1-10 it should be at least a 7.


Alright, so now it’s time to put these moves together!

Spinning is an interval workout. Meaning you work hard for an interval, and recover for another. The level of work and recovery can vary anywhere on that scale of 1 to 10. Meaning you can vary how much you exert yourself.

I personally prefer intervals that at most have twice the recovery time than work time. For example: 1 minute work + 2 minutes recovery. But if your looking to push yourself you can do equal work and recovery intervals. Meaning sprinting for 30 seconds, then an easy spin for the next 30 seconds, repeat.

In spinning there are really only two kinds of recovery:
1) Easy seated spin
2) Low resistance hill climb

Knowing those are your two options for recovery, you can choose any of the above moves for your work intervals! Examples:

  • Hover for 30 sec, easy climb for 30 sec
  • Seated sprint for 30 sec, easy spin for 1 min
  • Hard climb for 1 min, seated spin for for 1 min
  • Standing sprint for 30 sec, “jog” for 30 sec, easy climb for 1 min

You can always break up the intervals by doing 5 minutes of steady increase. Pretend that you’re climbing an increasingly large hill, turning up the resistance every minute until your legs feel like they’re going to burn off. Then come back down the hill and decrease the resistance every one minute for another five minutes.

If you’re listening to music, you can always coordinate your intervals to the verses and choruses. Especially make sure you choose upbeat music to listen to!

Rather than give you a list of moves and intervals to do, I hope you can take the info provided in this post and design your own spin workout. I honestly make my workouts up as I go along, doing a mix of short work/recovery intervals with longer work/recovery intervals and a few increasing resistance hills for good measure.

If anything, just remember to work hard. Without the instructor to yell in your ear, it’s up to you to make sure you push yourself hard enough. If you find that the 1:1 intervals are too easy, then work harder so you need that full recovery.

Good luck! Hit me up with any questions below :)

Posted on January 14, 2011, in Fitness Friday and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. how fun! i just did a self spin today because my usual wednesday spin got snowed out. not gonna lie that sometimes i like to do my own class becasue my music is WAY better then the instructors haha

    • Haha, that’s why I didn’t want to bother doing up a playlist and stuff. The best part about making up your own spin workout is that you get to choose your own tunes!

  2. What is the difference between a spinning bike and an exercice bike? And is it much less effective etc. to workout on a an exercice bike? Thank youu

  3. that looks great!! thanks so much i can’t wait to try it.

  4. I adore spin. It will be so fun to go back to. Definitely after the 6 week post partum mark, though. I would be afraid for my girly bits otherwise. LOL

  5. I’m terrified of spin. I’m terrified of my lady bits hating me and I’m terrified the my back won’t be able to handle it since I’ve had surgery. Yet I want to try it because everyone says they love it and it fits my gym schedule. Ahhh!

    • Not going to lie… my lady bits took a beating my first class. But then I learned I was sitting on the seat all wrong. You have to sit aaallll the way back on the seat, that way it’s just your butt that hurts ;) And if you’re careful to lean forward at the hip and not round your back to reach the handlebars you should be okay. Worth a shot anyways!

      • I have bike shorts to help with a hurting butt. That I’d be able to handle better.

        You’ve given me enough nerve to at least talk to the instructor and see if it would work. I’m still scared but fear is a good thing….sometimes.

  6. Thanks for this post! It has been a long time since I have jumped on the bike and I miss it. I think I may need to start teaching it again soon :)

  7. Susan, are you teaching spin now too? I’ve kinda been wanting to get into group fitness but I just haven’t had the time to commit (teaching it, not taking it :) )
    Either way – great tips, girl!

    • I wish! Now that I’m done the nutrition certification, group instructor is next on my list. Might be spring until I have the time/funds though :\

  8. Spin, or RPM as its called at my gym, is my fav class. I love it, and I’ve even considered buying a road bike and joining the class on the road.

    Trying to compare any of the moves to one I like called Aero, which is slightly more resistance to stop you bouncing, arms in the middle bars in a low position. And push as fast as you can 9-10 (the bikes I use top out at 139 RPM). You normally build up to this speed in stages and then maintain for 16-30 seconds.

    I normally average 16-18km from a 50 minute class.

  9. goodness it is all so detailed! i really like spin classes but they are always at inconvenient times. i should try to build a workout. thanks, susan!

  10. I haven’t done spinning in forever! Maybe I’ll try to hit a class on my P90x rest week…

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