What Are Spinning Classes? The Complete Guide

Even If you don’t belong to a gym, you’ve still probably heard a lot of hype around spinning classes, and how fantastic they are.

So what is spinning exercise? what do you do in a spin class? and why are they so popular? Do they help you lose weight and are they worth getting all hot and bothered over? (literally).

In this article, I am going to do my best to answer just about every question you might have about spinning.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

Spinning classes are high-intensity group exercise classes using stationary bicycles. The classes are made up of between 20-30 participants and last anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes. A mixture of high BPM kinds of music is used in a dark room to create an energetic atmosphere.

OK, we have a lot to get through today, and I’ve got some seriously good info for you so I’m going to get cracking straight away. I’ll leave a handy little menu below so you can click on whatever part interests you first and move around the article at your own leisure, just because I’m a nice guy y’know?

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What are spinning classes?

what is spin workout

What is a spin class like?

what happens in a spin class

Your typical spin class will be made up of between twenty to thirty people, with one fitness instructor leading.

For any new starters, the instructor will teach you how to set the bike up so that you are comfortable during the class, and once everyone is ready, the class will begin.

In all honesty, spin classes are pretty darn tough, you really will be working at your near-maximal effort for a large portion of the class with a few rest periods added in by the instructor. That’s really the point of the instructor being there, most people know how to pedal a stationary bike, but to keep pushing yourself is hard work, and an instructor will get you there.

Having partaken in, and taught spin classes myself, I can tell you that they will probably be one of the most intense exercise classes that you’ve ever taken part in. Your legs will ache for several days afterward (although this does get better with time), and you’ll sweat A LOT!

The good news is that this is the whole point of the class, it’s supposed to be intense because, in terms of calories burned and improving your cardiovascular health, spinning is very hard to beat.

The class may sound like torture to most people, but remember that whilst the instructor is there to help you and push you to work your hardest, you are always in control of the resistance level of your bike, and they don’t want to “break you”, they simply want you to work your hardest.

So, if you are getting to the point where you are starting to feel like you really can’t keep to the same pace, you are allowed to lower the resistance and take it a little easier for a while, and that is ok.

Each class is made up of sections or “stages”, of high, middle, and low-intensity cycling. The instructor may ask you to increase the resistance and stand up to simulate a hill climb, they may also add bursts of intervals, which are all-out high-intensity sprints combined with short rest breaks of low-intensity cycling.

It’s not uncommon for an instructor to add additional exercises into a spin class to work the upper body at the same time. This helps you burn additional calories in your spinning classes.

An example of this would be asking you to turn up the resistance, stand up on your bike and perform push-up movements whilst holding the handles as you continue to peddle. This offers a great full-body workout!

It’s up to you how much resistance you add, but the instructor will be looking out for people that don’t look like they are working hard enough and may ask you to increase it if they think you can handle it.

The majority of the time, the instructor will be performing the exercises in front of you so you can copy what they are doing, but they will sometimes walk around the room to help anyone they think is struggling or needs correction.

Each class lasts anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour (sometimes even up to 90 minutes for the truly crazy) and is spaced out throughout the most popular times of the day, such as early mornings, lunchtime, and evening sessions in most commercial gyms.

It’s completely up to the instructor as to what music they play in their classes, unless they are part of a branded class, when they may need to play music specifically licensed to it and designed for certain tracks.

This means that you could go into a class that plays drum and bass music, or electronic dance music, but either way, you can be sure the music will be loud, the room will be dark and the instructor will be shouting to get you all pumped up!

It’s certainly a tough workout that’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s incredibly popular, so they must be doing something right!

What should you wear to a spinning class?

There are no hard and fast rules as to what you should be wearing to your spin classes, but the most important thing to consider is comfort.

Whatever you usually work out in should be fine, so for guys that may be shorts and a t-shirt/tank top, and for women, it may be shorts/joggers and a crop top/t-shirt. The thing to remember is that you are going to get pretty hot in a spin class.

You’ll be working out with thirty other people, so the room will quickly get very warm and humid.

You’re going to want something that is comfortable to work out in and that doesn’t hold onto water, so, for this reason, you’re better off using clothing that wicks sweat away, cotton is pretty much a no-go.

Of course, safety is always something you should take into consideration, so loose-fitting trousers can be a problem, as they could get caught in the pedals or other moving parts of the bike, so they are usually advised against.

When it comes down to comfort, a major factor is going to be your butt!

Yup, in a spinning class, you’re going to be sitting on a bike seat for a long time, and that can get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly, especially seeing as you will be moving from side to side pretty quickly.

It might be an idea to invest in a proper pair of spinning shorts or spinning underwear, as they’re padded which should make you feel more comfortable whilst you’re exercising. They won’t stop the exercise from being tough, but no one likes a numb butt!

The final thing you might want to consider if you’re planning on becoming a spin regular is a decent pair of spin shoes. They don’t have to cost hundreds of pounds, but if you are going to classes on a regular basis, a pair of shoes with cleats might be something to consider.

The “cleats” these shoes have means that you can clip yourself into your bike’s pedals. This actually makes for a safer class, because your feet won’t slip and the pedals can’t hit you in the shins, which stings a bit in case you were wondering.

Are spinning classes good for you?

Yes, using spin classes as a regular part of your training regime when mixed with resistance workouts and a healthy diet is good for you and has many benefits.

However, there comes a caveat to this, which is that some people can become addicted to the endorphins and the “high” that they get after completing a class, coupled with the idea of burning a large number of calories.

Of course, if your definition of becoming more healthy is burning tons of calories and losing more and more weight, you are already off to a bad start. Anything in excess stops being a good thing very quickly, so it’s important to make sure you don’t overdo these classes.

Any intense exercise should come with sufficient rest, so taking daily spin classes is not advised and would usually be considered excessive.

Taking a class two to three times per week would be ok as long as there is sufficient rest and your diet is taking into account the toll this takes on your body.

You should make sure that you are eating sufficient calories in the form of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to stop your body from breaking down too much muscle and potentially overtraining.

What does a spinning class cost?

how much do spinning classes cost

Using the prices of some of the top spin-dedicated gyms in London, the average price per spin class comes to £18, some starting at £10 per class and some all the way up to £30 for a single session.

In most commercial box gyms, you will be able to attend spin classes as part of your monthly membership fee, these classes will often be taught by personal trainers that work at the gym or by the gym staff themselves.

There are occasions when specialist freelance spin instructors will pay to use the spin studio to teach classes, and you would have to pay an additional amount to attend one of these classes.

In the example above, you would probably expect to pay between £18-20 per class.

The gyms that specialize in spin classes offer class packages that allow you to bulk purchase class “tokens” for a reduced price, or have a monthly membership fee that allows you to attend as many classes as you wish.

Just remember not to overdo it though!

Are spinning classes worth it?

This really depends on the person who is taking the classes to decide.

However, I can offer a few thoughts that might make it easier to come to a decision.

In order for you to decide if something you’re doing is “worth it”, you need to have a clear understanding of why it is you’re doing it in the first place.

If your goal is to lose weight and improve the shape of your body, you should assess your starting point before beginning your classes, then take measurements every four or so weeks to see if progress is being made.

Bear in mind that there may be other factors (diet, stress, lack of sleep, etc) that may influence how efficiently you reach this goal.

If your goal is to become healthier and have more energy, then I would say it would be hard to not achieve this by taking spin classes.

Even after a few weeks of classes, I would be very surprised if you didn’t find a significant improvement in your overall health and even more after further training.

In terms of time, I think spin classes are pretty fantastic.

You can walk into a gym and completely waste an hour of your day if you don’t know what you’re doing, but with a spin class, you know you are getting a solid 45 or so minutes of intense exercise that will make a difference.

The instructor will push you and make you work much harder than you would by yourself.

So, do I think spin classes are worth the price they cost?

Well, they save you time, they are an efficient and effective workout and they require no thinking on your behalf, I think they are pretty awesome and definitely “worth it”.

Can you do spinning classes at home?

Can you do spinning classes at home

If you own your own spin bike, then definitely, if you don’t then you’re going to struggle a bit.

Buying your own spin bike can be a great way of getting a great workout without needing to sign up for a gym or be at classes for a certain time. Whenever you fancy it, you can climb on your bike and get started.

With gyms closing due to covid and more people working from home, I think people working out in their own homes will become more and more popular, and the fitness industry certainly seems to be catching onto this.

Apps, videos, and streaming services are being created to cater to people wanting to exercise in their homes, and spin classes are no exception to this. You’ve probably already seen quite a few adverts for companies offering these services.

You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • A spin bike
  • an app or video streaming service for spin classes (unless you own a “smart bike” that includes these)
  • Plenty of space to set up your “class”
  • Appropriate clothes to build up a sweat in
  • Water bottle

One of the main benefits people find from attending a class in a gym with a physical instructor is that they will push you harder than you usually would on your own.

If you go easy on yourself in a class, you can bet that the instructor will notice and tell you to start putting in more effort. At home, you won’t get this.

The way to combat this is to think about why you are getting on that bike each and every time. If you can discover your “why” you can use that motivation throughout the workout to make sure you really are pushing yourself as hard as you would in a class surrounded by other people.

You’ll also need to learn how to set up your spin bike properly so that it’s comfortable each time you use it. The obvious benefit of owning your own bike is that you won’t have to keep adjusting it each time.

It’s important to note that the same rules apply to attending classes in terms of how many sessions you should do each week. Just because you have a bike in your home, doesn’t mean you should now be doing daily spin classes, they are very tough on the body and you still need to recover.

Three to four classes a week should really be your maximum unless you are training for a competition or sporting event.

Why are spinning classes in the dark?

Running and cycling can be great fun, you can cover a great distance and see people getting on with their lives, and the constant change of scenery keeps you motivated and enjoying your workout.

Now, imagine having to work twice as hard, whilst in a room full of people peddling furiously on a bike that wasn’t going anywhere.

Spinning classes are in the dark because it’s plain weird if they aren’t!

The room is dimly lit to stop you from focusing on the fact that you are entirely stationary. It also gives a great opportunity to get some crazy disco lights going, which when coupled with loud, up-tempo electro music, should make for a pretty exciting atmosphere.

It makes an activity that could be potentially pretty boring much more entertaining.

Another benefit is that people don’t tend to look their best whilst they are in the midst of a 3 min hill climb track. They’ll be pouring with sweat (sometimes literally, I’ve seen it happen), and this can make some people feel a little self-conscious.

If they can’t be seen, and they can’t see others, they’ll feel more comfortable working as hard as they can.

Are spinning classes good for cyclists?

are spinning classes good for cyclists

Spinning classes help cyclists to increase their overall fitness, and are an excellent replacement when cycling outdoors is not possible.

They provide high-intensity aerobic training, which increases the heart rate for prolonged periods of time and aids in the general conditioning of the body.

In short, spinning classes can help with a cyclist’s general conditioning and overall health, but they are not an appropriate substitute for real-world outdoor cycling.

You won’t be meeting the same obstacles in a spinning studio that you would in real life, so your reactions aren’t tested, and the bike setup will also be dramatically different from that of a road bike.

Whereas as a cyclist you may be more used to having goals that include distance traveled or the speed at which you can complete a certain route, a spinning class is primarily used for people wishing to burn as many calories as possible.

This, of course, does not meet most cyclists’ main goals which are to improve their cycling technique and efficiency.

So are they useful at all?

Well, yes, they can be.

Some of the “real world” aspects of cycling that you can train with spinning classes are your VO2 Max levels and the power you can generate.

Training at maximal intensity intervals during hill climbs is a great way to improve your VO2 max (efficiency of your body absorbing oxygen during exercise). This is important for both long-duration and short-burst exercise duration.

The difficulty of your spin class is also left up to you, and training at high resistance levels for prolonged periods of time is an excellent way to build up the muscular endurance of your legs during a cycling motion.

By turning up the resistance to a high level, your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves will still be subject to tiny muscular tears that will grow back stronger.

These will then be able to generate more power for longer periods of time, helping you to tackle the real-world challenges that cycling presents.

Why are spinning classes so popular?

A powerful mix of time efficiency, easy-to-follow instructions, proven results, and flat-out fun is what I believe makes these classes so popular.

A lot of people don’t enjoy exercise, they think walking on a treadmill or lifting weights for an hour is incredibly boring.

A spin class, on the other hand, has loud music, motivational instructors, and a nightclub atmosphere, which sounds pretty exciting to most people.

Time efficiency is a big factor, especially in large cities. Busy city workers have short lunch breaks and tend to work long hours throughout the day, they need a workout that’s intense, effective, and most importantly, short!

45 Minutes of spinning is all you need to get an awesome workout. You can be in and out of the gym within the hour to get back to your desk and carry on your day. It’s also a great stress buster for these types of workers who just want to release all their pent-up anger from the day so far.

Smashing out a few hill sprints and shouting with the instructor is a pretty great way of doing this.

There are also very few restrictions when it comes to spinning, whereas with weightlifting and certain sports where injury can prevent you from performing at your best, (or even at all).

The resistance you add to your bike is up to you, so you can tailor your workout to your fitness levels or take into account any injuries you have.

This means people from a wide range of varying fitness levels and age groups can all participate in the same class together at the same time.

Finally, I think having an instructor plays a huge part in the class’s success. Following an instructor takes away all the thinking from exercise.

You don’t have to worry about what weights you lifted last week, how far you walked on the treadmill, or what speed, all you need to do is adjust your bike, listen to the instructor, and get going!

When will I see results from spinning classes?

when will I see results from spinning classes

I really don’t want to say “it depends”, so I’ll say…….it’s up to you.

That actually sounds a bit more annoying, doesn’t it?

I’m so sorry 🙁

Well, the truth is, some people will see results quickly and others will take a little longer to notice any big changes occurring.

What it really comes down to, is what you mean by “results”, because, in terms of results like gaining more energy, feeling more motivated, and better mood regulation, you could start to see and feel that happen within only a few weeks (if training three times per week).

When most people say “results”, I generally assume they are talking about significant fat loss or muscular definition (tone some people call this). Significant weight loss always takes time and can’t (nor should it) be rushed.

If we take the lower end of the average calories burned in a 45 min spin session, we are looking at around 400 calories. So that three times a week gives us 1200 calories burned, which is a lot!

Now, if a person who makes no changes to their diet burns an additional 1200 per week, they will almost certainly start to see some changes in their appearance within a few months (yes, months!).

A person who improves their diet AND completes three spin sessions per week burning off 1200 calories will make far more progress, far more quickly than our first example.

This is why we get the answer, “It depends” because it depends on the person performing the workouts and their personal circumstances.

So, you need to decide why you are doing these classes, are you looking to lose weight, change shape or increase your overall heart health and fitness?

If it’s weight loss and muscle definition you want to improve, then cleaning up your diet and completing a 45-minute session three times a week should start getting pretty great results within 6 to 8 weeks.

If it’s general fitness and well-being you are after, you could start seeing improvement within the first few weeks.


Well there you go, I hope I’ve given you a fairly comprehensive guide to what spinning classes are today and answered a lot of your questions.

If you’ve never tried a spinning class before, I do recommend you give one a try. They can be a lot more fun than your average workout, and once you walk out that door you will really know you’ve achieved something impressive that day.

From what I’ve seen from all my time working in gyms, they create a really nice atmosphere between the people taking the classes, so you’ll almost certainly end up making a bunch of new friends too.

I haven’t answered every question out there because that would make for a ridiculously long article. There will be more to follow through, so keep a lookout for those in the near future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and you have a great day!

Go get ’em!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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