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Why SoulCycle Isn't Worth Your Time or Money

In this episode of "Undercover-Fit Guy," I dig out my fake nose and moustache to check out the spin class known as SoulCycle. My goal this time is to find out what SoulCycle is, how it works, and what aspect of it I should review.

By
Brock Armstrong
10-minute read
Episode #419

So, I bring you:

6. Will SoulCycle Make You a Better Cyclist?

Here is a quote from the legendary coach Troy Jacobson (a leader in multisport endurance coaching since 1992): “Every time you go out for a ride, think of good form. Focus on a fluid pedalling action with a relaxed upper body and a flat back. Allow for your knees to track naturally over the pedal spindle and not to splay out.”

Well, you can forget that when you attend a SoulCycle class. Bouncing, twisting, and bending are mandatory. Keeping a “still upper body” as you are usually encouraged to aim for when cycling is simply not allowed in SoulCycle when you are doing their version of crunches (which are really just small shoulder twists, let’s be honest here). And then there are what SoulCycle calls “tap backs.”

Tap Backs

Tap backs are kind of like a bum dip where you (rather ballistically) tap your butt back onto the seat by doing an awkward pelvic thrust and then quickly launching yourself back into a standing position. Not only is this not a helpful maneuver for your cycling fitness but it is also a risky move, biomechanically speaking. The sudden deceleration that is required by your poor back muscles is something I am sure has left more than a few souls (heh) lamenting after their SoulCycle classes. 

If you have ever borrowed a friend’s bike and didn’t know it was a fixie (a fixed gear bike), you will know this feeling all too well. The first time you attempt to stop pedalling and just coast for a bit as you can on a bike with gears, you are immediately launched headlong over the handlebars by the relentlessly spinning pedals. It’s not fun, it’s potentially painful and no one at SoulCycle explained to us at all how on earth we were supposed to do this safely.

As Jennifer Sage (the founder of the Indoor Cycling Association) stated in her article about SoulCycle: “There is zero benefit to doing tap backs. They are potentially harmful to joints and the musculature of the back...They aren’t much fun to the female anatomy either.”

Push-ups

While we are at it, let’s talk about the “Push-ups” that we did while (get this) sitting upright on a bike.

Because you are a good Get-Fit Guy follower, you know that to make a muscle stronger, you must have some amount of force for that muscle to work against. When you are doing a push-up, the force you are working against is your body weight and gravity. Well, this simply doesn’t work when you are sitting or even standing on a bike. This move does, however, compromise the amount of power (or watts, as we cyclists call it) that you can create with the bike.

Power

Power output (or the amount of watts you generate) is a measure of how hard you are working, which in the end determines how good of a workout you are getting. If you are there to “burn calories” then I will put it this way: if your power drops, your caloric expenditure also drops.

It does not matter how well your sweaty legs are keeping up with the beat if the resistance isn’t high then the power will be low.

Quickly and oversimplified-ly, the equation for power is P = fv or "power is equal to force times velocity." When you are riding a bike, velocity is your cadence (how fast you are pedalling) and force is the resistance you are pushing against (how much resistance you have applied by turning the knob on your SoulCycle bike). So, when those really fast songs come on, it does not matter how well your sweaty legs are keeping up with the beat. If the resistance isn’t high, then the power will be low.

Is SoulCycle Good or Bad?

Ok, I know that I am not painting a very pretty picture here and again, I don’t intend to yuck anyone’s yum. But unlike the majority of Undercover-Fit Guy articles that I have written, I would not recommend SoulCycle. Not even as a component of your fitness regimen. And I would double that for any serious cyclists out there.

It isn’t difficult or complicated to raise your heart rate and to occasionally lift something heavy to challenge your muscles, so why would we pay such a large amount of money to do it in a hot, loud room, without even having the benefit of an instructor who can hear you, help you, and at very least keep you safe?

Was my class fun? Sure. Did I get sweaty? You bet! Am I sore today? Yes, but not in the ways I had hoped (lower back, I am looking at you). Despite how friendly the staff was and how nice the facility was, I will not be back. And not only because of my crazy belief that a bike is not a piece of exercise equipment but instead a means of getting me places.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.