What’s More Important During a Spin Class: Your RPM or Torque?

Photo credit ALEXANDER TAMARGO/GETTY IMAGES via Women’s Health




See full story on womenshealthmag.com

From SoulCycle to Flywheel, Cyc to Crunch, and everything in between, there are so many different styles of indoor cycling these days, and they all boast a little something special, extra, or super hard. Some focus on choreography and rhythm riding—lots of quick RPMs and an emphasis on staying on the beat of the music—while others want you to stick to specific power numbers to measure your output and gauge your effort.

But what really matters most during a spin class?

Torque, in scientific terms, is a measurement of force on a rotating object.

“Think of it as how much weight is on the wheel,” says Abby Bales, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., who has been indoor cycling for 18 years. “The dial you turn on the bike controls this feature—turn to the right and you increase your torque, and turn it to the left to decrease it.”

RPM—revolutions per minute—measures your speed.

“Focusing on cadence or RPM allows you to train in a specific zone for specific training purposes,” says Bales. “If you’re going for 60 to 80 percent maximum heart rate on a steady ride, you can use your RPM to guide how much torque you add to your ride to stay in that zone for an aerobic (a.k.a. cardio) workout.” With torque-based training, you’re more likely to be doing intervals or hill work—techniques where you’re constantly adding and reducing torque for short bursts to train more anaerobically—promoting strength and power.

“With both ways of training, there is the potential pitfall of being obsessed with the number on the computer or the choreography instead of how your body is feeling on the ride,” says Bales. “Forcing yourself to hit the numbers or moves you hit during your last ride—even if you’re having an off day—can ruin the best of classes.”

In an RPM-focused class, says Bales, you fall into the trap of keeping your resistance super low in order to hit a crazy-high cadence you can’t control—and then risking injury in the process. “The less resistance you have on the wheel, the more you bounce on the bike, and the less energy you’re using to actually push the wheel,” she says. “In a torque class, you risk putting too much resistance on the wheel and using poor form, straining muscles to produce the force to pedal.” Both downfalls here are unproductive and dangerous.

“Not unlike any other sport, the combination of both steady-state long rides and shorter, interval-based rides have the highest training benefit, as it provides variety for the body,” says Bales.

If you’re gearing up for a triathlon, you’ll likely focus on longer, more consistent RPM riding, she says. But if you’re spinning to lose weight, the calorie-blasting intervals of a torque-based class will better suit your needs (thanks to the after burn effect).

At either extreme (think: high RPM/low torque and low RPM/high torque) there will be few benefits for the rider. “A combination of both in the middle is really the sweet spot for anyone trying to get into shape or training for an event,” Bales says.

See full story on womenshealthmag.com

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Author: Jen Adair

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