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Is Spinning Really A Good Way To Get Lean And Toned Legs?

You can pick just about any type of exercise routine and find some argument for or against it. I tend to stay out of these senseless debates as at the end of the day each person has to find out what works for them.

If something is working for you the last thing you want to hear is some schmuck ramble on about how their way is better than yours.

You’ll find this with dietary choices, exercise, heck just about any subject. Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate passion in people and respect their opinions, even when I may not choose or follow what they do. To each his own my friends…to each his own.

Arguing over one way being better than another is a waste of time as it’s hard to change someone’s mind unless they were truly searching for answers. There’s plenty of chat rooms and forums on the internet for people who simply like to argue in attempts to prove their intellectual superiority. Personally, I’ll spend my time doing something more constructive.

As a fitness coach I’ve learned that one of the most important traits to have is an open mind. Anyone who is in the business of helping others should remember what the end objective is. It’s not to shove your beliefs down someone’s throat but rather listen and offer suggestions based on your experience and knowledge.

If you’ve found some ways work better than others you can simply offer up the rationale and information for people who are searching for alternatives to what they’re currently doing.

I make no bones about the fact that I’m an advocate for middle-age adults following a Primal Blueprint type diet and doing burst training exercise. I promote these things because I’ve found them to be extremely effective in helping my niche market (middle age adults looking to get lean and fit).

Are these the ONLY things that work? Of course not, it’s just a matter of observing what works best for the largest number of people.

If I encounter a middle-age adult who is following a vegan diet and does yoga for example, I don’t look to tell them they’re wrong and their way is stupid. If they’re getting what they want who am I to tell them they should change?

But certainly if they find these practices aren’t working for them and they ask me my opinion, I’ll politely offer up rationale for alternatives to try.

Having said all that, let’s get into the subject today on whether or not spinning is really a good way to get lean and toned legs?

A Case Against Spinning When Trying To Lose Fat From Your Legs…

I recently read an interesting article on this subject by a respected fitness coach who knows his stuff. I’ll share with you an excerpt of the article and then put in my two cents for what it’s worth.

This is an article by Charles Poliquin that he has in Oxygen magazine when interviewed about how he transformed fitness model Chrissy May.

What is your take on spinning?

A complete waste of time. Counter productive at best. Want fat legs keep spinning!

When fitness model Chrissy May hired me to get ready for her Oxygen magazine photo shoots, I first asked what her current exercise was. She told me that spinning was part of training program and yet complained that getting lean legs was her biggest challenge.

I told her to drop the spinning immediately, and that she would see results in a matter of a few days. She was quite reluctant, claiming that spinning “made her legs feel tighter”. In my usual diplomatic style, somewhat to the right of the Attilla the Hun, I countered that insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

Yes spinning is very tiring, is it productive? NO. Where I live in Scottsdale AZ where spinning is more por than tanning for skin cancer. It is attended by women who are as fat in the lower extremities as when I saw them exit their class two years ago when I moved here.

Why is spinning so useless if I am getting a great workout from it? Because the high velocities fatigue a particular point in the neuro-muscular junction which is responsible for the rapid firing rate of the motor units, you perceive great fatigue even though little work has been done.

When you think about it, you could reproduced the same type of fatigue in your triceps if I asked you to hold a pair of fly swatters and swat an imaginary 100 flys in 30 seconds. Would you triceps get tired, sure.

Would they improve significantly in terms of conditioning. NO. Why? Because the resistance is not high enough to elicit the hormonal response needed to create adaptive response that would bring about positive body composition changes.

In spinning exercise, the body adapts by storing both intra-muscular and subcutaneous fat in the thigh and hip areas to provide a more readily available source of fuel for the aerobic recovery periods.

The body figures out, if I store fat there it reduces the time to get to the muscles to provide the energy source. Result: Kobe beef thighs and butt, all plump and marbled with fat inside.

Going back to Chrissy May, she dropped from 15% bodyfat to 9% in three weeks after she switched from the useless spinning to high resistance interval training. Point in case.

While Coach Poliquin may certainly be on to something, I don’t believe it’s a fair statement to say that spinning is a “complete waste of time.” It can be a very effective form of cardiovascular conditioning and exercise. Anyone who’s ever done spinning can attest to the fact that it kicks your butt. You’ll get your heart rate up and work several energy systems during a workout.

He certainly takes a pretty firm position against spinning and he’s got the clout to do so. But does this mean a person couldn’t get well defined, muscular legs from spinning? I think you have to step back for a second and ask yourself, “have I ever seen a cyclist or spinning instructor with muscular legs?” I sure have.

I think there are a lot of variables here that make this a “sort of depends” question. Cyclists or spinners who frequently do hill work or apply more resistance to their sprints are going to recruit more muscle fibers than those just repeatedly “turn over the pedals.”

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Does that make sense? How are the workouts being performed, what variables in intensity and workload are being employed?

Now in all fairness, I’ve seen a lot of spinning classes where people are going like mad and sweating profusely but they’re never getting out of the seat. This is going to produce the exact training effect Coach Poliquin was talking about.

The bottom line in my opinion is this….spinning classes do NOT provide the most effective means for getting toned, lean, and muscular legs.

That will be best accomplished with resistance training doing things like squats and lunges. Of course a broad mix of training variables is always going to produce the best results. A little bit of interval training, some heavier resistance, burst training, changes in volume, rest periods, etc.

The point is you use resistance training to build lean muscle and cardio for well…cardio. Trying to interchange components of a fitness program doesn’t work very well.

If you’re relying on spinning classes as your primary form of exercise to lean and tone up your legs you may be disappointed for all the reasons Coach Poliquin revealed. If it’s working, great, keep doing what you’re doing. But if it’s not I’d suggest you incorporate a few days of resistance training as well.

Personally I don’t have a problem with spinning classes if they’re combined with resistance training workouts done a few times a week. I think a big part of the problem is a lot of women especially have faulty belief systems when it comes to fitness training.

They think the best way to lean and tone up is to do a bunch of cardio and they avoid weight training because they think that will only produce “big and bulky” muscles. This simply isn’t the case.

All forms of exercise have some benefit that they provide. Just don’t get things twisted and expect to get something other than what it’s designed to do. Yoga and Pilates primarily improve core strength and flexibility, weight training primarily improves lean muscle development and strength, cardio exercise primarily improves the cardiorespiratory system, etc.

Combine the pieces to get the results you’re looking for and don’t look for one modality to provide everything. That’s the best piece of advice I can provide.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston fitness trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness programs with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. Sign up for a FREE, no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Fitness Training.