Will Spinning give me massive legs?

Guys, you know how when you walk into a spin class all the people there are bodybuilders? NO EXACTLY. NO ONE THERE IS A BODY BUILDER. If spinning made your legs massive then our bodybuilding brothers and sisters would be pedalling like they’d stolen their bicycles.  

One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘Will spinning make my legs massive?’ The short answer is ‘No, most definitely not’.  If that’s what you were here to find out, then thanks for stopping by, and onwards and upwards to you ( as my old school motto went). If you fancy learning the science behind it, then, let’s spend a bit more time together my good friend.

1.       We have two different types of muscle fibres: fast twitch – the ones that Usain Bolt uses and slow twitch – the guys that Mr Mo Farah relies on. Spinning – which is aerobic activity, uses slow twitch muscle fibres which don’t increase in size like fast twitch fibres do. (I mean look: Mo is bare skinny, although that could be from all the quorn he’s eating, someone give that man a cheeseburger for the love of God).

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2.     If spinning increases fast twitch muscle fibres at the rate that most of you think it does, then your spin instructor would barely be able to move her/his legs around. I’ve been teaching around 15 spin classes a week for nearly 15 years and my legs haven’t got any bigger whatsoever.

3.     Thirdly strength training (translate that to cycling up steep hills at slow paces) doesn’t make women increase muscle mass the way it does for men. Our levels of testosterone are just far too low to make putting on muscle manageable let alone easy. (Unless you are on a specialised mass increase diet which includes eating thousands and thousands of very specific types of food, taking supplements and bathing in protein shakes). Women spend hours and hours squatting twice their bodyweight in an attempt to get just a tiny bit of glute or quad definition. Believe me, 45 minutes of faking resistance on a spin bike aint’ gonna make you quadzilla.

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4.     Let’s have a look at some basic maths: if you’re burning off more calories than you are eating, then you will lose weight. You’ll reduce your body fat and your muscles may look more defined: hence the popular (and fairly meaningless) descriptive ‘toned’. If you’re finding that spinning is making you put on weight, it’s probably something you’re doing outside of class. If you’re rewarding yourself by overeating after a spinning session, then yes you’ll put on weight so your legs will get bigger. But ultimately if you are in a calorie deficit or calorie maintenance then it’s impossible for your legs to get bigger.

 In conclusion, let’s worry less about something that’s never going to happen and instead celebrate having legs that are strong, capable and healthy. That can take us on long walks, allow us to dance for hours, let us give nieces, nephews, sons, daughters (and drunken friends) piggy backs, and look smokin’ in a pair of skinny jeans.

Melissa Power