Beginning with Spinning

New to spinning, or a seasoned spinner? Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, spin jargon can be confusing. Spinning terminology varies across instructors and bike brands, so in order to help you navigate through your spin routine, Sydney D'Agostino put together a glossary of sorts to ensure you get the most out of your workout.

Disclaimer: Establishing proper bike set up and proper form are key components to any spinning/indoor cycling class. Without a strong foundation, we open ourselves up to risks of injuries. I cannot stress enough the importance of correct bike set up or establishing and maintaining correct posture and form during your workout.

The following glossary includes: posture, pedal stroke, resistance, and hand positions (HPs), and stances (jumps, etc.).

Once your bike is set up correctly and you’re settled into the saddle, it is important to establish your posture. Here’s how:

  1. Sit straight up in the saddle with your shoulders stacked directly above your hips--this is neutral spine.

  2. Bring your arms up and gently lean forward until your hands are on the handlebars.

  3. Keep your shoulders down and back while also keeping your elbows relaxed at your sides.

  4. Now we’re ready to get into the pedal stroke.

Pedal stroke

  1. As you pedal, focus on keeping your knees drawn towards the midline of your bike.

  2. Lift your toes slightly up as you reach the bottom of the pedal stroke to create the illusion of dragging your heel through mud as you bring your foot through the bottom.

  3. Bring your foot back up and around, and repeat.

NOTE: It is really important to keep your pedal stroke fluid and not allow yourself to ‘stomp’ the pedals into the floor, that way you engage each targeted muscle – quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexor!


With the number of different indoor bikes available, and the number of different instructors describing resistance in different ways, spinning students can get confused easily if jumping from bike brand to bike brand or instructor to instructor. Some examples of synonyms for resistance include: Gears, levels, turns, torque, and so on. No matter what you call it, all mean the same thing: When you add some, your pedal stroke gets more difficult, your exertion level rises, and in turn so does your heart rate. The opposite occurs when you reduce resistance – pedaling is easier, and your intensity and heart rate are reduced as a result. So, in an effort to convey resistance in a means that is translatable across the spectrum, regardless of your bike brand, I will be referring to resistance as gears and in relation to the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion (seen below), all while maintaining the targeted heart rate zone established in the workout.


Flat Road – add resistance until the bike is no longer in control, it should feel similar to riding in wet sand at the beach. This will be our baseline. Borg RPE: 2.5-3.

Spinning Position Terms

Seated Flat in the saddle, HP1 or HP2. 80-110RPM. 

Seated Climb in the saddle, HP2. 60-80RPM

Standing Flat out of the saddle, HP2. 80-110RPM. While in this position, you want to focus on keeping your weight directly over the pedals, pretend a string is pulling you up into the ceiling, and maintaining a neutral spine to support your lower back.

Standing Climb out of the saddle, HP3. 60-80RPM

Jumps from the saddle out to HP2 focusing on smooth, controlled transitions. Smooth, like a plane taking off and landing.

Sprints performed in the saddle. Prior to the sprint, load up the wheel while maintaining 75RPM. Explode out of the saddle to HP3 for 5 seconds, gaining momentum and finding power. Return to the saddle for the remainder of the sprint keeping your pedal strokes fluid, controlled, efficient, and powerful.

Have questions about heart rate zones or spinning? Let me know in the comments section!

Written by Mio Blogger and Certified Spinning® Instructor, Sydney D'Agostino.
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