The stationary bike is one of our favourite pieces of fitness equipment. It has mega calorie-burning potential while being a low impact exercise that protects your joints, and you get to sit down while you workout. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe there is some room to ask for more – a good upper body workout to be precise.
In this post, we are going to look at some upper body exercises that are frequently incorporated into spin sessions. However, just because you can do something does not necessarily mean you should. Thus, we will be asking, is training the upper body on a stationary bike a great way to get a full-body workout or should we just suck up the extra 20 minutes and do a separate upper body session?
Popular upper body workouts
Stationary cycling, AKA spinning, is a well-established exercise that has had a surge of popularity over the last 2 years due to lockdowns and the rise of home bike brands, such as Peleton and NordicTrack.
Can you train your upper body while on an exercise bike?
While stationary bikes in gyms and spin studios have generally concentrated on using the bike during a workout, there has been a recent trend towards incorporating resistance bands and light weights to simultaneously train the upper body.
Some examples of common upper body exercises performed on a bike are
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Overhead presses
- Shoulder presses
- Rowing using resistance bands
- Ab twists
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Is training upper body on a bike effective?
One of the things to note about the equipment used on a bike is that it all falls on the lower end of the resistance spectrum. Resistance bands and light dumbbells can be useful, do not get us wrong, but they are not going to build bulk muscle. If your goal is to become toned – not even jacked – then you need to challenge your muscles through higher resistance loads than these can offer.
On the other hand, if you work out to the point of muscle fatigue with lighter loads while cycling, you will see some progress.
However, the number of reps required will be much higher than it would be with something more robust. It is, therefore, more efficient to reach for something heavier, even if you do not train at the top of your resistance limit.
You cannot do this on a bike because it is not advised to use anything above 3kg, as there is an increased risk of injury due to the constant jostling.
Is it safe to use weights while cycling?
You could say that training with lighter resistance levels on a bike is equivalent to a spin session followed by a short upper body set with a heavier load, but there are other points to be aware of.
Training your upper body while spinning negatively affects the quality of your lower body workout
Your form will not be conducive to optimal cadence and resistance performance. In other words, trying to do two things at once impairs your spin workout.
You will likely have noticed this effect if you have ever lifted weights while spinning or seen an instructor incorporate them into a session.
Notice that they will get you to drop your cadence and gears while engaging your upper body because you are essentially splitting your focus. When you are riding at your peak, you are fully present on the bike and maintaining your form, there is no room for distraction.
Disruption to form that upper body moves bring jeopardises more than just your spin performance
It heightens the risk of injury because you are not in the optimal position for lifting. When we train weights off the bike, do we stand on one foot or slouch? No, we adopt a proper stance and control our movement throughout. This simply cannot be done on a bike because you are in constant motion. Even light loads can cause injuries if they are suddenly imposed upon a weak spot.
How to train the upper and lower body
Summing up: Should you do weights while using a bike?
While we love the idea of incorporating an upper body workout into a spin session, the reality is far from the dream. It is more efficient, safer and easier to work out on a bike and then does a separate set using heavier weights.
The time difference between the two is also minimal, what is an extra 15-20 minutes? Especially if you are working out in the comfort of your own home.
If you have your heart set on doing a dual upper and lower body workout, we recommend you look at some purpose-built options instead. The cross-trainer and the assault bike are both intended for engaging the entire body and will deliver a safer and more effective workout than messing about with light weights on a spin bike.