Ask the Expert: Arm Fatigue for a Beginner

I received the following question from Jean:

Hi, my name is Jean, I teach a beginner Spin 101 class and I am wondering if I can get some suggestions for a student that is having an issue with his arms when in the saddle. Jack’s triceps start to bother him within 10–15 minutes into a ride and I cannot figure out why. He keeps taking his hands off the bars and shaking them out. I have stood next to him and behind him to see if he is doing anything incorrectly but I am not seeing it. His shoulders seem to be relaxed and he has a bend in the elbows, his back is not hunched. I am not sure if his height might be an issue, he is 6’. He is fine and comfortable out of the saddle. He says putting his arms out over the handlebars (hand position 1) and slightly over the ½ moon on the bars, on a Spinner bike, feels better but I am not sure if that is putting too much strain on his back and I am sure he would be called out by other instructors and poor form. Any suggestions would be welcomed as he is new to indoor cycling and on the first day I just thought it was nerves with having a white knuckle grip on the handlebars, I find that to be common with first time riders, but for him onto his third ride and the same issue. I let Jack know that I was going to reach out to see if I can get some suggestions for him.

Hi, Jean. I know on long rides outdoors my triceps become very fatigued, especially early season when I am asking my arms to do more than they are used to, or if I haven’t been training as much as I should.

Basically the triceps are holding up the upper body. They are under tension when the elbows are bent. While you want to relax the arms of unnecessary tension, if you let the triceps go completely relaxed, you’d collapse into the bars! Beginners aren’t used to supporting the upper body in this manner at all, so it is common for new riders to feel fatigue in the triceps.

I do believe this will resolve itself eventually as he continues taking classes, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to reduce the discomfort he is feeling.

How about anyone else…have you encountered this and what did you do?


  1. Thank you so much on all the information and advice. I had his handle bars to the highest position from the start. He is coming back in to ride this Thursday. I will go over all the great advice given here, I think I will set a bike up next to him and ride along side of him for a while to see if I can give some coaching in the saddle. Albert Tait – No Jack does not currently ride an outdoor bike but I like the idea of padded gloves and will pass that onto him this week. I will update you on his progress in a few weeks. He really likes riding indoors and I hope it will inspire him to take it up outdoors as well!

  2. Does Jack ride outside, and, if so, is his position on his “real” bike comfortable? If so, has he duplicated, as much as possible, his road bike geometry on the spin bike? I wear regular, padded road biking gloves when I ride, indoors or out; is Jack wearing gloves? I think core strength may be an issue; since I began doing Pilates three years ago, my biking has greatly improved.

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