You Just Wait: Indoor Cycling Injuries Lurk

When it comes to indoor cycling injuries, I’d rather not wait. Cycling is an activity used by many physical therapists for rehabilitation. When done properly, cycling is gentle on the joints and muscles.

When done properly.

One of the main dangers in the recent surge of rogue cycling studios are hidden injuries that may be lurking in the distance—the far distance. We at ICA and many other fitness professionals, cycling and the like, have written articles expressing our concern over the contraindicated movements in indoor cycling. And rightly so. Indoor cycling injuries are not as uncommon as you might think, or as the boutique studios would have you believe.

True fitness professionals are trained to strengthen and condition the body while avoiding injury. Any accredited fitness certification worth its weight emphasizes risk stratification. This not only includes proper progression of intensity and movement, but knowledge of proper mechanics, mobility, flexibility, and alignment. Just because indoor cycling is not based on an accredited certification (from NCCA, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies) does not remove the responsibility of providing a safe and effective program.

The lack of standards is one of the reasons indoor cycling instructors must align themselves with organizations like ICA. Even instructors who hold personal trainer certifications from accredited bodies need to understand and address the specific movements and effects of cycling.

What Is An Overuse Injury?

An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that’s caused by repetitive trauma. An overuse injury typically stems from both training and technique errors.

Training errors can occur when you enthusiastically take on too much physical activity too quickly. Going too fast, exercising for too long, or simply doing too much of one type of activity can strain your muscles and lead to indoor cycling injuries due to overuse.

Improper technique can also take its toll on your body. If you use poor form on the bike (or as you do a set of strength-training exercises, swing a golf club, or throw a baseball, for example), you may overload certain muscles and joints and cause an overuse injury.

RSI—Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain injury (RSI), also known as repetitive stress injury, is typically related to an occupation (job), but may also be linked to some kinds of leisure and sports activities. As opposed to a sudden or “normal” injury, RSI signs and symptoms may continue for much longer. Experts say that repetitive strain injury involves the musculoskeletal and/or nervous systems and may be the result of repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, pressing against hard surfaces (mechanical compression), or sustained or awkward positions.

Now You See Where We Are Going With This

There is a good possibility that your mind wandered toward some crazy indoor cycling move you witnessed or an insane video you watched.

Yes, those crazy, bendy, twisty-straw gyrations are exactly what we are concerned about. Using hand weights, twerking, or snatching live chickens from the floor while riding may appear to provide a better, more “total-body” workout (including the dexterity of reeling in high-speed sporadic poultry). What we don’t often see are the long-term effects of these contraindicated movements. One would think that the fitness professionals promoting these contraindicated movements would and should know better. I will go out on a limb and say that the creators of many of these fad full-body boutique cycling studios are not seasoned fitness professionals. Anyone who has endured the incredible amount of time it takes to earn a proper certification also develops the conviction and commitment to keep people healthy. Countless books and manuals have been written on proper training, biomechanics, and athletics—no one has an excuse to be uninformed.

I personally do not want to train hard, long, and often, only to develop an injury as a result of that exact training. What is even more concerning is that since many overuse injuries occur over time, the damage that is done can be far more destructive.

The average person walking into a health club and your class (which describes the majority of our riders) does not understand proper form, technique, and the science behind what we are doing. That is the instructor’s responsibility. The public is trusting us as health and fitness professionals to provide a workout that is fun, safe, and effective. It is our responsibility to respect that trust. Sadly, many of the indoor cycling injuries due to overuse occur as a result of contraindicated movements and will not surface until after these fad cycling programs have long evaporated. Some people may not even realize their chronic injuries are the result of the improper movements performed during those “cycling” classes.

Unfortunately, there is not enough taught or published in the indoor cycling and fitness world that addresses the proper mechanics and technique of cycling, and the injuries that lurk in the dark if they are not adhered to.

ICA has taken on this task. In the end, we would rather be known as the organization that teaches you “to know” and not the one that has to say, “I told you so.”


  1. Ok. Great. I agree with your point(s) but I need specifics. In Salt Lake City there are lots of athletic centers that have bike rooms with the power meters. I haven’t attended many of these classes because I find them tedious as the instructors in these environments are also ill-prepared to really take advantage of the potential of the power meters. I did take Stages training and I did find the power meters and the effective use of the power meters along with implementing proper technique extremely interesting. But let’s get to my point, there are now three indoor riding studios in Salt Lake and ALL engage in rhythm riding. There are no power meters and you are accurate, instructors don’t appear to be “trained”. I instruct at one of these studios and I make every attempt at avoiding any “moves” that may cause injury – so we aren’t all a bunch of neophytes bouncing around on the bikes. For instance, I relate to my “students” that having a connection with bottom and seat so folks aren’t twirling and bouncing on their bikes will save their knees. They need to use tension and play with tension to challenge themselves but also to avoid bouncing. In my class, we do spend considerable time climbing in and out of the saddle. We do use hand weights but I avoid momentum related moves that jack elbows. I do include moves like figure 8s, tap backs, etc. These classes are packed! So clearly people like them. Rather than engaging in a mud slinging fest against this type of riding, which clearly isn’t going anywhere, and elaborate on specific Rhythm Riding moves that you find potentially dangerous, specifically why and how we can potentially adjust these moves to better serve our clients. Thanks

  2. Thank you for this article! Are there any recommendations or articles for instructors who are teaching back to back cycle classes? This was brought on by class #1 filling to capacity, so a #2 class was created. The problem I see is participants staying for both classes and increasing risk of injury.

  3. Thank you for a thorough article on contraindications Tom!

  4. You guys are awesome! Thank you Jen for this timely article. I shake my head every time I see or read about the nonsense that’s going on in our industry. With that said, don’t forget to “engage your core” while doing the upper body poultry workout. Serious question: Is it ok to do skull crushers while running with resistance with the turkeys or chickens just to mix it up?

  5. Just to clarify further, snatching the foul is immediately followed by bird flapping bicep curls. For an advanced move, the winged weight is pressed overhead and then tossed to the front of the room for the process to start again. So in addition to working biceps, we are incorporating scapular-plane articulation and ballistic movements. Just saying…

  6. @Natasha, I LOVE what C.O.R.E Cycling is doing! We’ll cover high cadence low/no resistance pedaling in an upcoming article.

    @Deanne, excellent idea. We’ll be on it!

    @Jen Klau and Tom, you guys should know that snatching fowl from below only works the lats, as in a one-armed row. What bird or animal would work best for overhead upper body movements? Crows?

  7. Two things:

    1. Jen Klau’s comment made me laugh out loud. Like, I almost spit my water on my laptop laugh out loud.

    2. Are there plans to write an article about this that would be appropriate to share with our students, one that talks about the specific moves that lead to the specific overuse injury? This was more geared towards instructors, which I found very helpful, I just have a few students that had to switch to another instructor when our schedules changed and they are always complaining when I see them about soreness from hovers and high cadences, etc. I have educated them as much as I can, and they are starting to ignore those moves when prompted, but I would LOVE to have something from ICA I could print out and leave on our sign-in table for students (and hopefully other instructors 😀 ) to pick up and read.

    Thanks! Always appreciate all the hard work you both put in to helping us keep it real!

  8. Hi Jen!
    Love this article & I BELIEVE in it strongly & I took my certification thru C.O.R.E in Ontario & its definitely their philosophy as well! My concern is when I see people continue to ride either too fast without enough resistance bouncing all over or adding WAY TOO MUCH resistance & are bogged down even after I keep cueing what NOT to do to protect our joints & knee’s etc & they continue to do it anyways. How else can I approach this that they may actually listen before they HURT themselves??

  9. I’d like to correct a serious error in your article: my patented poultry-grabbing workout uses turkeys, not chickens. They’re heavier and slower. Easier to catch from a stationary bike. There’s nothing quite like the sound of discs herniating…

    1. Jen, you can correct me anytime. You always make my day. And for the record, both options are fowl.

  10. Excellent article. I love the last line – ‘ we would rather be known as the organization that teaches you “to know” and not the one that has to say, “I told you so.” ‘

    Prevention over cure every time!

    1. Thanks Pru! I know we are hitting this topic quite a bit lately, but the concern is real and we are so appreciative for instructors like yourself who uphold the standard of real training, safety, and fun.

  11. Hey Tom great article. Just shared it. In my latest blog I just raised concerns (again) of the huge amount of certifications here in the UK that educate hovers, waves, isolations etc. Also who is delivering the courses because no fitness professional worth their salt should be promting these moves. Great meeting you in London last month. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the comment Neil. We are definitely on the same page. Great to meet you as well. I hope to get across the pond again soon.

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