Where should you put your hands in an indoor cycling class? Part 1

If you ride a bike outside, chances are you put your hands where a cyclist would put them – either right in front of you or just on the outside of the handlebars. Outdoor cyclists change hand positions often to avoid numbness and discomfort. If you do not ride outside very much or at all, then you probably ride where you were taught in your indoor cycling certification. Various indoor cycling programs have differing views on hand positions, but most of them suggest you can put your hands where you are most comfortable, and also suggest you change them as needed.

If your indoor cycling certification was Spinning®, then you were taught that there are only three hand positions, with specific movements for each one. The “three hand positions” of Spinning® is a mantra that is repeated over and over at orientations, workshops and conferences: “5 core movements, 3 hand positions” – no more, no less. As a Master Instructor for the Spinning® program, I taught these three hand positions diligently, at least early on in my 12-year tenure.
Spinning® instructors: have you ever stopped to question the reasons behind the hand positions? If not, I am about to do it for you.


  1. I don’t think they angle downward, or at least enough to notice (like you observed). This is just another attempt at trying to come up with a reason for a “rule” that has no basis. It in no way hurts the wrist.

    I remember early on in my tenure as an MI, I asked the training coordinator at MDA why we couldn’t ride there, and argued that I am always there when I ride outside. She told me, “your hands can easily slip, and it externally rotates the humerus.”

    So that was the party line. I remember teaching that for a few Orientations, and then finally realized how stupid that line of reasoning was. It’s highly unlikely that your hands will slip (especially with the change int he handlebar covers from the shiny to the textured cover, about 10 years ago), and if that’s the argument, they can slip in any position. Secondly, it externally rotates the humerus to where it’s SUPPOSED to be! If it was a bad thing, cyclists wouldn’t ride there. If anything, HP2 internally rotates the humerus….but that’s not a bad thing either.

    As Doug said, many of the other IC programs never made a big deal out of hand positions, allowing riders to put them where comfortable and to change them as needed. That is the way it should be, of course, with some knowledge of where the excesses are, i.e. sliding the hands too far forward – the Spinning HP3 – while seated. This is especially detrimental for shorter riders. but for a very tall rider with long arms, there isn’t anything wrong with that IF the angle at the shoulder is around 90 degrees. Hence, some rules are not black and white – there will often be exceptions.

    Doug, thank you! We are delighted to have you here at ICA!

  2. I’m Schwinn and Spinning certified and pretty much tell people to place their hands where they are comfortable, relaxed, will be able to maintain their good form, and move their hands around as needed. Most people go for 2 or 2.5 while seated, and 2.5 and 3 while standing.

    When I asked my Spinning trainer about 2.5, she said that the handlebars on the Spinning bikes are angled slightly downward (away from the rider) and that this places the wrist in a bad position. I took a laser level and tried to measure this, and it’s very, very slight and I’m having difficulty understanding how this could mess your wrists up. Thoughts?

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I got my cerification through Reebok and hand position was not a major issue. Then I met a few Mad Dogg certified instructors and wondered what they were talking about. I now have my participants practice a modified Hp1,2 &3 where the hands are placed as if you are riding “the hoods” on a road bike.

    It seems to work.

    By the way, I have been trying to follow you since taking a class of yours at the Toronto Conference years ago. Thank you for ICA

  4. David, where are you from? What is your language?

    It’s interesting that you find HP1 relaxes your shoulders; for me it tightens my shoulders. But everyone is different. You might ask your students if it bothers them or relaxes them, and at least, give them the option to do what works for them.

    Thank you, I’m glad you found Funhogspins and it led you to the ICA! Welcome, we hope you interact a lot with us. Never worry about language – it’s always possible to make yourself understood! I speak a few other languages so I am usually pretty good at deciphering what a foreigner wants to express.

  5. Hello Jennifer,
    I always take the position Hp1 only choreography.
    I was a student of spinning for 10 years and since 2008, spinning instructor
    I am a cyclist for 15 years I have done races.
    Honestly, I really agree in thinking that the Hp1 is not useful for what concerns the spinning.
    In part, however, ‘when you start the lesson in the warm up I like to be able to use it to relax your shoulders to lower your elbows down.
    the neck muscles relax and so I find this interesting

    I’ll really my compliments since I accidentally found http://funhogspins.blogspot.com/ my interest and my education have grown exponentially
    Sorry for my bad English translation and ‘made ??with google

  6. Great questions.

    Colleen, I have an upcoming post that will address HP2 when standing. It should answer your questions.

    Sandy, yes, I understand that after years of “enforcing” a certain way of doing things, one might feel like we look like a fool if we backtrack or change methods.

    Exercise Science and understanding of technique in all sports is constantly changing. It’s ok to adopt new things. You can do it without making yourself look foolish. My suggestion is to just kind of surreptitiously just stop doing it. Don’t draw attention to it. After a couple of months, I bet your riders will just adapt.

    If in fact someone asks, you can say, “oh I’ve just been reading about how it’s more anatomically correct and more comfortable to ride with your hands like you’re riding a real bike. And since I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed it feels better on my shoulders, so I also figured it is better for my students.” And then change the subject.

    It’s not like you have to admit that you’ve been hurting them for all these years, because obviously you haven’t. On the other hand, if an instructor learns that hovers are not as beneficial as believed and that they can potentially cause injury and discomfort, then I believe it’s important to admit to students to making a big change in technique if in fact hovers were a big part of one’s repertoire. In that case, I still wouldn’t say “I’ve been wrong” all these years. It’s better to say “I’ve learned something new and it’s helping me become a better and safer instructor and as a result, you my students will benefit.” Look forward instead of back.

    Hand position, not quite as drastic. Just more comfortable and sensible.

    There is no Spinning police. I even worried about that early on in my tenure as an MI! I taught HP1 at my club for a few years, but there was so much resistance among the students and my peers, and also it never ever made sense to me, so I stopped. I obligatorily taught it at Orientations, but didn’t even press it at any of my Master Rides, CED or conferences. I had discussions about the validity (or lack of validity) of HP1 with the training mgr for MDA, but still, no one forced me. No one came after me, and no one will (or should) ever say anything to you. If a club director forces instructors to teach it, hmmm, I think too much Koolaid was ingested. In that case it might mean your job (boy what a silly issue).

    Curious, does anyone have a Spinning

  7. I think you are as usual, dead on. But now that I have been (trying) hard to stay with what has been drilled into my head by workshops and other forums that stay true to “Spinning” positions for the past 10+ yrs., how do flip/flop on my class? Since I ride outside I naturally want to move my hands to the outside of bars and have tried to not do that cause I feel like I’m breaking some sacred Spin rule. I have instructed the hand position one and now find alot of my members are following along. So that becomes the problem, once you fear the wrath of the Spin police its hard to go back on what you preached to your class without looking like a novice.

  8. Jennifer,
    Thanks for the information on HP1, it is great to have a better understanding on where it comes from. I never felt comfortable in HP1, and I rarely ever provided it to students in class…if ever I would use it as an “option.” Thank you for making me feel even more comfortable at skipping this HP 🙂

    I am Spinning certified and learned “the way” of HP2/Standing Flat and HP3/Standing Climb. Recently my gym got Keiser bikes (so cool!) and it has me rethinking hand positions…on the Keiser I find my self entirely uncomfortable Standing in HP2. Could you elaborate on these Standing HP and what I should be coaching? I’m feeling very confused on this topic and totally unsure what to tell the riders in my class. Would love to get your wisdom on this particular topic.
    Thanks again!

  9. Jennifer, this is an excellent article… is very hard for me sometimes to teach with out computer, and when I found any club that has it, still can see the people flying on they bikes… even though I say “I can see you pedal stroke, I can see you going to fast, slow down, add resistance, your RPM should be under 110” and nothing people doesn’t respond….. so this was an excellent explanation for me and now I got more information..

    Thanks again 🙂

  10. For me, riding in HP1 is taxing, and an unnatural position (almost as unnatural as reaching for the ends of the bar!). When seated, you’ll find me mostly in HP 2 or 2.5 where I am comfortable with my “breath” and can relax upper body.
    Thanks for the article Jennifer, as usual, “real” and valuable support for the “why”s.

  11. Great article Jen. I too found it awkward to place my hands in “predetermined” places and refrained from doing so when I got certifed with Mad Dogg many years ago. At C.O.R.E we ride where the hands go naturally on our road or mountain bikes, eshewing the aero position because the spin bike was built with road bike geometry not triathlon bike geometry.
    You can create your own “drops” by wrapping a long enough towel across the bars and looping it at least once around the bars and letting about 6 inches hang down on either side to create instant “drops”. Makes intuitive sense.
    Look forward to the upcoming articles on this subject.

  12. I like to do structured rides on LI. Usually do at least 4 during the summer. Usual distance is 50 miles.

    We also have the Vanderbuilt Planetarium on the North Shore of LI, that offers indoor rides under the dome. They offer various themes, “Ride Africa”, “Disco Night”.

    One of the mansions has a courtyard in the center where they set up bikes. The ride that I participated in was the “Classical Journey Ride” in the courtyard… It was truly mind blowing!!!

    Can’t wait to do it again this summer. Some of my regulars are coming with me…

    Michele Tomei

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *