You’ll Never Believe What This SoulCycle Instructor Did Next! My Mind Was Blown!

Damn, I finally did it…

I wrote one of those inane headlines that are so in vogue these days and are only designed to get you to click on the link. I swore I would never do it.

But sadly (not just that I succumbed to the trend, but also because what I’m about to say is true…) it’s probably the most descriptive and honest headline I could create to describe what I’m writing about.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of SoulCycle, primarily because of their tendency to teach unscientific techniques to a gullible public who buy into their snake oil about “training” the upper body with 1 lb weights and pushups while cycling. I’ve written about some of that here and here and here, and was featured in this LA Times article on SoulCycle’s techniques. But I’ve also written about what they are doing right, and how studios can take steps to increase their attendance by following some of the steps SoulCycle has taken.

Recently, one of their “guru” instructors was on television in New Jersey, this time OFF the bike, and shared some of her training tips—a 30-second workout that will allegedly “get you in shape” for bikini season. No kidding.

Stacey Griffith has been teaching at SoulCycle since the early days, and she’s a very popular instructor with a huge fan base. I know her classes sell out within minutes, and I’m sure she’s motivating and inspiring, which are great qualities in an instructor. But so is knowing what the heck you are doing. Can you imagine what you could create if you combined that kind of wonderful motivation with actual knowledge and qualifications? She’d be an over-the-top instructor! A sad fact is that she used to be one of the original Schwinn master trainers. One has to wonder if she didn’t agree with the Schwinn motto of Ride Right, or what made her leap over to the world of SoulCycle.

SoulCycle is not known for hiring instructors with knowledge and education; in fact, they steer away from it. They look for entertainers. This is Stacey’s SoulCycle bio:

Since 1996 Stacey Griffith has been delivering sold out indoor cycling classes to the masses in both LA and NY. Stacey’s class is packed full of motivation and athletic prowess. As a Senior Master Instructor, Stacey will navigate you from the floor and coach you as an athlete. Bring a change of clothes this class will leave you drenched. Deep, meaningful, and a lot of crazy…Be ready for change, ’cause it’s not just in your pocket.

No disclosure of any certifications or qualifications on their website. This article, however, says she is certified by AFAA and ISSA as a personal trainer. One would think you would know how the body gets fit. But what you are about to see, she did not learn at either of those organizations—in fact, I’m sure they would be unhappy to think their certifications were ignored with the following exercise prescriptions.

Fox News 9 in New Jersey brought Stacey on to teach them how to get in shape. Check out the video and then we’ll dissect what she is promising in her 30-second “workout.”

New York News

The newswoman, Rosanna Scotto (is that not ironic?), gushes over Stacey and calls her a guru. Stacey promises to deliver a 30-second workout that will get you ready for the “big reveal.” Notice that the male newscaster questions the 30-second workout numerous times. In fact, he even calls her a “cult leader” and calls her out at 15 seconds (with apparent and wise suspicion), and again at 30 seconds. He then asks doubtfully, “Are there results after 30 seconds?” Stacey confidently says, “Yes, that’s all it takes.”

Thirty seconds. You heard her say it. She claims that this 30-second workout is all you need, and that it “tightens you up before you go out into your day.”

The statement below the video on the Fox News webpage says this 30-second workout will give you “ripped arms and abs.”

So what do you do to get ripped in 30 seconds? I’m sure we’re all dying to know so we can stop those ridiculously long 30- to 60-minute workouts at the gym.

The Workouts

These are all done standing up and all you need is a T-shirt. No balls, weights, Kettlebells, cables, or any real resistance, just get a T-shirt. Roll it up and grab it in front of you and go left and right, left and right. Just bend those elbows! Stacey points out one of the exerciser’s triceps, implying that she is getting a benefit in her triceps.

If you know anything about gaining strength in your muscles, trust me, it will not happen if you sweep your arms left and right like she demonstrates. Not even if you did this for 30 minutes nonstop, much less 30 seconds. Can you create resistance by resisting the movement (pulling on the T-shirt) with the opposite arm? Yes, but not at the speed at which they are doing this, and the women demonstrating this are not resisting as they sweep; if they were you would see it in their movements. Try it, you’ll see what I mean; if you resist, it’s a slow movement, and in that case the triceps might get a tiny bit of a workout.

And then, you won’t believe what this SoulCycle instructor did next…

Stir the pot. You hold the T-shirt at 12 and 6, and then stir the pot, kind of like a butter or ice cream churn. She says, “Look what’s happening to that delt, look what’s happening to that tricep [sic].”

It’s pretty evident that there is no resistance here. Without resistance, the muscle doesn’t get stronger, leaner, more fit, or even the silly “more toned” term that uneducated instructors like to claim. Those delts and triceps are not responding in any way, shape, or form…it just is not going to happen. Butter churners from a bygone era actually had resistance, and those women weren’t that fit—at least not by today’s standards (but I bet they could shame most women today with their endurance and steadfast determination). But let’s suppose that there is little resistance…even if there were a bit of stress with your T-shirt butter churn, nothing is going to happen in 30 seconds.

butter churner
These butter churners actually had resistance, and they did it for hours!

But wait! You’ll be blown away by what she did next!! 

See? My silly headline is starting to make sense now. I still have the impression in my forehead from my facepalm when I first saw this next…thing (it’s not an exercise).

She calls this “6-pack abs.”

You stand up, grab the two ends of the rolled up T-shirt out in front of you, and “crunch” by contracting your abdominals in 6 small steps…while standing up! Incidentally, this is why crunches while sitting upright on a bicycle do not work, because you are moving with gravity instead of opposing it. In this video, she is claiming that you can get 6-pack abs by “crunching” (bowing) while standing up. But if bowing worked your abs, there would be some cultures in which every citizen would have 6-pack abs.

This next one is the icing on the cake. If your mind’s not blown yet…just wait. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, or to cry, or both. I would cry at the thought that some people will actually watch this, want to try it, and give up doing what might actually be a productive workout because this one was so much easier. Or even worse, that some instructor might get the idea that this would be fun to try in a group fitness class.

Now, grab your T-shirt and curl it around your fists. Then hold your arms out in front of you at a 90-degree angle. She calls this a “biceps curl and ab crunch at the same time”  and says to grab the T-shirt and “really pull down.”

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 12.29.02 AM

Since elbow flexion is the primary action of the bicep, this is not a biceps “curl” because there is no concentric contraction of the biceps flexing the elbow. Even isometrically, this exercise is useless.

I’m surprised she doesn’t label it a lat pull-down because it has more shoulder extension than elbow flexion. She also claims they are getting the “glutus maximus [sic]” while they are bobbing up and down a few inches with the hips. (Read this about doing squats correctly to engage the glutes.)

The claims in this video are part of the reason why the fitness industry is in such a sorry state right now and almost makes Tracy Anderson look like she knows what she is talking about (…just kidding!) The problem is that the public eats this up. These instructors or “trainers” are misleading the public with information that is counter to what is known to work in sport science. As a result, it makes it much harder to teach the public the truth about exercise because they’ve been led to believe in unicorns. Instructors come to me and lament that they are constantly trying to undo the damage done after students watching “fitness” YouTube videos led by uneducated instructors, some of which is downright dangerous.

The truth is that to be successful in changing your body, you need to push it, sometimes out of your comfort zone. You need to lift some heavy weight that makes you go “Woah, this weight is heavy.” You need to work a muscle or muscle group in a direction that opposes the force, and not with it. You need to work the muscles at the correct angles, otherwise they aren’t targeted. And you need to put in some time. It doesn’t need to be an hour a day; a few hours a week is fine (depending on your goals). But it is not going to happen in 30 seconds and it’s not going to happen with the resistance of a 6-ounce T-shirt and it’s not going to happen by contracting your abdominals while you’re standing or sitting or by isometrically flexing your biceps for 30 seconds. Similarly, fitness is not going to happen by doing pushups on your bike or by pedaling at 120+ rpm with zero resistance or by lifting 1 lb weights while riding at zero power output.

There are those who will say I’m just “jealous” or that I’m a “hater.”  It’s not that I’m anti-SoulCycle itself, or anti–Stacey Griffith; as I’ve mentioned, can you imagine taking their PR prowess and Stacey’s fabulous motivational skills, and combining it with technical and exercise science knowledge, the over-the-top instructor or program you would create? It’s more that I am pro-exercise-science-principles and pro-teach-the-public-the-truth-about-exercise. I have no reason to be jealous of this instructor, or anyone at SoulCycle, or Tracey Anderson, or Jillian Michaels.

Stacey does end with one very good message, which is that is people need to move. But anyone watching this would be better off just going for a fast walk. Nothing she demonstrates, at least in this video, has any overall fitness benefit, save perhaps for the folks at a convalescent home.

Stacey may be engaging and motivational in her coaching style, which is awesome, but if this 30-second workout is how she tells people to “get fit,” then one can assume that the techniques employed in indoor cycling classes are also not based on any kind of proven and sound exercise science training principles.

P.S. Along these lines, check out what this guy says about uneducated group fitness instructors and trainers.


  1. Thank you for the article. It’s this age of “information overload” that makes it so difficult as you said. There are always going to be instructors that are flashier and extremely motivating but don’t emphasize technique. I tell my classes that I’m going to teach the way I was taught to teach by Schwinn and if they want all that fancy arm flapping to go somewhere else.

    I do agree that if you’re going to be talking to the masses as she was in this case there should be some responsibility to go along with it. Otherwise you’re just setting people up for disappointment and possibly injury.

  2. I have to agree about instructing safe and effective classes. However, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

    The fact is people who attend classes such as these don’t really want to work. They sweat, grunt, and feel like their butts (or biceps) are being worked. This is what they want – they don’t want to hear that there is a 6 minute climb coming with 3 gear changes; that to them is boring and thus ‘you’ are a ‘boring’ instructor because you do something that does challenge them not only physically but mentally. People don’t want to be real with their ability or lack thereof but want to just sweat after doing something for 30 seconds. It is as has been mentioned on many occasions like riding the bike at high pace with no gear, sweating bullets and thinking that you’ve done something.

    It’s sad that some instructors are able to brain-wash but there it is; they can because they can. We, who choose to ‘keep it real’ have to stay with our convictions as there are participants who LOVE our style of teaching and our knowledge that is based in science.

  3. I don’t think Jennifer’s point is to bash SC or specific instructors, but to inform those of us who subscribe to (or who should consider) the Keep It Real approach. The analysis of SC or the popular “extreme” indoor cycling is valuable to me when some riders in my classes want to know why we don’t do what I call “tricks on bikes” and I can respond with scientific, exercise physiological rationale. Thank you, Jennifer, for this level of analysis.

  4. This quote popped into my mind after reading this post and watching the video(a painful experience on many levels, I might add)

    “The more often a stupidity is repeated,
    the more it gets the appearance of wisdom.”

    François-Marie Arouet

    It seems to me that this is why you work so hard, Jennifer, to make sure we, as instructors, are conduits of truly grounded, useful and effective information. I appreciate knowing what’s going on “out there”-the good, the bad and the ugly! It only makes me want to better myself as an instructor.

  5. I can’t even watch this! Ridiculous! And yes everyone is entitled to their opinion but as an instructor I find it offensive to watch people encourage contraindicated movements or unrealistic results and the potential for injury because it is what is trendy or hot right now. I work very hard to make sure my classes are safe and effective. And to back up what I say–my first job is an ER nurse and the number of exercise related injuries we see because of misinformation is quite high.

  6. Thank you everyone for your comments (including those on Facebook). I’m certain Jennifer would attest that she, like myself, receive numerous requests from instructors asking for information to combat the misinformation. The sad fact is that many of us have to answer questions about why this instructor set them up this way, or why we don’t use weights in our classes, or don’t do this move or that. At most of the full-day workshops I present, we could literally spend the entire day talking through contraindications. Why? Not because “I” want to make fun of how other teach, but because the questions from the instructors are endless. Just to be clear, the instructors are not interesting in bashing anyone or jealous, they sincerely want to know what to do or say. They are frustrated, heart-broken, and oftentimes harassed by their fitness directors who want them to include ineffective techniques for the sake of boosting numbers. Instructors are begging for this information. Jennifer, as always, did an amazing job breaking down a non-scientific “workout” scientifically. This is a tremendous display of knowledge. Knowledge people are asking for and knowledge people can use. Thank you Jennifer.

  7. Author

    Dear Ruthann,
    Thank you for your feedback. I do appreciate it. I want to hear all sides, and believe me, I know this position isn’t always popular. Especially if you know someone who teaches at Soul Cycle. We always appreciate all of our members and are grateful that you’ve trusted us to help educate you.

    It actually has been quite a very long time since I wrote an article that challenged some of the popular yet questionable approaches in cycling instruction. Believe me, I get a LOT of opportunities but I shelve 99% of them. I get probably 2-4 emails a week from instructors asking me to respond to this instructor doing crazy moves, or that Youtube video of contraindicated craziness. We have to pick and choose, and limit what we write. Perhaps you don’t realize it, but I’ve been known for about a decade as being the one in this industry brave enough to challenge these ineffective techniques. As the author of the definitive book on the subject (Keep it Real), and the #1 workshop for Spinning on the subject (Contraindications in Spinning), as well as the creator of the term “Keep it Real” (as it relates to this industry), I’m the one people turn to for advice or when they think someone should be exposed on the internet for hurting our industry (mostly indoor cycling, but also other fitness trends).

    Nevertheless, the vast majority (99+%) of the content on ICA is educational on what one should know in terms of physiology, biomechanics, mental strength, inspiration, coaching, communication, music, profiles, etc. It’s only the occasional article where I’ll take the stance I took on this particular one (and with our focus on the Summit the past 2 months, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted ANYTHING that challenged incorrect training in the media). I wish it were not the case, but it is these articles that get the most comments and shares and promotion. It’s an unfortunate truth that it’s more effective when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization, an internet term for exposure on the web). I wish that happened on the articles on the importance of setting someone up properly or how to pedal properly, but as they say, controversy sells.

    It’s possible that you don’t realize the reach that we have at ICA, or that I’ve had over the years. Sure, it may seem like we are “preaching to the choir”, but every time I write something like this, our choir grows. I get emails or Facebook messages from professionals in the industry who are not allowed to take a stand, who thank me profusely for my steadfast conviction to the integrity of our industry. I hear from Master Trainers and industry leaders who cannot take that position despite their desire to do so, because they are associated with a brand of bikes, or a fitness chain that cannot have anyone who publicly challenges what some elements of their brand might be doing, even if it goes against what true fitness professionals know to be right. Nevertheless, they are thankful for someone like me who is not restricted by a brand or company.

    It’s kind of sad to know that I am one of the few who can speak out freely. Not being attached to a bike or other product gives me that ability.

    And speak out I will continue to do. Every time I do, we do have a huge effect on instructors. We do get the word out about evidence-based training; we do reduce the impact of the massive misinformation. Unfortunately, where we do not reach is the end-user, the student, since my market is instructors. So…they’ll continue to flock to these classes. I can only hope to reduce the number of new instructors or studios taking up these techniques.

    The other thing that happens is that our mailing list increases, and our FB fans as well. So yes, we ARE reaching out beyond the choir. Articles like these have the most profound impact on our Facebook interaction. Again, I wish it were not the case; I wish the articles about threshold improvement were the ones that got the most shares/Likes/comments. But no, it’s these posts. As of this writing, this post has 13,000+ views, 55 shares, 35+ comments on the ICA Facebook page. That’s 3-5X the other posts.

    I completely understand that Stacey is immensely popular and has a positive impact on students’ mentally. As I have said numerous times, she, and other SC instructors, are incredibly motivating; I only wish she/they combined that with scientifically proven training techniques–can you imagine the powerful combination?! She had to abandon her Schwinn training to do what she does at SC, because they never taught or condoned what SC does. She must know intuitively that a 1 lb weight does zero for her students, but she continues to do it. She had the most profound opportunity on that Foxnews appearance. She could have chosen any one of dozens of extremely effective quick exercises, highly impactful ones, but no, she chose, well…no need to rehash it here, you read my article.

    Rachel Buschert Vaziralli (NY Equinox instructor and Schwinn MT) was recently on TV (I think it was GMA) and did a very quick training tip using Burpees. Now THAT was effective information that people could use and benefit from! With a Master’s in Ex Phys, she’s someone who does know what she’s talking about. Exercise science always wins in the long run.

    Thanks again.

  8. It doesn’t matter what I believe or don’t so I am not going to bother arguing the merits of Soul and what they are doing right or wront. What I am arguing is that your opinion about SoulCycle has been made over and over and over again – Soul is NOT going to change. The members of this group for the most part seem to agree with you – so you are preaching to the choir. Can we just table it and move on? You have so much great knowledge to teach us which is why I pay to be a member of ICA – can we please focus on this.

    These “fights” with people who do things differently from you advance nobody and certainly doesn’t make the industry look very professional if we can’t acknowledge there is more than one way to skin a cat- vivre la difference.

    Enough said.

    PS: Stacey Griffith is in my area doing a guest spot – the class sold out in 2 minutes. I will be there tomorrow hoping to get off the waiting list not bc I think I am going to get killer biceps, but because of how I feel during and after her class. That is what group exercise is for me

  9. Honestly, enough with the SoulCycle bashing. I would so much rather read something productive as these posting truly benefit nobody – including your paid members.

    SoulCycle does their thing (and laugh their way to the bank) and you do yours.

    1. Author

      Ruthann, we have almost 1,000 articles on training, coaching, inspiring, physiology, biomechanics, music, profiles, creating connections with students, communication skills, etc. Do you mean those?

      She just happens to be a Soul Cycle instructor, and yes, I know she is very popular. That does not give her the right to lead people down the wrong path. In this post I am analyzing what she says and does in the video…off a bike.

      I am expecting responses like yours. I’m one of the few who are brave enough to stand up to the misinformation in this industry and take a stand for proper training.

      Forget anything else and just answer these questions:
      – do you think the public benefits when they are told they can get ripped abs and arms in 30 seconds just with a t-shirt?
      – do YOU think you can get ripped abs and arms in 30 seconds just with a t-shirt?
      – can you change your body with an isometric biceps curl or strengthen your core with those standing ab crunches?

      Just answer those three questions, please.

    2. Ruthanne, your statement that these posts “truly benefit nobody – including your paid members” is derisive and untrue. It is rather assumptive to speak for me, or anyone else on this site. As a personal trainer (with certifications from ACSM and NSPA, as well as various other specialty areas), I want to know this garbage is out there. It helps me better educate people when I know what was said, and the context in which it was said.

      This article isn’t really about Soul Cycle. Stacey Griffith just happens to be a popular Soul Cycle instructor, and she has provided further evidence, in her demonstration of a “workout,” that she knows nothing of exercise science. She may have those certifications, but she seems to have thrown away whatever she learned to earn them.

      People like her use their popularity to take advantage of those who are looking for an easy fix. Those who want to get in shape without actually working for it. Then, personal trainers and other fitness professionals receive questions from those who are easily sucked in. Like a client of mine who recently said “I saw Dr. Oz on tv, and he said we don’t really need to drink much water at all.”

      I would love to see her take on a client, provide them with a program that consists of nothing but this 30 second thing, and then track their progress. Let’s see how that turns out.

    3. I disagree that we do not benefit when Jen makes us aware of the types of gimmicks that are being marketed to unsuspecting club members. I recently had a member of my class ask me why I do not do pushups on the bikes, as she recently did in a different club. If I had not been aware of this nonsense being out there, I probably would have goggled at her in disbelief, and have had difficulty responding in a helpful manner, because I would have been so taken aback by the sheer stupidity of such a “technique.” Thankfully, Jen keeps us informed, not only about the valid developments in exercise science and how we can use those developments to benefit our students, but also of all of the misinformation out there, why it is wrong, and how best to explain this to our students. Thanks to Jen’s excellent vigilance, I was able to listen to my class member and respond in an informed manner, because I was not surprised at all that she had been exposed to such idiocy. On the lighter side, you have to admit that it’s really, really funny to watch this woman play with a t-shirt and tell us it’s a workout. I call that entertainment.

  10. This is the most moronic thing I hope I’ll see all year!
    The only thing that might get ripped is the T-shirt….

  11. I know Stacey. She worked with us in our training gym when Soul Cycle was below us on 72nd St. She was filming for a reality show. (don’t know if it made it) I take many ill fitted riders in my class following their “rides” at SC but the ladies lap it up. There are many reasons.

    1. Author

      Yes, I know there are many reasons. I’ve often said that if one could harness the positive energy of their instructors and combine it with some technical skill, the results would be off the charts!

  12. I think Stacey is an amazing instructor and her classes of 80+ bikes sell out in nanoseconds. I understand you disagree and you are entitled to that, but I find your unending tyrade against Soul Cycle totally old news. GET OVER IT.
    Instead of wasting the energy to consistently bash them (which by the way makes you look like a sore loser) focus on putting out your own positive product – that is far more useful for the subscribers of your site and your own customers.
    I can guarantee that Stacy nor anyone else at SoulCycle care at all about what you are up to – why? Because they are the UNDISPUTED leader in the space. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. But I find the negative undertone totally unappealing and the fact that you publish this stuff monthly makes you look ridiculous.
    MOVE ON. Focus on all the positive stuff and instruction you contribute to this community – that is what keeps you a leader in the space in the market you occupy.
    Two cents poorer

    1. Author

      As I said, I know she is a popular and inspiring instructor, and I’ve heard she’s dynamic. I know her classes sell out right away. And I also predicted I’d get comments like yours, didn’t I? What I cannot understand is how any one could say I am a “sore loser”…what have i lost?

      This is not anti-Stacey, it’s anti-anti-science (exercise science) and anti-gimmick. I am pro-truth.

      And this is not about Soul Cycle per se (except that she also happens to teach at SC), it’s about a so-called fitness professional (“guru” in some people’s eyes, as you can see from the blathering newscaster who hangs on to every word Stacey tells her) not adhering to proven and effective means of training clients. ANY type of exercise, on a bike or off. It’s about taking responsibility when you have an opportunity to be on television, to stop the spread of misinformation. What she is doing in that video is not responsible coaching…you cannot get ripped abs and arms doing what she is doing RAR.

      I will ask the same question to you that I asked Ruthann, and I only want the answer to these 3 questions, because that is ALL this is about:

      – do you think the public benefits when they are told they can get ripped abs and arms in 30 seconds just with a t-shirt?
      – do YOU think you can get ripped abs and arms in 30 seconds just with a t-shirt?
      – can you change your body with an isometric biceps curl or strengthen your core with those standing ab crunches?

  13. Hehehehehehehe… I just can’t believe it. You know, I just had quite a workout here typing this message, let’s build a program out of it. Aren’t you interested? I bet she is.

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