Few things come close to the pump you feel on a spinning class. All your problems leave with each drop of sweat, not to mention the music! But, that means that an episode of knee pain can be a real bummer. So, can you do spinning with a bad knee?
The short answer is yes, you can do spinning workouts with bad knees.
See, spinning is a low-impact exercise that can even help you keep your knee joints healthy. Plus, spinning bikes are extremely customizable.
This is great news for people with knee problems, as there are several adjustments you can do to make the session safer.
Here are the adjustments you can do and more. Tap on a section to go straight there:
- Adjust the bike to your body (a step-by-step)
- Check your body position
- Pay attention to your technique
- Follow the 10% rule
- Benefits of spinning for bad knees
Let’s get started with:
4 tips to protect your knees in a spinning class
1) Adjust the bike to your body
Taking the time to adjust the spinning bike can avoid worsening your knee injury. (1)
If it’s your first spinning class, try to get there earlier to adjust your bike properly. If you’re not sure how to do it, ask your instructor for some help. Here are some pointers if you’re going to adjust it yourself:
First, adjust the saddle.
The saddle should be parallel to your hip if you’re standing next to the spinning bike. This will be the proper seat height for most people. Then, sit on the spinning bike in the riding position and test it:
- Level the pedals. One in a 3 o’clock position, the other in a 9 o’clock position
- The ball of your feet should be at the center of each pedal
- The kneecap of the forward leg should be aligned with the ball of the foot
- Then, move the pedal to a 6 o’clock position. Your knees should bend a little
Adjust the height and slide the seat forward or backward if needed.
Next, the handlebars.
Most people are comfortable if the handlebars are parallel to the saddle. This setup also makes your pedaling more efficient and increases your speed. It works your core as well.
But, if you have problems on your knees, set the handlebars higher. You’ll ride more straight. This position increases the angle on your hips, which can reduce the stress at the front of your knees.
Finally, the pedals.
The ball of your foot should be at the center of the pedal. Pedaling with your toes or your arch can increase the strain on your knees.
If you have shoes with cleats, make sure they’re sitting under the ball of your foot.
2) Keep a proper body position during the class
The form is as important as the setup of your bike. It will also avoid worsening previous injuries. Make sure your posture is as follows to protect your knees during spinning classes:
- Keep your upper body straight and hinge forward from your hip
- Avoid rounding your back or slouching
- Keep your feet flat
- Avoid pedaling with your toes or arch
If you find it hard to keep the proper posture, you may have underlying weaknesses in your muscles. In this case, include knee strengthening exercises for the weak muscle groups.
This will make your spinning training easier!
3) Pay attention to your technique
Apart from posture, proper technique can help you reduce pain in your knees. This has more to do with your cadence than anything else.
Lower cadences are between 50 and 60 repetitions per minute (RPM). They may put more stress on our knees, according to research. An optimal cadence for most riders is between 70 and 90 RPM.
4) The 10% rule to prevent injuries
This rule states that making 10% increases in frequency or intensity per week can avoid overuse injuries and protect your knees. (1)
I know it’s tempting to go all in. But that’s the easiest way to make your knee symptoms worse.
See, the downside of a spinning class is that it’s a type of group workout.
This means that the trainer may not be able to individualize the training to your current capacity.
Also, you may feel pressured to be at the same level as your peers. This is completely understandable, but please remember that everybody is different.
That makes you responsible for your training. Sudden increases can be harmful. It’s best to make little increases every week so your body has time to adapt.
Benefits of spinning for pain in the knee
Indoor cycling is a controlled environment
There are no obstacles to pay attention to, compared to outdoors. Your entire focus is on the workout and how your body feels. This can help people with stability issues or previous knee injuries.
Some bikes also mimic the feel of exercising uphill or downhill. You can change this at any time during the exercise. So, if it’s too much for you at the moment, just change the setting.
Also, it makes it easy to keep track of your improvements. Track your heart rate, distance, resistance, cadence… Use that data to know if you’re following the 10% rule described above.
It’s a safe exercise if you experience knee pain
Biking is a healthy movement for your knee during the recovery of an injury. As a low-impact workout, we use it often during rehabilitation.
So, bike workouts are actually a great option for your knee health.
It can help you prevent further injuries
The knee motion during spinning lubricates the joint. This delays the onset of the degenerative injuries that come with aging.
Working out with a bicycle can reduce the risk of falls in the elderly as well. This means fewer injuries for them and more active years. (4)
Spinning can also be a great strengthening workout. Adjust the resistance of the stationary bike to work your muscles more. The low-impact will protect your joints while your muscles get stronger.
Do spinning classes cause knee problems?
It shouldn’t if you’re doing it right. If you’re having problems on your knees after a spin, check the following:
- The setup of your bike
- Your form. Address underlying muscle weaknesses if any
- Your cadence should be between 70-90 RPM. This is more important than the level of resistance
- Following the 10% rule
- If you’re resting enough. Lack of sleep can cause issues on your knees
Is a spin bike good for bad knees?
It can be!
But, make sure to check with a physical therapist first to know which adaptations you need. This will prevent making your injury worse.
How do I stop my knees from hurting when I spin?
Check if the bike is properly set up. If it is, increase your RPM to 70-90. If your knees still hurt, you may have weak muscles that make you prone to injury. Strengthen them so your joints don’t hurt anymore.
Conclusion: Can you do spinning with bad knees?
Yes! Of course, you can. But pay attention to a few details before doing it.
First, make sure the bike fits your body, not the other way. Check the seat, the handlebars, and the position of your foot on the pedal before going for a spin.
Second, keep a proper position during the class. Poor posture can make your symptoms worse. It may be a sign of underlying muscle weakness. Strengthen them to prevent injuries.
Third, stay between the 70-90 RPM range during your workout. You’ll reduce the strain on your legs.
And lastly, don’t push your limits. Make increases of 10% weekly to care for your knee health.
Having bad knees isn’t a life sentence. You can improve their strength, stability, and reduce pain by training wisely.
- Asplund, Chad, and Patrick St Pierre. “Knee pain and bicycling: fitting concepts for clinicians.” The Physician and sportsmedicine vol. 32,4 (2004): 23-30. doi: 10.3810/psm.2004.04.201
- D’Lima, Darryl et al. “Knee joint forces: prediction, measurement, and significance.” Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Part H, Journal of engineering in medicine vol. 226,2 (2012): 95-102. doi: 10.1177/0954411911433372
- Luan, Lijiang et al. “Stationary cycling exercise for knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Clinical rehabilitation vol. 35,4 (2021): 522-533. doi: 10.1177/0269215520971795
- Oja, P et al. “Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports vol. 21,4 (2011): 496-509. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2011.01299.x