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Being a personal trainer for over 25 years I have seen a number of trendy classes come and go. But Spinning classes have lasted the test of time. I have a number of clients who love to spin on their off days when not exercising with me. The problem with spinning classes; however, is that some of my clients and their friends think that spinning is making their legs bigger. One of my clients told me that her friend said if she did spinning twice per week it helped her lose weight but if she did spinning three times per week her legs got bigger. Most people spin for the cardiovascular workout and the overall calorie expenditure, and not to bulk up their legs.
Why do some people’s legs get bigger from spinning?
- First off, you are creating a muscular response from spinning. Spinning class involves a lot of interval training at high intensity so you’re developing the muscles in your legs. But I don’t think that’s the reason legs get bigger. Interval training is great for weight loss (good after burn) and you burn so many calories in a spinning class, it should off set the muscle gain in your legs with fat loss
- What might be the reason why some people’s legs are getting bigger from spinning has to do with glycolytic super-compensation. Spinning class is relatively long lasting (60 to 75 minutes), with a number of high intensity intervals that burn not only fat but a great amount of carbohydrates. When you perform these high intensity intervals you are depleting your carbohydrate stores in your legs. When you eat carbohydrates your body stores them in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver for future energy needs. When you deplete your carbohydrate stores and then eat carbohydrates you are setting yourself up for an increased capacity to store carbohydrates and water. You are actually without realizing it, carbohydrate loading. It was popular to carbohydrate load years ago in long distance sports like marathons. Most marathoners don’t carbohydrate load anymore because it makes them gain weight and the extra weight from loading will slow them down.
- Glycolytic super-compensation is a body building technique used to increase the size of muscle cells. If a bodybuilder wants to quickly increase the size of his or her legs they could first deplete their carbohydrate store for a day or two then train their legs hard and long with multiply sets of leg exercises. This is somewhat similar to the intervals performed in spin class. This will carbohydrate load or over compensate your normal glycogen stores in your legs and make them bigger.
- This is what I think is happening to some of my clients and their friends who think their legs are getting bigger from spinning. They are most likely eating very little to watch their weight and spinning class is depleting all their carbohydrate stores. Then after one too many spinning classes, they get ravenously hungry and over eat. Their legs then get primed for increased carbohydrate storage, which results in bigger legs.
Let me know what you think of my theory.
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Best – Mike Cola