Ready to take your ride to the next level? Peloton cycling instructor Mila Lazar breaks down the benefits of standing up on your bike, plus her best tips for how to climb out of the saddle.
Raise your hand if you’re familiar with this scenario: You’re taking a cycling class, grooving right along, when suddenly the instructor is telling you to come out of the saddle. And just like that, your form, speed, and dignity seem to fly out the window.
Instructors make cycling out of the saddle look seamless and easy, but it’s really anything but. That said, it can offer a fun challenge and a needed break during longer classes. And there are plenty of benefits to it: When you stand up on the pedals, you can generate more power and apply more force, which can help you climb hills or accelerate faster. Standing up on the pedals also engages muscles in your legs, including your glutes, hamstrings, and calves, which can help you build strength and improve your overall cycling performance.
So if you’re ready to improve, here are my top tips for nailing the position.
How to Climb Out of the Saddle
1. Get Comfy in Both Positions
There are two positions for out-of-the-saddle work: second position and third position. (If you’re wondering what happened to first position, that’s sitting on your butt.) In second position, your hands are on the front bar of the handlebars and you’re standing more upright. In third, your hands should be placed further out, on the ends of the handlebars, with your upper body leaning more forward. In both positions, you should focus on driving the legs down and pulling up on the pedals to maximize power and efficiency. It's important to maintain a smooth pedal stroke and avoid bouncing or rocking the bike. If the instructor doesn’t specify an out-of-the-saddle position, pick the one that you feel most comfortable in and that feels safe for you.
2. Maintain a Steady Pace
You might be tempted to go hard at the start, especially if the music is pumping hard too. But pushing too much at first might tire you out quickly. Of course, you can sit down anytime you want—this is your ride, after all, no one will come knocking at your door if you disobey the instructor. But to help you work up to matching the instructor’s cues for the duration, try pedaling at a steady pace that you know you can handle, rather than attempting to keep up with the suggested speed.
3. Keep Your Upper Body Still
Your upper body should remain still and stable while your legs do the work. Keep your core engaged to help you maintain your balance. And remember the mind-body connection; this is not the time to go on autopilot and zone out. Try to think about what your body is doing so you can get into a flow state.
4. Play With Resistance
Experiment with the resistance dial to find out what feels comfortable for you and what might be too strenuous. With practice, you’ll be able to increase your resistance. While you’re working on this, try not to worry too much about what resistance the instructor is calling for. Remember that your goal is to get better at out-of-the-saddle work, not to do a class plan perfectly. I promise we’ll all still love you if you choose your own resistance!
5. Transition Smoothly
Easier said than done, but don’t just plop your booty down when you hear the cue. Remember your strength: Use those strong thighs and engage the core to transition cleanly and smoothly down to the seat. Make a game out of it, even. See how elegantly you can do it, and consciously try to get better.
6. Practice Makes Perfect
Climbing out of the saddle can be challenging, especially if you’re new to it, but with practice, you can improve your technique and build up your strength and endurance over time. Try incorporating hill workouts into your cycling routine to help you get more comfortable with climbing. It doesn’t have to be every class, but a HIIT and Hills class once a week can help you achieve your cycling out-of-the-saddle goals.
7. Keep Up With Your Other Training
Cycling out of the saddle requires more energy and can be more taxing on your body, so it's important to have good form. Your core is going to help you out immensely here. It’s going to stabilize your body so you can stay in that upright position for a longer duration. So don’t neglect your core work! Try to incorporate some 10-minute core strength classes into your routine. Those will absolutely help you get better at cycling out of the saddle—as will cross-training in disciplines like running and rowing.
8. If You Can’t Get Out of it, Get Into it
You may recognize that phrase from my fellow instructor Denis Morton, but it totally applies here. I personally love being out of the saddle. The reason why? I can push myself a little bit more, and encourage myself to choose a higher resistance. It requires more energy, and I am quite energetic. Once you master the mechanics, you may find that you love being out of the saddle too.
Climbing out of the saddle can help take your ride to the next level. If you’re looking to practice, try a Climb Ride or a HIIT & Hills class. And remember, even though climbing comes with many benefits, you don’t have to do it in every ride. If you’re not feeling like climbing today, you can always take a Low Impact workout instead.
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