I’ve read two contradictory articles: In this ABC News story, Cedric Bryant, the chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, refutes Anderson’s claims, saying it would be hard to bulk up the quad muscles. However, in an article on the Today Show’s website, Michael Mantell, the senior fitness consultant for behavioral sciences for ACE, offers up a few quotes in an article that supports Anderson’s claim.
Huh? (Might be time to get your stories straight, ACE!)
To set the record straight I tapped one final, ultra-knowledgable source, Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery.
Here’s what she had to say:
“Spinning is a cardio activity. You use your endurance fibers in the quads when you spin, run, take a step, class use stepper machines and/or ellipticals.
Spinning does not enlarge the quads. You have to stimulate the type 2 fast/power/bulking fibers that you use when lifting heavy weights and power-lifting doing anaerobic exercise feats to do that.
Type 1, endurance fibers increase their capability to use blood, fuel and enzymes chemically but they do not enlarge and hypertrophy. After a spin class you legs will be pumped up from all of the blood coursing through the dilated vasculature and increased blood pressure but this is acute and normalizes after about 30 minutes to an hour.
Spinning does not increase leg strength. It increases the muscular endurance of the leg muscles so that they can continue to fire for a longer haul before reaching fatigue. None of these muscular endurance changes involve hypertrophy of the type 2 power fibers.
In every study I have seen—such as Gail Trapp’s cycle study where women did 20 minutes of super intense HIIT on the bikes compared to moderate spinning—participants decreased the amount of fat in the thighs.
This goes clear back to Claude Bouchard who also used intense cycle ergometry and showed that fat decreased in both the thigh and abdomen. So, either the measurements were taken too close to the time after cycling or there was some extra water uptake in those muscle beds – which decreases after a period of adjustment.
We have been spinning since 1993 and my body fat is lower than ever and my clothes size. But, I don’t need to offer a testimonial to refute pure non-sense. You lift heavy weights to increase muscle size for any muscle. Spinning is a cardio/endurance activity. It helps reduce fat.”
In summary, will spinning bulk up your quads? Nope.