Standing Vs Sitting For Indoor Cycling

You’ve most likely seen indoor cycling classes in your local gym.

On the saddle, off the saddle

Stand up, sit down

Now, obviously, we know that incorporating these two movements into our indoor cycling session is going to maximize the effectiveness of the workout, and in turn – burn off a hell of a lot of calories.

But the question we want to know is:

Which is better for indoor cycling? 

Standing or Sitting?

Well in brief, 

When standing when indoor cycling, your bike is usually set to a higher resistance making the workout more difficult.

This allows you to incorporate more muscles and really increase your energy output to turn those pedals to try and maintain a certain RPM.

Sitting when cycling is usually for when the resistance is turned down and gives your legs and core a slight rest. 

However, it’s best to incorporate both standing and sitting as it delivers a more fully rounded workout without you getting fatigued too quickly.

Now, if you’re a complete beginner to indoor cycling, it can be confusing to understand what is going to deliver a more effective workout for you and help shed that unwanted fat.

Well, not to worry we’ll discuss this great debate a bit deeper.

Differences Between Standing & Sitting

Indoor Cycling while sitting

So apart from the obvious standing up on the pedals as opposed to sitting down on the saddle, we want to look more in-depth to see the mechanics behind it all and what that does for you and your fitness.

What Muscles Are Being Worked?

Indoor cycling as you may well know is basically a complete workout for your lower body.

Here you’ll be targeting your:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Lower back

It’s basically a full lower-body workout involving your mid-region.

Each one of these muscles works in conjunction with each other in order to boost your energy output into the bike.

Now, whether you’re cycling standing up, or sitting down all of these muscles are going to be used.

However, what changes is the intensity.

For example, when the intensity is cranked up and it’s becoming more difficult to turn the flywheel, sitting down on the saddle isn’t going to cut it anymore.

You need two things:

  • Leverage
  • Greater energy output

These two points basically go hand in hand.

You see in order to improve your energy output, you need a different angle to cycle from (leverage).

When changing leverage, you automatically add greater energy output.

So, by adding this extra output your body is actively using your leg muscles more effectively.

Trying to get every drop of juice from them in order to keep up the momentum of the cycle.

Calorie Expenditure

During any standard indoor cycling class, you’re going to burn a hell of a lot of calories.

Obviously, it depends on a few factors such as:

  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your intensity

For an average 45-minute cycling class you could burn somewhere in the region of 500 calories.

It’s estimated that for an average seated cycle you burn roughly 10.3 calories per minute.

Over 45 minutes that’s 463 calories burned.

But, as I said, any good cycling session must incorporate both standing and sitting intervals.

However, if we were to measure the intervals of both standing and sitting solely you would see a sharp rise in calories burned in your standing intervals.

This is because your body must use your energy (in the form of calories) as its output to handle the increased intensity.

During these intervals, you’ll notice your heart rate shoot up as it’s trying to pump the blood around your circulatory system to feed oxygen & vital nutrients to your legs.

Ace Fitness actually conducted research that showed that candidates involved who were standing had an 8% higher increase of Vo2 (oxygen consumption) compared to that of sitting.

Over the 4 minutes they were cycling, the standing intervals had a 67-76% increase in energy expenditure.

Due to this extra intensity, your body works faster, pushing harder to push the pedals as you stand to generate momentum in the flywheel. 

This is where you’ll get a greater calorie burn from.

Changing Handheld Positions

There are certain ways you are going to change your hand positions when you’re sitting vs standing.

You can check these positions out here.

Usually, with sitting positions, your hands are going to be kept at the hand positions closest to you (the straight horizontal bar in front of you).

As you stand for intervals, you will still use this handheld position however to keep proper form and your breathing right, you will begin to use the hand positions towards the middle and top of the bars.

This will help you get every ounce of effort from your training.

What an Indoor Cycling Session Should Offer

So, as I said, any good indoor cycling session must incorporate some standing and sitting stances.

If you include too many standing cycles – you’ll become fatigued too quickly and end your session sooner than you wanted.

If there are too many sitting periods, it means the session isn’t offering enough intensity and variance.

Not only does this reduce the effectiveness of your indoor cycling session but can actually become quite boring.

Along with having a really sore backside!

You want variance, a mix-up in both sitting and standing intervals.

This will allow you to get a proper cardio workout that will have your heart pumping burning those calories and torching that fat.

But also, sitting intervals where you can catch your breath again and take the pressure off your legs as the lactic acid begins to build.

Getting The Most From Your Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling from home is great for convenience however if it’s your first time jumping on the bike you can get lost in what exactly it is you’re doing.

Sure, you can cycle at the same RPM for 30 minutes or perform intervals for 15 minutes by increasing and reducing your intensity but overall you may lack proper workout structure.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

This then leads to monotonous workouts which leads to de-motivation and ultimately giving up!

This is the last thing you want!

You just need structure, a guide, and an instructor that is going to provide a full indoor cycling session that will really allow you to dig deep and give it everything on the bike.

You can check out a full list of the best online cycling classes I actually find really awesome.

But one that I really love and use all the time is Aaptiv.

Aaptiv is an audio-based fitness app that provides a vast amount of incredible indoor cycling classes you can stream.

All you need to do is plug in your earphones – listen to the instructor and off you go!

No thinking, just listen and cycle.

You can check it out here!

It’s great for keeping that motivation up and keeping you on the bike for longer.


So there you have it

When it comes to standing vs sitting for indoor cycling – there is no real winner.

The truth is that you need both to develop a fully-rounded workout where you can melt that fat while also keeping fatigue at bay.

Yes, standing intervals are going to torch more calories at a quicker rate but you’ll burn out quicker doing this compared to sitting intervals.

Incorporate both into your workouts and you’ll be able to jump off the bike knowing you give it everything you got!

Happy cycling guys!

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