By Shannan Lynch, PhD, CSCS, HFS, CISSN | Director of Education, Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc.

The media has given quite a bit of attention lately to claims made by celebrity trainer Tracey Anderson that “spinning” makes you gain weight and/or bulks your thighs.  We’d like to set the record straight on two important issues.  Firstly, Spinning® is a brand and the program that we developed over 20 years ago when we created the indoor cycling category.  It was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as the “hot” exercise of 1993.  As the worldwide leader in indoor cycling bikes and fitness education, we are committed to providing exceptional, high quality products and unparalleled programs and accessories under the Spinning® brand.

“Spinning is one of the trendiest exercise routines,” according to Margot Peppers of Mail Online who recently wrote the article “‘Spinning bulks your thighs’ Tracy Anderson on how the trendy workout could actually make you GAIN weight.” Tracy Anderson in Redbook magazine, states that “Spinning may burn calories in the short term, but if that’s all you’re doing, it’ll bulk your thighs…[and can actually make you gain weight].”

As SELF Magazine’s Fitness Editor, Marissa Stephenson, pointed out in  her response to Anderson’s statement, the simple fact is that there is no evidence to support her assertion. Numerous experts agree, including exercise physiologist Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of Exercise Science at Auburn University Montgomery (quoted in Stephenson’s response), citing recent studies that have shown women actually lose fat from their guts and lower bodies when they cycle often, even though their thighs may look temporarily pumped after a workout.

The scientific research to support Spinning® and indoor cycling as a meaningful and effective way to lose weight and maintain fitness is also very well documented. Most notably, the Bianco, et al. (2010) study found that indoor cycling training was an efficient method for weight loss in women, and Valle et al. (2010) observed significant reductions in body mass and fat percentage in body mass index in subjects who participated in an indoor cycling program for 12 weeks.

nice legs 2

In addition to collecting and conducting research, we’ve been working with cyclists of all levels for over 20 years, and have  deep practical experience understanding how cycling affects people’s bodies. Consider the body “archetype” of professional road cyclists. They are all on the leaner side of the athletic body type spectrum, not the bulkier one. And while their leg muscles may be chiseled, they are not “bulky”—any ‘bulkiness’ would be attributable to their body type (i.e., endomorph), not to cycling.

To get scientific for just a moment, hardcore cycling requires a large proportion of fast-oxidative glycolytic (FOG) muscle fibers. These are the fibers that allow a rider to go long, go fast and explode at the right times without fatiguing too quickly.  Thicker fibers only develop as a result of heavy loads, time under tension and, of course, genetics. Spinning®, which was created as a sports-specific indoor training program for cyclists, is a program tailored for 30-90 minute classes—the thicker fibers can’t sustain this type or duration of activity, and therefore do not develop in response to Spinning® or other indoor cycling programs.

So, when it comes to Anderson’s statement about Spinning® bulking up the thighs, we respectfully but strongly disagree and we have facts and experience to back it up. This is not to say that all of Anderson’s statements or methods are wrong. In fact I personally referred back to her routines numerous times during my personal training career.

Learn more about what Spinning® REALLY is: the authentic, exhilarating experience, the fitness and empowerment, and the camaraderie of our global community–not the size of anyone’s thighs.


  • Tracie Washington

    I’m a recent member to the “family” of Certified Spinning Instructors, and I have been involved in indoor cycling since being introduced to it in 1995 at BodyBusiness Fitness in Austin, Texas. I’m 5’10” tall. At my heaviest (post Hurricane Katrina), I weighed 260+ pounds; I’m at 155 now. You know why I had big thighs and weighed 260lbs? I ate too much and moved to little!

    Posted On August 11, 2014

  • […] burn more calories. If you’re pedaling over this RPM, add some resistance to build strength. It won’t make your legs or butt too big, so keep turning the resistance up to a point that’s challenging[…]

    Posted On April 1, 2015

  • Jean A

    1. If spin cycling doesn’t bulk up the thighs. . What about quad girth of Olympic cyclists? Look at Anna Meares, Kristina Vogel and Robert Forstemann. Their sprinting in short bursts seems to build thick and shapely thighs. But I agree that road/long distance cyclists are much slimmer.
    2. What if someone actually -wants- to look like that? I for one think the above mentioned athletes look amazing. Why is it bad to have curvy and muscular thighs and glutes?

    Posted On January 22, 2017

  • Allen

    Hello By Shannan Lynch,

    You have posted a nice and informative article, I learn a lot from your post. Go ahead, keep up the good work.


    Posted On April 24, 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *