Spin® Life Blog

What is Aqua-Cycling and Does it Work?

What is Aqua-Cycling and Does it Work?

Posted by Spinning® on Apr 18th 2018

We take a look at aqua-cycling, answer a few questions, and see if this new format is effective for ourselves and our students.

Hey, it's summer!

It sure is!

What are some workouts I can do to take advantage of the season?

Well, Spinning® offers a great workout regardless of season! There's the awesome riding experience, killer music, a fun group environment, and of course, the instructor who keeps you motivated through the entire ride. You can enjoy a class indoors in the safety of an air-conditioned room, or move your bikes outside to take advantage of the summer sun. Just don't forget your water bottle and towel!

What about aqua-cycling? That looks like fun!

It certainly does look appealing. Aqua-cycling is a indoor cycling class format that takes place in a pool1. Students get on stationary bikes that are submerged in 3-4 feet of water, and they're required to pedal against the resistance of the water.On the surface (no pun intended), it appears to be an effective workout. Water-based training sessions have proven to be effective for many types of exercisers, particularly those with limited mobility or recovering from injury. The water's buoyancy helps provide support to working muscles and joints, and the moisture in the pool draws heat away from the body and help regulate body temperature. There is also the added resistance of the water, which makes some movements and exercises more challenging than on dry land2.

So it works!

Well, not quite. There are a number of factors that challenge the effectiveness of aqua-cycling.

Like what?

First of all, you need access to a pool.


A clean one.


So unless every fitness facility or studio installs a pool, it will not be as accessible as your local Spinning class.

Okay, what else is there?

Then there's the riding experience. It's obviously challenging to pedal underwater. But as some effective water-based workouts demonstrate, the buoyancy of the water does support the muscles and lessen the impact of gravity on the joints. However, cycling already is a low-impact activity. There should not be any stress on the joints with proper pedaling technique, which is demonstrated and coached with the help of a Certified Spinning Instructor. So although there is a greater challenge to pedaling while submerged in 3-4 feet of water, the advantage of supporting your joints is almost negligible.

Okay, but there's still more of a challenge in aqua-cycling, right?

It is indeed more challenging to pedal underwater. But the best workouts require more than just pedaling hard. Bouts of work should be followed by adequate recovery, and it may be difficult to properly recover when you're always overcoming the forces of water sloshing over your legs3. Students should have the option to back off and recover as needed, and sometimes that isn't possible in aqua-cycling without stopping.That's why Spinner® bikes come with an infinitely precise resistance knob so that riders can dial in the exact amount of resistance they need that day. They also have computers to track their wattage, heart rate and cadence so that they know when to push harder and when to back off.

Yeah, but my aqua-cycling instructor can help me with that.

Technically they can. But you'll want to make sure they are certified by a reputable fitness organization. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of organizations that specialize in aqua-cycling. The Spinning program has been developed and honed for the last 25 years, and Certified Spinning Instructors receive instruction on proper bike setup, heart rate training and class building. They also have credits from organizations like A.C.E. and R.E.P.S.

So what's the verdict? Does aqua-cycling work?

The answer is simply that it's not as effective as regular Spinning classes. You'll have a certified instructor leading classes with the option to control your resistance on the Spinner bike. You'll also be able to track your effort with the Spinning Computer, all while enjoying a workout that is as safe and fun! So while riding in a pool does look fun and energetic, you won't get the same benefits as completing a good ol' Spinning class.

Okay. But I can still go to the pool right?

Of course! Just don't forget your towel!

This article was contributed by Greg Mantell, Director of Content Management – Mad Dogg Athletics

(1) Klein, Sarah (2013). “We Tried It: Aquacycling”. Huffington Post. Found at: Grauer, Yael (2014). "A Strength-Building Water Workout". Experience Life. Found at: Quinn, Elizabeth (2016). "Why Athletes Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise". Very Well. Found at: