Pillars of Power

Robert Sherman
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Indoor Cycling

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First, some background about me. I am an enthusiastic spinner who has never ridden a bike. Well, apart from that time when I hired one to try to learn how to ride, realised too late the thing had no brakes and nearly ran down someone’s dog, but I digress…

My background means that I have learnt everything I know about spinning or cycling from spinning classes or workout DVDs. Robert Sherman’s “The Pillars of Power” is a fantastic resource for someone like me — or anyone who wants to take their spinning/cycling to the next level.

In the warm-up he explains correct body alignment and muscle recruitment for spinning. This made me realise that much of the stuff my old spinning instructor told the class was bunkum, but I digress again…

Throughout the DVD, Robert asks you to gauge your exertion, not by using a heart-rate monitor or cadence meter, but by your rate of perceived exertion and sense of muscle recruitment. He gives constant detailed instructions and encouragement and talks you through the physiological responses you will experience. He knows exactly when you feel short of breath, or when your mind starts to wander.

“The Pillars of Power” is produced by Mindy Mylrea and shot on a simple set. Robert is alone on a Schwinn spinning bike on a small platform. The 51-minute DVD is structured around four “pillars”. Each pillar has its own chapter, which you can access from the main menu.

The first chapter, “Endurance” focuses on aerobic base building. Robert takes you through several increasingly long intervals in which you are challenged to spin at a fast cadence and at a fairly high resistance.

The second chapter, “Leg Speed” uses speed play drills focusing on increasing speed against a constant resistance. In this chapter, Robert asks you to focus on your non-dominant leg to increase cadence.

The third and fourth chapters, “Strength” and “Power Output” focus on standing and seated climbs. The DVD finishes with a cool-down and some quick stretches on and off the bike.

As an experiment, I completed a four-week “Pillars of Power Challenge”, doing “The Pillars of Power” one morning a week, one of my virtual cycling DVDs from the “Rides” or “Global Ride” series the following morning, and tracking my progress. This has paid off with amazing benefits for my cardiovascular fitness, spinning ability and understanding of cycling.

“The Pillars of Power” has dramatically improved my ability to pedal at both a fast speed and a high resistance. Before using the DVD, I was used to seeing my heart-rate plummet after an intense interval, so I would cheat by standing up in the pedals to raise my heart-rate. This is a hangover from spinning classes which use standing climbs far more than a “real” cyclist (or, for that matter, a virtual cycling DVD) ever would. I can now maintain my heart-rate far better throughout a spinning session, and better understand the coaching on virtual cycling DVDs. Another benefit has been my ability to perform an extended standing climb at a far higher resistance level than I could before.

Now on to the numbers. According to my heart-rate monitor, my calorie burn has increased by as much as 18.5 per cent, and my average heart-rate by as much as 9.8 per cent, in one session. That’s a pretty impressive result after only eight spinning workouts in a one-month period. Even better, I feel confident that I will be able to further increase my fitness over time.

“The Pillars of Power” certainly isn’t a “fun” workout. Rather, it’s hard work, requires a lot of concentration, and seemed to get more difficult every time I did it. But I would enthusiastically recommend it for anyone who wants to take a structured approach to improving their spinning or cycling. It will help you to pinpoint your weaknesses and take you beyond what you could achieve just by getting on your bike and “doing your best”.

Instructor Comments:
Robert Sherman is extremely well-qualified and very motivating. In short, he’s like the best spinning instructor you never had!