Cycling studio Crank NYC puts own spin on arm exercises with towel workout

This studio wants you to throw in the towel.Crank NYC is rolling out arm exercises at its two spin studios, …

This studio wants you to throw in the towel.

Crank NYC is rolling out arm exercises at its two spin studios, in Long Island City and Upper East Side, that use a hand towel.

Dubbed “Towel-O-Graphy,” the movements, which target your triceps and biceps and engage your core and obliques, are deceptively hard.

“You never knew a towel could hurt so much,” said founder Anthony Maniscalco.

He developed the exercises with Crank NYC lead instructor Amanda Margusity. The studio already uses hand weights, ranging from 2 to 5 pounds, in two of its classes — Power and the dance-inspired Exhilarate. It was also using a Body Bar — a weighted bar that’s shoulder-width in length — but the instructors found it awkward to work with.

“All our clients loved it — it was perfect for a good burn on the upper body — but we had issues finding out where to put the Body Bar on the bike. They would fall off and roll away in the studio, or fall between the flywheel,” Margusity said. “It just wasn’t safe, and it wasn’t working in a convenient way for everyone.”

The studio stuck with hand weights, but found that clients wanted the Body Bars back. After playing with resistance bands and finding issues with those too (“I got slapped in the face,” Margusity said), the studio discovered towel exercises online.

“We were like, ‘Oh my God, we could totally do this,’ ” said Margusity, who developed movements with Maniscalco using a hand towel that provide a solid burn — and also solve the logistical problems.

“It’s easy to put on the bike — all you have to do is fold it up super nicely,” Margusity said. “Sometimes the weights will fall off the bike and they make a huge loud noise — if the towel falls off, it’s not super disruptive for the class. It’s also safe if a client steps on it.”

The main purpose of the towel is to create resistance while you do movements like pulses up and down or side to side with your arms extended.

“It’s a take on plyometric work, using different angles — that’s why it’s so effective,” Maniscalco said. “You’re isolating the triceps, you’re isolating the shoulders, your biceps. It’s a complete workout, with simply using a towel.”

It’s similar to using hand weights, but those aren’t as concentrated on the muscle and there’s more room for error, Maniscalco said. “Since the towel is the same length, you’re always in the same position.”

Wrapping the towel around your hands can add more tension, like a resistance band.

“The moment you’re wrapped around that towel super tight, you’re restricted, you can’t move,” Maniscalco said. “You have to keep all of those muscles nice and tight. Everything is being activated even stronger.”

Margusity has been incorporating the towel exercises in her Exhilarate classes for the past year, for one song during the 45-minute ride, and the studio plans to train all instructors in them this summer to roll them out to more classes in the fall.

“It was only something fun and different here and there, but after the response that we received, we want to make it our thing,” Margusity said.

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