BECAUSE THERE IS USUALLY ONLY ONE UPPER BODY ERGOMETER (UBE) MACHINE IN A GYM IT MIGHT GO UNNOTICED, In my gym it is sandwiched between a row of ellipticals and the couple of studio spinner cycles that are kept on the floor for use outside classes. It has a rounded somewhat old-fashioned appearance, with green-light numbers displaying details of time and effort that seem to be from decades past.
In my experience, most times it sits there unused. Occasionally someone with a leg or foot splint will be seated at it. The only equipment brand I have seen in place is TechnoGym although apparently there are others.
In spite of the UBE’s tendency to be ignored in fitness centers, I love using one. There have been several time periods when I’ve suffered with lower body problems, affecting knees most commonly, and wanted a good aerobic workout that rested my legs. Swimming has been my top, go-to cardio-respiratory exercise when in rehab or recovery mode. Rowing takes second place.
But for a change-up any time regardless of injury status, when I want to spend an extra 15-20 minutes on moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity before heading home, arm cycling on the UBE is most appealing.
During my first session on an arm bike, a very fit woman on the UBE next to me (there were 2 machines in my gym at that time 16 years ago) had kindly given me encouragement and her tip for mixing up the movements. She suggested alternating pedaling action every few minutes by gripping the hand bar device in different positions: 1) horizontal bar with palms facing down, pushing in a forward move 2) vertical bar with palms facing inward, pushing forward, and then 3) horizontal bar with palms facing up in a push-forward-then-pull backward move. This last positions always been hardest for me, possibly because it requires decent bicep strength, which I must constantly work to maintain
The upper body muscles worked by this equipment are the biceps, triceps, and deltoids.
With repeated use, I came to realize the stabilizing abdominal and back muscles of my core were being worked hard too. This bonus workout was achieved by maintaining a straight upright body posture while using only arms and shoulders to power the pedaling movement, not allowing the small of my back to arch or my trunk to significantly twist.
An article by Andrea Bolt for livestrong.com describes the benefits to be gained from using an arm bike, from getting leg-resting cardio and burning calories to working on upper body strength without lifting weights (the resistance can be adjusted on the machine just like a regular bike to increase or decrease difficulty). A YouTube video by Kusha Karvandi demonstrates and instructs how intervals and endurance workouts can be accomplished on a UBE.
The biggest caution I have with the TechnoGym model used in the video and placed in my gym is that to change the machines resistance/difficulty level requires taking hands off the pedals and reaching up and forward to push the control button, which disrupts the flow of the movement. During short intervals this disruption is quite annoying, but in longer endurance sessions it’s not so much. My intervals work-around is to set the resistance significantly higher after the warm-up period and then adjust pedaling speed, faster and slower, to increase and decrease the intensity level, respectively.
Consider trying this equipment if you tend to avoid upper body strength work and enjoy endurance and interval training. Start with a 5-minute warm-up going through different bar/hand positions. Increase the resistance level for 1-2 minutes at each position, gradually working up to build strength; or vary pedaling speed to adjust intensity, like you would during a traditional bike workout. Finish with a cool-down of 1-5 minutes. After that you may wish to create a custom routine according to your fitness goals (endurance, interval training, or strength).
Boldt reports exercise scientists demonstrated that a UBE can be used to assess physical fitness in rock climbers , which to me indicates it can provide a challenging exercise session. Don’t be put off by the fact that few others in the gym use the arm bike; you won’t need to wait your turn to get started.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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