Upper Body Ergometry for Aerobic Training

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Upper Body Ergometry for Aerobic Training
by Kristoph Thompson

The best form of exercise for improving fitness and weight loss is aerobic exercise. The goal of this particular kind of exercise is to elevate the heart rate for an extended period. If you go to a gym you will find many machines for this purpose including treadmills, stationary bikes and cross trainers but all of these machines require lower body involvement. For many people, however, exercise involving the lower extremities is problematic due to injury or disability and there is often no alternative.

The solution for those who want to increase their fitness or lose weight, but cannot exercise using the lower body, is upper body ergometry. Upper body ergometry involves sitting upright in a seat and "pedaling" with the arms. Upper body ergometry works nearly every upper body muscle group with particular emphasis on the arms and shoulders. An upper body ergometer (UBE) is not usually part of the range of fitness equipment found in standard gyms, but there are a number of specialist gyms that do offer one. The Inclusive Fitness Initiative, part of Sport England, has a list of approved centres on their website, www.inclusivefitness.org.

The proper body position for the UBE is to first set the seat height so that your shoulders are at the same level as the point of rotation of the crank. Secondly, the seat should be positioned so that when your arms are furthest from your body, they are not quite fully extended and there is still a 5–10 degree bend in your elbow. The most comfortable hand position is typically with palms facing each other.

Initially, intensity and duration should be kept fairly low. Try starting with 10 minutes if you have never used this particular machine before. Most will find even this is quite difficult. The muscles of the upper body are smaller and weaker than their lower body counterparts, and they are not accustomed to working in this manner, making even 10 minutes seem quite challenging. Don’t be discouraged, you will improve with time just as you would with any other form of aerobic training.

Those wishing to train at a higher intensity using heart rate training zones, might initially find they will not be able to get their heart rate into the normal target range. The main limitation will be muscular fatigue, but this will improve with time and heart rate values should really increase.

Once you have built up a base level of fitness you will then be able to employ the same training methods as you could with any other aerobic machine. You can work on short term endurance using sprints, try using interval training to break through plateaus, or Fartlek training to add variety to your workouts.

If you are interested in purchasing an UBE for use at home, they are available from EXF fitness, www.exf-fitness.com, or Technogym, www.technogym.co.uk.

Copyright 2005 Kristoph Thompson. Kristoph graduated with a Masters Degree in Human Performance from the University of Houston, Texas in 1999 and is certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He spent two years in America training professional athletes, including the Houston Rockets Basketball Team and Houston Astros Baseball Team.
Kristoph now runs a successful personal training business in the UK, working with a variety of groups and individuals from professional footballers to those with disabilities, and most recently, Britain’s Strongest Man.
Visit his web site for more articles and information.


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