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How Do I Choose the Best Arm Ergometer?

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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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An arm ergometer, or upper-body ergometer, is a piece of exercise equipment that resembles a stationary bicycle for the arms. Designed primarily for cardiovascular fitness, it elevates the heart rate and increases the body's metabolism capacity by developing endurance. These devices are often employed by individuals requiring low-impact exercises, or those with limited ranges of motion or mobility. They range widely in size and features, offer manual or varying degrees of electronic feedback, and may come as tabletop, wall-mounted, freestanding, or full-sized units complete with their own integrated seats.

Different grades of arm ergometer equipment will provide users with a suitable range of customizable resistances, which might be mechanically or electronically reproduced. Typically found in medical and physical therapy settings, this equipment also offers use in fitness centers and residences: for example, for wheelchair-bound users. Most of these devices place handles in front of the user, and these are attached to a gear system similar to a bicycle's.

The user then operates the device with a pedaling motion in order to exercise aerobically, as opposed to overcoming weighted loads of strength resistance training. This device uses dynamic force to develop shoulder and elbow extensions and flexions. It also develops scapula and clavicle protraction and retraction movements.

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Some products can be used by the legs as well. They may offer adjustments for seated or standing operation. Additionally some may provide for wheelchair access. Different products offer degrees of adjustment, portability, and usability.

With such a variety in available arm ergometer equipment, prices can range from inexpensive for basic no-frills models to very expensive for high-grade medical equipment. Your first consideration should be whether you need this equipment for personal use or whether you intend to use it in a professional setting that requires careful client therapeutic evaluations and program development. Ease of transport and mobility of the unit may factor your choice, if it's to remain in one area or if you need to move it around. Freestanding equipment is sometimes mounted on a frame with casters in order to wheel it into position, offering a solid compromise between smaller tabletop devices and large, seated, stationary devices.

Differences in arm ergometer designs include adjustability of the stand, which must adapt to a user's range of motion capabilities. Devices may offer self-regulated braking systems to assist in therapeutic activities, minimizing potentially damaging loads on limbs with limited mobility or injury. Electronic displays might feature a running readout of a user's heart rate or calories expended, allowing inputs of user-specific data such as age and weight for other fitness calculations. Some users prefer to calculate these values on their own and not rely upon the cold statistics of a machine. Others might benefit from the convenience of this information at a glance.

Employing an arm ergometer in a fitness regimen or therapeutic program can offer a useful alternative for upper-body cardiovascular workouts. These devices can help people with limited ranges and also contribute to the overall health of people without physical disabilities. Whether you choose a small portable arm ergometer, a tabletop or freestanding unit, or stationary floor equipment, these devices all typically can permit the resistance variations and endurance durations necessary for achieving the right training effect.

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