What is a Cycle Ergometer Test?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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A cycle ergometer test is one of the most commonly used methods of determining leg muscle endurance and heart and lung health. This test was designed for physically fit athletes and soldiers and should not be done by just anyone without a medical evaluation. The test involves cycling at a constant speed on a stationary bike while incremental resistance is added. During the test, the heart rate is monitored and should remain within a target zone, determined by age and gender.

The cycle ergometer test is commonly used in training regiments for endurance athletes, such as players of football and rugby. It is a great test for this function, as it can record improvements in endurance, which can be used to adjust the athlete's training routine. It is a very intensive test and should not be performed by just anyone, as it puts a lot of strain on the heart and can lead to a heart attack.


The United States Army and Air Force have used the cycle ergometer test for many years as a way to test soldiers' physical readiness for combat. It is said to be one of the most difficult tests for soldiers to pass, causing some controversy and rumors about different ways to cheat the test. There isn't any effective way to cheat this test, however. The performance of the heart, lungs, and leg muscles simply does not lie. In recent years, the Air Force has replaced this test with an endurance run.

The cycle ergometer test uses stationary bicycles, on which a person will exercise for a specific amount of time while being monitored. After the first two minutes of the test, the cyclist's heart rate should reach a target heart rate, at which point it should remain through the remainder of the test. The heart rate is determined by the person's age and gender. The resistance administered will be adjusted for people whose heart rate is not in the target zone after two minutes.

Most of the stationary bikes used during a cycle ergometer test utilize a friction system. Resistance is increased by applying weight or tightening a belt against the flywheel of the bike. The test begins with no resistance, and as time passes, increased increments of resistance are applied. The pedaling rate should remain constant throughout the test, at about 50 to 60 revolutions per minute.

Posture is important for accurate testing of endurance, as well as heart and lung health. The seat height should be adjusted for each individual performing the test. The proper seat height is determined by where the feet can reach the pedals of the stationery bike easily. The person taking the cycle ergometer test should be able to reach his or her hands to the bicycle's handlebars while sitting in a mostly upright position. A smaller bike may be needed for people whose arms do not reach the handlebars easily.


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