Steering Does Affect Biophysical Responses in Asynchronous, but Not Synchronous Submaximal Handcycle Ergometry in Able-Bodied Men

Cassandra Kraaijenbrink*, Riemer Vegter, Nils Ostertag, Luc Janssens, Yves Vanlandewijck, L. H. V. van der Woude, Heiko Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

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Real-life daily handcycling requires combined propulsion and steering to control the front wheel. Today, the handcycle cranks are mostly mounted synchronously unlike the early handcycle generations. Alternatively, arm cycle ergometers do not require steering and the cranks are mostly positioned asynchronously. The current study aims to evaluate the effects of combining propulsion and steering requirements on synchronous and asynchronous submaximal handcycle ergometry. We hypothesize that asynchronous handcycling with steering results in the mechanically least efficient condition, due to compensation for unwanted rotations that are not seen in synchronous handcycling, regardless of steering. Sixteen able-bodied male novices volunteered in this lab-based experiment. The set-up consisted of a handcycle ergometer with 3D force sensors at each crank that also allows “natural” steering. Four submaximal steady-state (60 rpm, ~35 W) exercise conditions were presented in a counterbalanced order: synchronous with a fixed steering axis, synchronous with steering, asynchronous with a fixed axis and asynchronous with steering. All participants practiced 3 × 4 mins with 30 mins rest in between every condition. Finally, they did handcycle for 4 mins in each of the four conditions, interspaced with 10 mins rest, while metabolic outcomes, kinetics and kinematics of the ergometer were recorded. The additional steering component did not influence velocity, torque and power production during synchronous handcycling and therefore resulted in an equal metabolically efficient handcycling configuration compared to the fixed condition. Contrarily, asynchronous handcycling with steering requirements showed a reduced mechanical efficiency, as velocity around the steering axis increased and torque and power production were less effective. Based on the torque production around the crank and steering axes, neuromuscular compensation strategies seem necessary to prevent steering movements in the asynchronous mode. To practice or test real-life daily synchronous handcycling, a synchronous crank set-up of the ergometer is advised, as exercise performance in terms of mechanical efficiency, metabolic strain, and torque production is independent of steering requirements in that mode. Asynchronous handcycling or arm ergometry demands a different handcycle technique in terms of torque production and results in higher metabolic responses than synchronous handcycling, making it unsuitable for testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
Publication statusPublished - 25-Oct-2021

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