OBJECTIVE: The objective of the current study was to investigate the effect of four different crank fore-aft positions on elbow flexion and shoulder protraction, the consequent propulsion kinetics and the physiological responses during handcycling.
METHODS: Twelve able-bodied male participants volunteered in this study. Crank fore-aft positions were standardised at 94%, 97%, 100% and 103% of the participants' arm length. Two submaximal 3 min trials were performed at a fixed cadence (70 rpm), in a recumbent handcyle attached to an ergometer at two fixed power outputs (30W and 60W). Elbow flexion, shoulder protraction, propulsion kinetics and physiological responses of the participants were continuously measured.
RESULTS: As crank fore-aft distance increased, a decrease in elbow flexion (42±4, 37±3, 33±3, 29±3°) and an increase shoulder protraction was observed (29±5, 31±5, 34±5, 36±5°). The percentage of work done in the pull phase increased as well (62±7, 65±7, 67±6, 69±8%, at 60W), which was in line with an increased peak torque during the pull phase (8.8±1.6, 9.0±1.4, 9.4±1.5, 9.7±1.4Nm, at 60W) and reduced peak torque during the push phase (6.0±0.9, 5.6±0.9,5.6±0.9, 5.4±1.0Nm, in 60W condition). Despite these changes in work distribution, there were no significant changes in gross mechanical efficiency (15.7±0.8, 16.2±1.1, 15.8±0.9, 15.6±1.0%, at 60W). The same patterns were observed in the 30W condition.
CONCLUSIONS: From a biomechanical perspective the crank position closest to the trunk (94%) seems to be advantageous, because it evens the load over the push and pull phase, which reduces speed fluctuations, without causing an increase in whole body energy expenditure and hence a decrease of gross mechanical efficiency. These findings may help handcyclists to optimize their recumbent handcycle configuration.