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Fitness Articles  ›  Fitness Equipment How To's

How to Use the Arm Ergometer

A Great Option for Individuals with Limited Mobility

-- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor
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Upper body (arm) ergometers aren't a gym staple, but they're becoming more readily available in physical therapy offices, hospitals, universities and modern gyms. Targeted to meet the fitness needs of individuals who cannot use their legs for physical activity, these machines offer a great cardio workout that uses the upper body instead. Most offer direct wheelchair access, while some ergometers are simple, lightweight designs that rest on a table top alone.

Who can use an arm ergometer?
  • Individuals with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or lower body disability
  • Individuals who need a low-impact exercise program
  • Individuals who are recovering from foot or leg injury/surgery and have clearance to continue working out
  • Anyone who wants to vary their cardio workout program
How does it work?
Arm ergometers work like a bicycle for your arms. You sit on a comfortable seat with a supportive back and grasp handles in front of you, "pedaling" with your arms in a circular motion. Some models offer dual passive movement for the legs, which is controlled by your arms. Using the upper body for cardio is an effective method for elevating your heart rate to an aerobic level.

The Set-Up
If you find an ergometer at a location near you, an expert there can help you adjust the machine to fit your body and show you how it works. Arm ergometers vary widely in design and features. Some are small machines that sit on a table top, others involve standing or sitting in a wheelchair, and some are large machines that can be operated while sitting or standing.

ProMedProducts.com, for example, sells small arm ergometers that are suitable for personal use at home, and large, commercial-grade ergometers that are similar to those found in gyms.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • The ergometer can be added to the fitness tracker manually. Go to "fitness tracker" and underneath the "Search" button is a link for adding your own exercises. Click it and enter the min on the ergometer. Then enter the calories burned which are approx 3-4 calories per min. Use 3 if yours was a casual effort and / or if you are a smaller person and estimate 4 if you went all out and / or are a larger person. Hope this helps. - 2/4/2014 11:31:36 AM
  • FLEURDELIS49
    I really wish that an ergometer was in your fitness tracker..... - 10/7/2013 8:10:45 PM
  • Like the article. But what does it look like. - 9/22/2013 9:15:31 PM
  • it might not be a bad idea to have the ergo meter or arm cycle in the area to log your fitness. seems really stupid to me to have articles etc and then no way to track it. NOT HELPFUL - 9/4/2013 1:13:17 PM
  • Gianna345 go to search under fitness. It's there you must put in the time spent, so SP will be able to estimate calories burned. Good Luck. - 4/27/2013 2:25:10 PM
  • I purchased a STRIDE at Walmart It's like $20. You can use it for your arm on the table or on the floor and pedal. You can also add as much tension as you wish. - 4/27/2013 2:21:53 PM
  • I have a similar comment to the one below... I cannot add this exercise because it's not in either the aerobics section nor the weight training section. Bummer.

    Well, I'll post it on the message boards as a suggestion. - 3/7/2011 8:48:37 PM
  • The links may not entirely work, but I was able to search for the ergometer on the company's website once there. HOLY COW! Even the table-top ones are expensive! - 1/25/2011 8:42:04 AM
  • I could not get the links to work, either. :o( - 10/11/2010 9:49:15 AM
  • SUZPEL
    could not get to the links - 10/18/2009 9:49:59 AM
  • The links in this article don't work. - 9/9/2009 9:23:15 AM
  • Where is the picture of this machine? - 8/2/2009 5:19:33 PM
  • I have a c5-6 spinal cord injury and have a Colorado Sport Cycle made by http://www.randsc
    ot.com. It is a little pricey, but the overall benefit is well worth it. With out it I would get in very little cardio. - 5/19/2009 8:40:02 AM
  • The question for me is, how would you include the ergometer in your fitness log? It doesn't seem to be one of the options. - 5/5/2009 4:53:18 PM
  • MYRENAISSANCE
    The gym I just joined has one, and at first I never thought I would use it. I used it today and I really liked it. I don't have any physical limitations other than being in really bad shape. Today, I was able to get in 60 minutes of cardio. I used the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike for about 15 minutes each. Between these activities, I would use the arm ergometer to keep my heartrate up and let my fat little legs rest. It really worked out well for me! - 3/19/2008 7:41:37 PM
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