Look twice next time you pass the row of ellipticals at your local gym. You may have been missing a key piece of cardio equipment that looks suspiciously like an elliptical, but works your body in a slightly different way. The Arc Trainer suspends your legs on pedals that never scrape against a bottom platform, so you're essentially running in mid-air. Working out on the Arc Trainer improves your stamina as well as enhances your power for sprinting, running and jumping, without the accompanying stress on your joints. While pedaling along at a steady state is one way to use the machine, mix up your workouts to get the most out of the Arc Trainer.
The Arc Trainer features two power modes: constant power and adaptive power. In constant power, you set a power -- in watts -- at the beginning of your workout. The machine then automatically adjusts the resistance to keep your power consistent throughout a specific interval or an entire workout. Unlike other machines in which you simply pedal as fast as possible, and inevitably slow down as you fatigue, the Arc Trainer's constant power mode works with you to maintain a steady power output so you don't experience the natural drop in power as you tire. Use this mode for a workout in which you want to keep a consistent, fast pace during a workout -- you'll be encouraged to do so because if you slow down, the Arc Trainer's resistance increases so your power doesn't slip.
Use the Resistance
The Arc Trainer also offers a power mode called adaptive power. In this mode, you choose a level from 1 to 20 -- a higher resistance makes it harder to pedal resulting in a more intense workout. Don't slow down when you increase your resistance: Keep your stride speed at a constant pace so that as you raise the resistance, you are producing more power with each stride. The level of resistance you can sustain depends on your fitness level, but for most people resistance points 1 through 5 are manageable and appropriate for a warmup or a moderate-intensity, steady-paced routine. Use levels 5 through 10 for short intervals in which you want to work as hard as possible. At resistance levels 11 through 20, the resistance is challenging. These levels are most appropriate for extremely short intervals lasting six to 15 seconds. Such short intervals may be combined in a power training workout with moves, such as Olympic lifts and box jumps.
Apply to Interval Training
Interval training is a method of training that alternates high-intensity bouts with short periods of rest. You can apply this method to any cardio equipment, including the Arc Trainer. Both power modes can be used for interval training. A study published in the "Journal of Physiology" published in January 2008 determined that interval training three times a week with four to six repeats of 30-second all-out sprints alternated with 4 1/2 minutes of easier work was as effective as five days per week of training 40 to 60 minutes at a moderate intensity.
Mix It Up
You don't have to stick to just 30-second intervals -- any combination of 6- to 120-second hard bouts alternated with rest is effective. For example, Coach Giovanni Roselli of the fitness center Equinox recommends you do a two-minute, moderate intensity bout at a resistance of 6 and incline of 15 followed by one minute at a resistance of 8 and incline of 15. Reduce your resistance back to 60 for one minute and increase the incline to 20. Then, do a minute at a resistance of 9 with an incline of 10. Begin with a 2 1/2-minute warmup and repeat the sequence four times for a complete workout session.