Arm ergometers are machines that consist of two handles, and sometimes a seat. Ergometry is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that works both flexors and extensors in the shoulders, scapula and elbows. While the range of different exercises you can perform on an arm ergometer is somewhat limited, regular use has a number of proven medical benefits.
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Standard Arm Ergometry
Standard arm ergometry is performed by cranking the ergometer handles in full circles using the hands, the same way you would turn the pedals on a bike with your feet. In this case, the handles should be cranked clockwise, which is forward and away from you. The speed and resistance of the ergometer can be set to increase the difficulty. A variation of this exercise can also be performed with one arm instead of two.
Reverse Arm Ergometry
Reverse arm ergometry can be performed on certain machines that allow you to operate them from either side. Position yourself on the back side of the machine and crank the handles in counter-clockwise circles, which is toward yourself. Reverse arm ergometry is also a cardiovascular exercise, so it's performed continually for long periods of time. The speed and resistance of the ergometer can be set to increase the difficulty. A variation of this exercise can also be performed with one arm instead of two.
Value of Arm Ergometry
In addition to cardiovascular benefits, arm ergometry training conducted at least 2 times a week results in improved upper body strength, power output and psychological contentment, according to an article entitled "Long-Term Exercise Training in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury: Effects on Strength, Arm Ergometry Performance and Psychological Well-Being," published in Spinal Cord in 2003. For wheelchair-bound patients, arm ergometry can increase physical work capacity more so than a wheelchair ergometer. The cardio, strength and power output benefits of the arm ergometer make it a valuable workout tool, especially for people who have limited use of their lower bodies.