Crank fore-aft position alters the distribution of work over the push and pull phase during synchronous recumbent handcycling of able-bodied participants

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. 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. As crank fore-aft distance increased, a decrease in elbow flexion (42±4, 37±3, 33±3, 29±3º) and an increase shoulder protraction was observed (29±5, 31±5, 34±5, 36±5º). 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. 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.

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