Pop quiz: Arc Trainer arm position

The Question:

Can exercisers lose even more weight on the Arc Trainer simply by changing their arm position?

Do you know the answer?

The short answer is "yes" but the long answer is not what you might think.  See if you can figure this one out (no peaking).

Which position burned more calories on the Arc Trainer?

  • Standing upright, unsupported
  • Using the mobile arms
  • Leaning forward, anchoring your upper body
  • Eating a jelly donut

We’re just kidding about the donut, but we did run scientific tests on the other three options, and the results may surprise you.

We collaborated with researchers at UMASS Lowell, and the complete study has been published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online (Volume 15, Issue 5). See full study.

So what’s your guess? How would you advise your members who want to maximize weight loss? Before you read the research results, jot down your prediction of the order of calorie expenditure from most to least. Check out these images of the 3 options (but no looking ahead at the results).

Arc Trainer positions

The images above show a person in the three conditions tested: (1) Upright and unsupported (left); (2) Using the mobile arms (center); and (3) Leaning forward and anchoring the upper body (right).

As you know, non-impact cardiovascular cross trainers, such as the Cybex Arc Trainer, are popular with people looking to lose weight and increase endurance. Many of these devices display a ‘calorie burned’ number to inform users about the intensity of their workout. It’s important to note that this number is an estimate based on the machine’s settings (resistance, incline, speed), and does not take into account how the user interacts with the device. But the findings of this study prove that there’s a significant difference in caloric expenditure based on how individuals interact with the Arc Trainer.

Now let’s see how good your gut was…

The Answer

This study discovered that the greatest heart rate and calorie burn resulted from the leaning-forward posture.

The runner-up was using the mobile arms, and third place went to the upright, unsupported option.

In fact, compared to the upright posture, leaning forward increased calorie burn by 7.7% while using the handles upped it by 6.0%. Surprised? Let us know if you guessed correctly, and why you think these user interactions result in more or less relative energy expenditure.