Ever wondered which position on the elliptical burns more calories? And just how much extra energy you burn by moving those handles? Well, the good folks at Cybex International conducted a study that was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology about its Cybex Arc Trainer (love that piece of equipment — it’s kind of like an elliptical but so much more!) to measure calorie burn in three different positions — all while keeping the same speed, incline and resistance settings.
These positions were:
- Upright while unsupported
- Upright while supported (using the machine’s handles)
- Leaning forward with the upper body anchored
Turns out, those in the second position, upright while using the machine’s handles, burned more calories than the first position, which was upright while unsupported. However, those in the third position, leaning forward with the upper body anchored, actually burned the most — burning 7.7 percent more calories than the upright position.
Interesting, right? To get even more of the calorie-burning scoop and to see how this research might apply to workouts on pieces of fit equipment other than the Arc Trainer, we chatted with Paul Juris, executive director of the Cybex Research Institute.
Q&A With Paul Juris of the Cybex Research Institute
What’s the major finding of this study, and what does it mean to the everyday exerciser? Our study found that we can significantly alter the number of calories burned during exercise on the Arc Trainer by changing the exerciser’s posture while on the device. Perhaps the most interesting part of all was that we found changes in calorie burn without changing any of the machine’s settings (resistance, incline and speed). More specifically, one experiences almost 8 percent greater calorie burn during exercise by either using the moving handles or by leaning forward and anchoring the upper body.
It is important for the everyday exerciser to know that the “calories burned” number on all cardiovascular devices is simply an estimate, since there are so many factors that the machine can’t possibly know about the user. Our research demonstrates that how someone uses the device is one of those factors.
Can you give any tips on the best posture to use on the Arc Trainer? We tend to shy away from terms like “best” when referring to any workout, Arc Trainer included. The best workout will be any that helps the user meet their health and wellness goals. That said, we demonstrated that you can experience a nearly 8 percent increase in calorie burn when leaning forward and anchoring the upper body when using the Arc’s moving handles. If weight loss, and by extension, calorie burn, is desirable, our research suggests that you can accomplish this without having to make increases to the machine’s intensity.
How might this research apply to other pieces of cardio equipment like the elliptical, the stair climber and the treadmill? Can you share any tips on the best postures for those machines — both to work the most muscles and burn the most calories? Our research, along with other related studies, suggest that your body orientation and posture during all forms of cardiovascular exercises can have a significant effect on what your body will experience during the exercise.
Simply put, working for a longer period of time or just working at higher power levels, will result in a greater calorie burn. By leaning forward and anchoring the upper body on the Arc, you are in a more advantageous position to generate power. So not only will you burn more calories in this position, according to our research, but you are also in a posture where you can potentially exercise at a higher intensity. Past research has shown that working at higher intensities on the Arc can result in significant increases in leg strength and power.
Anything else you’d like to add or would like our readers to know? Past research demonstrates that using the handles on the elliptical results in only a modest increase in calorie burn (2.6 percent). Our research demonstrated a much greater increase (6 percent) when using the “same side forward” handles on the Arc Trainer. This demonstrates added value to the unique handle motion on the Arc (elliptical handles move in the opposite direction of the legs, on the Arc, they move in the same direction of the legs).
It is also important to note that, for safety concerns, leaning forward should be performed only where the machine has specific handles intended for that purpose. Leaning forward and hanging on to say, the television on the console, is not recommended.
Will this change your posture or hand position when you work out? We’re not about counting calories burned, but we’re all about doing more in less time! —Jenn