Kinematics and kinetics of handcycling propulsion at increasing workloads in able-bodied subjects

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In Paralympic sports, biomechanical optimisation of movements and equipment seems to be promising for improving
performance. In handcycling, information about the biomechanics of this sport is mainly provided by case studies. The aim
of the current study was (1) to examine changes in handcycling propulsion kinematics and kinetics due to increasing
workloads and (2) identify parameters that are associated with peak aerobic performance. Twelve non-disabled male
competitive triathletes without handcycling experience voluntarily participated in the study. They performed an initial
familiarisation protocol and incremental step test until exhaustion in a recumbent racing handcycle that was attached to an
ergometer. During the incremental test, tangential crank kinetics, 3D joint kinematics, blood lactate and ratings of
perceived exertion (local and global) were identified. As a performance criterion, the maximal power output during the step
test (Pmax) was calculated and correlated with biomechanical parameters. For higher workloads, an increase in crank torque
was observed that was even more pronounced in the pull phase than in the push phase. Furthermore, participants showed an
increase in shoulder internal rotation and abduction and a decrease in elbow flexion and retroversion. These changes were
negatively correlated with performance. At high workloads, it seems that power output is more limited by the transition
from pull to push phase than at low workloads. It is suggested that successful athletes demonstrate small alterations of their
kinematic profile due to increasing workloads. Future studies should replicate and expand the test spectrum (sprint and
continuous loads) as well as use methods like surface electromyography (sEMG) with elite handcyclists.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSports Engineering
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 07.04.2018