Comparative analysis of speed's impact on muscle demands during partial body weight support motor-assisted elliptical training

Gait Posture. 2014;39(1):314-20. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.07.120. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


Individuals with walking limitations often experience challenges engaging in functionally relevant exercise. An adapted elliptical trainer (motor to assist pedal movement, integrated body weight harness, ramps/stairs, and grab rails) has been developed to help individuals with physical disabilities and chronic conditions regain/retain walking capacity and fitness. However, limited published studies are available to guide therapeutic interventions. This repeated measures study examined the influence of motor-assisted elliptical training speed on lower extremity muscle demands at four body weight support (BWS) levels commonly used therapeutically for walking. Electromyography (EMG) and pedal trajectory data were recorded as ten individuals without known disability used the motor-assisted elliptical trainer at three speeds [20,40, 60 revolutions per minute (RPM)] during each BWS level (0%, 20%, 40%, 60%). Overall, the EMG activity (peak, mean, duration) in key stabilizer muscles (i.e., gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, medial gastrocnemius and soleus) recorded at 60 RPM exceeded those at 40 RPM, which were higher than values at 20 RPM in all but three situations (gluteus medius mean at 0% BWS, vastus lateralis mean at 20% BWS, soleus duration at 40% BWS); however, these differences did not always achieve statistical significance. Slower motor-assisted speeds can be used to accommodate weakness of gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, medial gastrocnemius and soleus. As strength improves, training at faster motor-assisted speeds may provide a means to progressively challenge key lower extremity stabilizers.

Keywords: Electromyography; Elliptical training; Partial body weight support; Rehabilitation; Speed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Young Adult