Eken, MM, Withers, A, Flanagan, K, Burger, J, Bosch, A, and Lamberts, RP. Muscular activation patterns during exercise on the treadmill, stepper, and elliptical trainer. J Strength Cond Res 36(7): 1847-1852, 2022-Because of the low-impact, the stepper and elliptical trainer are popular alternatives to running when runners sustain running-related injuries. Muscular effort is expected to be lower during exercise on the stepper and elliptical trainer compared with running. The aim of this study was to quantify this by comparing muscular effort when exercising at similar moderate-to-high exercise intensities on a treadmill, stepper, and elliptical trainer. Seventeen well-trained runners (V̇o2max: 53.3 ml·min-1·kg-1 [male: n = 9], 44.8 ml·min-1·kg-1 [female: n = 8]; average peak treadmill running speed: 18.7 km·h-1 [male], 16.3 km·h-1 [female]) performed exercise at submaximal levels (60%-70%-80% of peak workload) on the treadmill, stepper, and elliptical trainer. Peak workload was determined during peak exercise tests on separate days. Surface electromyography was recorded from lower extremity muscles. Root-mean-squared (RMS) values were calculated and compared between exercise modalities and submaximal levels. Significance was set at p < 0.05. Root-mean-squared levels of lower extremity muscles were significantly reduced during exercise on the stepper and elliptical trainer compared with treadmill running (p < 0.05, except for quadriceps (p > 0.05). Overall, similar RMS levels were found on stepper and elliptical trainer (p > 0.05), whereas in several cases higher RMS levels were found on the stepper compared with elliptical trainer (p < 0.05). These findings support clinical expectations that exercise on the stepper and elliptical trainer reduces muscular effort up to 60% compared with (treadmill) running, and therefore can be effective training modalities during rehabilitation from running-related injuries by restricting impact on lower extremities.
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