Movement direction impacts knee joint kinematics during elliptical exercise at varying incline angles

Knee. 2021 Mar:29:201-207. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2021.02.008. Epub 2021 Feb 25.


Background: Elliptical trainers are a popular cardiovascular exercise for individuals with injuries or those post-operation. There is currently limited data on the impacts of direction while on elliptical trainers for knee joint kinematic risk factors. This study compared lower extremity kinematics between the forward and reverse direction at varying inclines on an elliptical trainer modified with converging footpath and reduced inter-pedal distance.

Methods: Twenty-four college age participants exercised on the modified elliptical in both directions at four ramp inclines: 6°, 12°, 25°, and 35°. Three-dimensional kinematics were collected for each direction and ramp incline. A 2 × 4 (direction × incline) repeated measures analysis of variance was run with an alpha of 0.05. Simple effects analysis was run with Bonferroni correction for significant interaction or main effect of ramp incline.

Results: The reverse direction had significantly greater peak knee valgus at 6° incline (mean difference [MD] = 1.35°, p < 0.014, d = 0.31) and 12° (MD = 2.41°, p < 0.001, d = 0.55), peak hip abduction at 6° (MD = 2.86°, p = 0.002, d = 0.49) and 12° (MD = 2.91°, p < 0.001, d = 0.51), but decreased peak knee flexion angles (p = 0.032) at all inclines.

Conclusions: Individuals with knee pathologies such as knee osteoarthritis or anterior knee pain should exercise in the reverse direction at lower inclines. However, switching to the forward direction and/or increasing incline may increase quadriceps strength during a safe activity such as elliptical trainers.

Keywords: Converging footpath; Gait; Joint angle; Knee valgus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / instrumentation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / physiology*
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology
  • Quadriceps Muscle
  • Young Adult