Sports Engineering

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 283–294 | Cite as

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

  • Oliver J. QuittmannEmail author
  • Joshua Meskemper
  • Thomas Abel
  • Kirsten Albracht
  • Tina Foitschik
  • Sandra Rojas-Vega
  • Heiko K. Strüder
Original Article


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.


Handbike Biomechanics Performance Physiology Exercise testing 



Arm length


Analysis of variance


Height of the acromion above crank axis


Increase in power output with each step of the incremental test


Back rest




Elbow flexion


Maximal heart rate during the incremental test


Maximal lactate concentration during the incremental test




Crank angle of maximal value

Max or MaxV

Maximal value




Crank angle of minimal value

Min or MinV

Minimal value


Mean value


Calculated power output at a fixed lactate concentration of 4 mmol l-1


Palmar flexion


Power output of the last step of the incremental test


Maximal power output during the incremental test


Rating of perceived exertion


Shoulder abduction


Spinal cord injury


Standard deviation


Surface electromyography


Shoulder flexion


Shoulder internal rotation


Shoulder width


Trunk flexion


Duration within the last (unfinished) step of the incremental test


Prescribed duration of each step of the incremental test


Rotational work


Crank angle of maximal power


Crank angle of minimal power




Angular velocity



The authors would like to thank all participants for their patience and commitment during the study. In addition, they would also to express their gratitude to Alessandro Fasse for his help in data processing and Carolin Stangier for her support during the tests.



Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We certify that there is no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.


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Copyright information

© International Sports Engineering Association 2018
corrected publication May 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver J. Quittmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joshua Meskemper
    • 2
  • Thomas Abel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kirsten Albracht
    • 2
    • 4
  • Tina Foitschik
    • 1
  • Sandra Rojas-Vega
    • 1
  • Heiko K. Strüder
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Movement and NeurosciencesGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biomechanics and OrthopaedicsGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  3. 3.European Research Group in Disability Sport (ERGiDS)CologneGermany
  4. 4.Faculty of Medical Engineering and TechnomathematicsFH Aachen University of Applied SciencesAachenGermany

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