Krankcycles: Spinning the body's other half

NEW YORK Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:50am EDT

1 of 2. A woman uses a Krankcycle in an undated image.

Credit: Reuters/Courtesy of the American Council on Exercise

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A new exercise machine is cranking up the cardio room.

Stationed amid legions of ellipticals, treadmills and stair steppers, the krankcycle is a hand-powered exercise cycle that lets your fingers, not your feet, do the pedaling.

Industry experts are welcoming the krankcycle as a versatile and inclusive device, and "kranking" as a calorie-burning cardio challenge as well as strength training for the often neglected upper body.

"We have 12 krankcycle machines at our largest club. They're awesome, amazing and our members love them," said Erica Ingham, program director of Club One, a California-based fitness chain.

"You feel so much more vital when you're able to work upper and lower body," said Ingham, who was in charge of launching the equipment at Club One's 18 fitness centers.

"We made it mandatory for spinning instructors to learn how to incorporate the krankcycle into class," she said, "so maybe after an eight-minute hill climb the instructor will cue a switch to the krankcycle. And in small group classes it's used as a (circuit training) station."

The krankcycle is another brainchild of fitness guru Jonathan Goldberg, also known as Johnny G., whose stationary bicycles brought the mega-trend of spinning classes to gyms everywhere.

This time he modified a physical therapy tool called the Upper Body Erometer (UBE), which is used primarily for injured individuals who need to engage the upper body, to allow exercisers to stand as well as sit while cranking their arms.

A recent study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that the krankcycle provided an effective workout that can build upper-body muscular fitness, boost aerobic capacity and burn calories.

"The krankcycle burned about nine calories a minute for the average participants in the study," said Cedric X. Bryant, ACE's chief science officer. "That's a reasonably vigorous workout."

Bryant said it could prove particularly useful for women, who tend not to go in for weight training.

"This could be a nice way for women in group classes to see some improvements in their upper body fitness levels. Women tend to feel more comfortable in a cardio environment than in a traditional resistance-type environment," he said.

"It's also a great cross-training alternative for runners and cyclists because emphasis with those activities can be lower-body," Bryant said.

Andy Speer, a personal trainer for Equinox Fitness in New York, says he uses the krankcycle for all his clients, regardless of age or skill levels.

"They're near the cardio equipment on the gym floor," he explained. "I use them to incorporate some high intensity interval work for the upper body. I'll combine it with a lower body exercise like a squat or kettle bell swing."

Ingham says the machine allows more people to experience the gym.

"The nice thing about krankcycle is there's a removable seat so a wheelchair can wheel up," Ingham explained. "So someone who could not previously attend a group fitness class because they're injured or paraplegic now can."

She added that it is the only thing that is inclusive in that way.

"Our industry is not rapidly changing but this has been the biggest change I've seen in the industry in the last 10 years. That's very cool."