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I'm 72 years old and had a torn miniscus repaired this past July. My quads need to build strength. Which is better for my needs: elliptical or cross trainer?    

- Gus Cawley

Dear Mr. Cawley:

If quadriceps strengthening is your goal, then you should first consider strength training exercises, such as leg press or leg extension. Keep in mind that meniscal injuries are susceptible to compressive loading at the knee joint, so proceed carefully with your strengthening, so as not to exacerbate your injury.
The Arc Trainer may be a helpful addition to your regimen. First, it is capable of generating higher workloads, so it can actually contribute to lower body strength. Some recent research studies have shown improvements in squatting strength and muscular endurance as measured on a leg press.

In addition, you can modify the range of motion at your knee during your exercise. Decreasing the incline on the Arc Trainer will reduce the total flexion at your knee, which you may find more comfortable. Lastly, if you still want to reduce the loading effect at your knee, you can lower the resistance, and even “cheat” the exercise by entering a body weight which is lower than your actual weight. Since the resistance on the Arc Trainer is adjusted according to body weight, a lower weight will result in less resistance. You can then gradually increase the weight setting, or workload, to suit your tolerance to the exercise.  
I hope you find this helpful - and good luck with your rehabilitation.

Paul M. Juris, Ed.D. 
Executive Director, CYBEX Research Institute

I am suffering from patellofemoral syndrome in my knees and wanted to know if I could use an ARC Trainer instead of a treadmill to do my training for a half-marathon I'm signed up for in late June.  I am hoping to use this for the next 1 1/2 to 2 months to give my knees a break.

- Allison  [post from Runner's World]

Dear Allison,

Several case studies have shown that distance runners even sprinters have improved their cardiovascular capacity and even running speed from using the Arc Trainer, so it is certainly an excellent option to help you prepare for your half-marathon.  That, in combination with your therapy, will help with your patellofemoral pain syndrome until, and even after, you get back to running.

Here’s some additional advice for using the Arc Trainer.  First, patellofemoral pain syndrome is exacerbated by higher knee flexion angles, so you’re better off lowering the incline setting on the Arc.  This will have two benefits; first, it will decrease your knee joint angle, reducing compressive loading at the patellofemoral joint; second, it will increase hip muscle activation (your glutes and hamstrings), and thus will help with the propulsive phase of gait.  Also, you can actively push through the balls of your feet in order to enhance plantar flexion.

When you’re creating your workouts, think about setting up sessions in a similar fashion to your running workouts.  In other words, you can do longer duration, steady state workouts, and you can also do speed work.  The Arc Trainer is excellent for high intensity interval training.  If you have access to a 750 series Arc, ask someone about Adaptive Power Training.  It will really help you push yourself, but it’s also very accommodating, so you’ll never feel overworked, and recovery will be relatively easy.

If you have any other questions, please let us know.

Paul M. Juris, Ed.D. 
Executive Director, CYBEX Research Institute

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Questions may be featured in future editions of CYBEX ANSWERS or responded to directly by our experts.