Upper Body Ergometer

A UBE can help improve arm and shoulder endurance.
An upper body ergometer may be used in physical therapy shoulder rehabilitation.. Brett Sears, PT, 2012

If you have an upper extremity injury, your physical therapist may have you use an upper body ergometer during your rehab. What is an upper body ergometer and how is it used in PT? 

An upper body ergometer, commonly referred to as a UBE in physical therapy clinics, is a piece of exercise equipment which is like a bicycle that you pedal with your arms.

An ergometer is an exercise machine that can measure the work of human muscles.

The UBE is an ergometer that can measure how much work your upper body muscles are doing. Settings can be adjusted on the UBE to control resistance to change the amount of work that your upper body muscles are doing. Typical UBE machines have an adjustable seat, and many allow you to also use the machine while standing.

Your physical therapist may have a UBE in the clinic for you to use. Some models are made for commercial use, and may include features like a timer, digital resistance adjustment, or an on board heart rate monitor. Other table top models may not have as many features and my simply provide basic pedaling with a manual resistance adjustment knob.

Who May Benefit from Using a UBE?

If you have shoulder pain, shoulder surgery, or any other upper extremity problem that may affect the strength or endurance of your arms, your physical therapist may choose to have you use the UBE while in the physical therapy clinic.

Also, if you have worn a sling while healing from injury, you may notice that the strength and endurance of your arms is impaired. The UBE can help you improve your strength and endurance to help improve the function in your arms.

Typical injuries that may require the use of a UBE include:

  • Rotator cuff surgery or shoulder bursitis

If you have had a heart attack, cardiac problems, or pulmonary illness, your doctor may refer you to physical therapy for cardiac rehabilitation or pulmonary rehabilitation. The UBE may be used to help improve your cardiac endurance or pulmonary function so you can quickly get back to normal activities.

Sometimes, lower extremity injuries like fractures or sprains prevent you from using your legs normally. The UBE may be used as a cross training tool to maintain your fitness level while your lower extremity injury is healing. If you use a wheelchair as your primary means of getting around, your PT may have you work on the UBE to keep your shoulder muscles strong so you can manage your chair. The UBE may also be used as your primary source of aerobic exercise if you are wheelchair bound. Depending on the settings that your physical therapist chooses to use, the UBE may be primarily for improving cardiorespiratoy endurance, or it may be used primarily for strengthening the arms and shoulders.

If you are have an injury to your shoulder, elbow, or wrist and attend physical therapy, you may experience the UBE first hand. It can help you get your arms moving to quickly get you back to normal function.


After healing from my proximal humeral fracture, my shoulder was extremely weak. My physical therapist had me use the upper body ergometer to improve the strength and endurance of my arm.

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