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I alternate concentration on my arms, belly and legs in that order. That is, I push with my arms till they are tired, then fall back to core till they are tired and fall back to legs.

But I feel aches around the scapula region and above-cavicle region which go away only if I skip the machine for two days. It seems fatiguing to those muscles too. I also get muscle aches around lower back if I am not careful.

Am I putting myself in harm by actively using my arms? Should I use arms only for support? Is there a better warmup for the upper body?

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What hand position do you use with the elliptical trainer? Try training without using your arms at all. Using hands in ET can cause strain in your back (though not in muscles). –  Enivid Sep 19 '13 at 20:49
    
I do hold the handles. Is is safe to not use the handles? –  aitchnyu Sep 20 '13 at 7:52
    
I do not hold them either. My back feels much better that way than when I did hold the handles. –  Enivid Sep 20 '13 at 15:22

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You're forcing your body into an unnatural position by using your arms so much, you should keep the push through your whole body and activate your body as one unit oppose to delegating responsibilities to your arms/shoulders then core then legs. You can make it full-body by employing all these muscle groups and increasing the resistance or volume of exercise.

The handles are safe to use unless they are broken, but by forcing your arms/shoulders to push and pull the components that are driving your legs, you're offsetting your leg's and core's responsibilities to solely your arms, and if they are sore, then they are overworked, and if they are in pain, you're injuring yourself.

Concentrate on a fluid motion throughout your whole body use your arms for support and also drive with your arms, simple as it sounds it might not be once you get into the later rounds of the elliptical.

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