Thanks to everyone for all the helpful responses. It sounds like the different styles (between using arm poles and swinging one's own arms) concentrate on different muscle groups but gives you a similar calorie burn. I think I will alternate between the two.
In contrast to what someone else said, I find I can "mimic running" by NOT using the poles. Of course, this assumes neither are you using the 'rests' - just standing up straight, pumping with the legs, and pumping your arms just like a runner - in thin air.
I have found that I much prefer using the machine this way, and it seems to provide an additional core workout in stabilisation. I have had a friend try it and she could not do it at all - simply couldn't balance without holding the rests or the poles.
As (was it M@L?) said ... you are using your body to fight the machine resistance. Which muscles you choose to use to do that is not going to make a significant difference.
Other messages show it doesn't increase calories so think whatever works best for you (seems most natural) to help you stay longer on the machine/increase the intensity. I find that I without thinking use them for some of my workout and not for probably most of the time.
Ultimately with the elliptical, you are working against the resistance of the machine. And whether you use the handles or not, your body will use the same amount of effort to overcome that amount of resistance.
The legs are some of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. The limiting factor is not normally the muscles, but the ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to the muscles (And perhaps your willingness to push yourself). Using the arms as well to share the load doesn't increase your heart and lung capacity.
Of course, you may find that using the handles helps keep you balanced, and perhaps go faster, but until you increase the speed and/or resistance settings, you won't actually be burning any more calories.
Fitness Minutes: (112,042)
46,222 1/10/13 8:27 P
According to Alex Hutchinson's book Which Comes First Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise, using the arm handles causes no change in heart rate and only offers a small caloric expenditure versus using the leg portion only, however, what the handles can do is offer one to stay on the machine longer.
Using the poles allows you to pump your arms like you would do during running, which burns more calories. So I say use the poles. I uses the poles for a minute going as fast as I can, then I squat and put my hands on the inner bars and pump as fast as I can. Let me tell you that I born a ton of calories.
Fitness Minutes: (41,738)
523 1/10/13 7:59 P
I suggest holding onto them LIGHTLY and just mimicking their motion IF they are the moving kind. The thing is, when you put your arms on a stationary pole or rest, your arms aren't making the motions they usually would be and it diminishes the balancing you would have to do. But if they are moving and you are only lightly holding onto them, you are making a bigger motion with your arms than you might be, and you are still using your core somewhat to help balance you.
In regards to the elliptical machine, do you use the ski poles/ handles while using it? I have been getting mixed advice. Some say the poles give you an added upper body workout while others suggest that leaning on the poles may cheat the effectiveness of the workout a little (similar to the way you are cheated when you rest your hands on a treadmill or stairclimber). Does anyone know the most effective way to use an elliptical?
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