Exerstriding vs. Nordic Walking Techniques
Fitness walking poles can be used to give yourself a better workout when walking, engaging your upper body as well as your hips and legs. Learn about the two basic techniques, exerstriding and Nordic walking, and what makes them different from each other.
Fitness Pole Walking Techniques
The exerstriding technique was developed by Tom Rutlin of Exerstrider in the U.S. The Nordic walking technique was developed later in Europe.
The biggest difference between the exerstrider technique and the Nordic walking technique is in the arm extension, which leads to differences in how the poles are planted, the backstroke, and the design of the poles.
Differences in Exerstrider Walking Poles vs. Nordic Walking Poles
Exerstrider poles do not have straps or demi-gloves, while Nordic walking poles do. The straps or gloves on Nordic walking poles allow Nordic walkers to release the poles at the end of the backstroke and catch the grips as they move forward to the front stroke/pole plant.
Instead, exerstrider pole grips have a large flared portion of the grip. This grip comes into play with how the poles are designed to be used when planted. Many trekking poles have a similar design, so exerstriding technique may be used with trekking poles. You cannot use the Nordic walking technique with trekking poles as they lack the needed glove or strap.
Difference in Pole Plant/Arm Swing for Exerstriding vs. Nordic Walking
In the exerstriding technique, the walker extends the pole forwards and plant it while the arm is at the handshake position. The walker then pushes the pole firmly while stepping forward, like a pump handle. The flared bottom portion of the grip allows for putting pressure on the pole during this arm stroke. The walker keeps a grip on the pole handle at all times.
In Nordic walking, the poles are continuously angled backward and the pole plant comes when the arm is bent, then a more gentle resistance is given while stepping forward. The hand eventually releases the pole completely on the backstroke, with the glove or strap snapping the pole grip back into the palm as it comes forward.
Rutlin believes the muscle engagement with exerstriding is superior to the arm position/backstroke of the Nordic walking technique. "You can get the same result from standing with your arm on a countertop (or even when seated by extending your arm out over your table or desk) and pushing down first with the elbow bent at 90 degrees, and then with the arm extended out into the handshake position. In both positions, the first thing you're likely to notice is how the tricep muscle (on the back of the upper arms) contracts. As you push down with both arm positions, note the intensity of the muscle contractions in the pectoral, abdominal, , and spinal erector (back) muscles." Rutlin believes his technique brings about greater involvement of large core strength muscles and more intense overall muscle contractions.
Compared to walking without poles, studies have consistently shown an increased caloric burn when using fitness walking poles with the Nordic walking technique and the exerstriding technique, as well as using trekking poles in a similar manner.
Choosing a Fitness Pole Walking Technique
You may find that one of the techniques works better for you than the other. An advantage of the exerstriding technique is that you can do it with either trekking poles or Nordic walking poles. If you only want to own one set of poles, you can buy a pair of trekking poles and then use them for exerstriding for fitness and use them for stability when you need them on the trail. Meanwhile, you will need Nordic walking poles for Nordic walking and they may not work well to use only for stability.
Video: Nordic Walking - "How to" with LEKI poles
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