Monday, December 12, 2005


Reader's Question - Avoiding Pole 'Drag' & Catching the Pole

"I am fine on the whole of the plant and push off and can really feel the extra push from the strap BUT I have great trouble in picking up the grip again to avoid 'dragging' the pole forward again".

Alan Costar
South East London

Great question Alan! Firstly, before I give you an exercise that will help you with this phase of the technique - Check your pole length - If you are using poles that are a little too long for you this may be a contributory factor.

So, to check your pole length - stand with your feet hip width apart and one hand strapped into the pole (photo below). Place the pole tip on the ground just in front of and to the outside of your small toe. The pole should be perpendicular to your body. Tuck your elbow into your side. If the pole is the correct length your elbow will be bent to about a 90 degree angle. If the angle is more acute (eg less than 90 degrees) the pole maybe too long. Check yourself out in a large mirror.

This is only a guide to correct pole length as other factors do come into this: Eg mobility & flexibility in the shoulder, shoulder girdle and hip, stride length, arm length, leg length, fitness level. Experience is a key factor and beginners may find a slightly shorter pole easier to handle. Once you have become more practiced and proficient you may find a slightly longer pole beneficial.

Obviously if you own one piece poles you do not have the luxury of being able to adjust your pole length. So if your pole is the wrong length for you you either have to put up with it or buy another pair of poles. A new personal client of mine turned up for a lesson the other day with 'one piece' poles that were 6 inches too short for her! She ended up buying a second pair of poles (this time adjustables).

The more people I meet and talk to and the more I glean from my own experiences, the more I am coming around to the thinking that adjustable poles may be the better option for newcomers.

Note: I was fitted out by an expert with one piece poles when I first started but I soon found I wanted longer poles (In fairness I was pre-warned that this might be the case when I made my purchase).

Assuming your pole length is right for you, here is a simple exercise to practice the 'strap extension' to 'catch' phase of the technique.

Breaking the technique down - After the 'plant' is the 'push to hip'. Next is the 'push behind hip'. Next is 'elbow extension' (checking for straight elbow). Then comes the 'release' (or 'open hand') and finally (before the arm comes forward again) - 'strap extension' (see 1st photo below)...


1) Stand in the 'strap extension' position [photo]. If your right arm is behind you, your right foot is forward or vice versa. Note: Your hand is 'open' and you are pushing the pole tip into the ground by pressing through the strap with your hand.

2) Using a dynamic movement, swing your right arm forward (pole trailing behind). Now catch the pole handle in front of the body in preparation to plant the pole into the ground at an angle of approximately 45 degrees (don't change the legs over, just move the arm). Note: The tip of the pole is level with or probably just behind the hip as you catch the pole handle.

3) Repeat numerous times. If you are able to watch yourself in a large mirror so much the better. If someone can video you - better still. Make sure you are not 'dragging the pole tip as the arm swings forward. If you are really struggling try shortening your poles a touch.

4) Repeat again but this time as you swing your arm forward, change the legs over by stepping forward onto the other foot.

Note: If despite this exercise you are still struggling (and pole drag is the issue), practice Nordic Walking without releasing the hand grip (just keep hold of the handle throughout the complete action). Focus on lifting the pole tips off the ground as your arm swing forward in preparation for the 'plant'.

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