Double Poling

Katharine Green
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Not everyone relishes double poling (using both poles at the same time to propel you forward), so I thought if I write about it’s benefits and how to get the best from it, those who aren’t fans might learn to endure it more.

In Nordic walking terminology, I liken double poling, to changing stroke when swimming. It gives you a break from single arm poling, using the muscles in a slightly different way. Double poling is a great way to create a more intense contraction of the upper body musculature. It is particularly good for toning and conditioning the abdominal muscles.

When trying to master the British Nordic Walking 10 step technique double poling is a really useful learning tool. As the arms are working in unison, the brain has less to think about, and it's therefore easier to focus on other things. Like single arm poling, the arms swing forward, with a soft elbow and the pole is planted just in front of the hips. It is key to remember to check the poles are at a 45 degree angle at all times and that the knuckles are facing downwards. A firm plant with both hands wrapped around the poles, pushing downwards and backwards through the strap will help the propelling motion. Double poling is either 2 or 3 steps to every poling action. Only taking 2 steps means your arms have to move quicker and you will start on the same foot every time. Taking 3 steps gives you more time and thus enabling you to practise the techniques below, pushing off from a different foot each time you pole plant. There are 2 main areas to focus on to help perfect your Nordic walking technique, your arm extension and your hand release;

Extension (Step 6)

When both arms are working together it is easier to ‘throw’ your arms away behind you. Remembering the A shape your arm makes (picture it sideways on) and imagine your shoulder is like the pendulum of a clock. To really work hard make your upper arms do a final push upwards before they swing forward. You will feel your shoulder blades pinch inwards and your triceps working hard.

Hand release (Step 7)

As the arms swing backwards the hand pressure progressively moves from the handle into the strap as the hand actively fully opens, try to keep the fingers together, with the little finger on top. As the arm starts to swing forward you should be able to feel the recoil effect as the poles spring back into your hand. The poles should be airborne with the top of the poles leading the movement.

Like single arm poling remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and down, with your chest open and your chin parallel with the ground. As your brain has more time to think, don’t forget to roll through the feet, pushing off from the toes. Remember to keep your core engaged to get the full benefits of toning the stomach muscles. Double poling can be a good workout when done properly, so do short bursts if you are beginning to tire.

There are a number of occasions when double poling is a useful alternative. Either walking up or down hill (see Mary's blog on hill techniques), when coming down hill, if it is extremely steep the poles can be planted ahead of you as a stabilising aid. When the grass is long or the path narrowing, double poling can help prevent getting the tips caught (sometimes putting the paws down can help too).

So wherever you are Nordic walking in Suffolk have a go at double poling, as once you find your rhythm you won't notice you're doing it….. until your arms tire!

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