The grip technique for holding Nordic walking sticks is designed to help work and stretch your arms more, and to increase rotation of spine and hips.
- If you hold the poles too tight, your hands will hurt after a while;
- If you hold the poles too loosely, they can flail about (and the last thing you want is to draw any more attention to yourself! Ha!)
The thing about holding Nordic walking poles is that it’s not a single hold action. It is more of a grip, loosen, grip, loosen technique. It’s a sort of push back, haul forward approach to the poles. (You lift and pull the poles forward to ensure that the tips don’t drag on the ground as that will wear the tips out quite fast.)
Note that the handles on some Nordic poles (such as in the photo above) are like holsters, and the holster should point away from you, facing in the direction you are going.
Step By Step
- The moment when you first push forward on the pole, you need to have a firm grip on the pole (obviously, or you wouldn’t get a push) ;
- As you step forward, and your hand and the handle start to fall back, open slightly the palm of your hand and relax your fingers a bit to let your arm and the wrist do more by pushing against the strap — so the push thrust transfers from the handle to the strap;
- When the pole and arm are furthest out behind you, your fingers should be somewhat loose on the handle. (Some tell you to pretend that you have a little bird in your hand, that you want to prevent escaping, but not squish it) ((Kantaneva, Marko. Original Nordic Walking e-Book. Chapter 9, Nordic walking movements. http://www.onwf.org/originalnordicwalkingbookeng/185));
- As your arm and the pole start to move forward again, your fingers start to close in again a bit more firmly on the handle enough so that you can lift and raise the pole to haul it back forward without dragging it;
- By the time the handle is forward and ready for the push again, your grip should be firm enough to start the next push back.
To recap :
- Grip the handle fully at the very start of the push back;
- Immediately after the start of the push back, start to relax your grip and pass responsiblity for the push to your wrist and arm via the strap;
- By the time your arm falls back past your hip, your hand should have almost let it go with just fingers there to steer it;
- As the pole comes forward and passes your hip, your grip starts to tighten on it once more.
It’s a bit annoying at first to have to keep reminding yourself, but after a while your body will remember so you don’t have to. Apparently, it’s worth getting it right because if you skip the open palm bit, you won’t be able to do the proper body part rotations (shoulder and pelvic) according to Marko Kantaneva, one of the people who developed the sport.
Other points to note about holding the poles
- When you step out with the poles for the first time ever, have the poles strapped on and let them literally drag along behind you, bouncing along on the pole tips, until the handles naturally find their way into the rhythm of your hands;
- Your body should lean forward a little but not too much;
- Hold your poles in close to your body;
- Hands and feet move opposite, just as in regular walking, i.e. as your left hand comes forward, your right hand goes back;
- Pole plant — what Nordic walking writers call the moment the tip of the pole firmly hits the ground behind you;
- The pole hits the ground diagonally beside you;
- To test if you are doing it right, do it on pavement with no rubber tip — you are apparently supposed to hear single, sharp, clear “click, click, clicks” rather than any dragging or scraping of the metal tip.
The technique for holding and pushing with Nordic walking poles is not completely written in stone anywhere. There are several variations. The only variation I’d warn against is the variation that I seem to end up doing sometimes — I still don’t always get it right!
Di Jensen, Elle. Tips for the Nordic Walking Pole. http://livehealthy.chron.com/tips-nordic-walking-pole-2458.html
Kantaneva, Marko. Original Nordic Walking e-Book. Chapter 9, Nordic walking movements. http://www.onwf.org/originalnordicwalkingbookeng/185
Zalewski, Marek. Grip Holding Conundrum. 18 November 2013. http://www.nordicwalkingus.com/grip-holding-conundrum/
Zalewski, Marek. Nordic Walking Technique – It is Really Quite Simple, But You Have to Start Off the Right Way. 30 June 2010. http://www.nordicwalkingus.com/nordic-walking-technique-it-is-really-quite-simple-but-you-have-to-start-off-the-right-way/