Pole-Walking Techniques to Help Burn More Calories

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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Pole-Walking Techniques to Help Burn More Calories

Unlike trekking poles used by hikers or other walkers to increase stability and balance, poles used for Nordic walking and Exerstriding help you burn more calories, achieve a full-body workout and work your core.

Here, what you need to know about each type:


Exerstrider poles combine a ski-pole shaft with the grip of a more traditional trekking pole. They are lightweight, adjustable and feature a variety of rubber feet that can be fitted over the tips depending on the type of terrain you encounter when walking.

While Nordic poles can also be adjusted and have a variety of tips, they are more of a cross-country ski pole that has been slightly adapted for fitness walking. The poles have a strap or glove on the handle, allowing the user to release the handle on the backstroke and catch it on the front stroke. This changes the overall technique and muscle engagement.


No matter which pole you choose, the basic technique is the same. The pole planted coincides with a step forward with the opposite foot, just as you would with your normal arm swing when running or walking.

However, with the Nordic walking technique, the angle of the pole is backward at all times, with the planted pole angling low to the ground before the pole is swung forward and planted again. The arm is bent as it is planted, and the pole is released completely at the end of backstroke. You’ll catch the grips as you swing forward to plant. This method places less stress on your wrists and makes propelling yourself forward with good posture easier.

With an Exerstrider technique, more emphasis is placed on the plant. Your elbows will be close to your sides and the poles will be planted in front of you. You’ll push into the ground like you would with a trekking pole, placing more pressure on the pole than you would with a Nordic pole. During the plant, the pole will also be more vertical and have less of a backswing than you’ll use with a Nordic pole.


While both methods increase total caloric expenditure compared to walking without poles, the key difference is muscle engagement. Because Exerstriding relies on placing force through the ground, you’ll work the latissimus dorsi, pectorals and the tricep muscles more than you would with the smoother motion of Nordic walking. Both techniques engage the core muscles and require more from the cardiovascular system to propel you forward.


Test both methods to find out which you enjoy most. It’s also a good idea to consider where you’ll be using the poles. Exerstrider poles will be slightly more versatile for trail walking since they can be used for additional balance and stability. Nordic poles, on the other hand, might be more suitable if you live in a cold climate and plan to do any sort of fitness walking in the snow.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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