Trekking Poles: How to make them work for you
This guide will help you get the most out of trekking poles - and give those hard-working knees a break!
Trekking with poles can reduce the amount of weight your legs are carrying. (Credit: Ian Arnold)
SOME PEOPLE LOVE 'EM. Some people hate 'em. Regardless though, of which side you swing in the pole debate, there's no denying the simple researched fact that they're effective in reducing the level of effort you expend when walking.
By spreading your body weight across four points of contact with the ground rather than two, poles reduce pressure on the legs by about 20 per cent. A study by German physician Dr G. Neureuther proved that walking with poles reduces the body weight your legs are carrying by up to 8 kg - an amount that will certainly make a difference on a lengthy walk.
Setting your trekking pole length
While you can adjust the length of your poles if preferred, it's also possible to set them to a height that is a good compromise for both uphill and downhill trekking. Extend poles to just below the maximum length limit as marked on the poles. Stand a pole on the ground under one arm while standing up straight. Adjust length so that the pole reaches to about 5-8 cm lower than your armpit, and secure. Adjust second pole to same length.
Using the wrist straps on your trekking pole
While they may seem unnecessary, wrist straps when adjusted correctly can be vital to gaining maximum efficiency. Slip your hands up through the bottom of the straps then grab the grips. Straps should be adjusted so that your wrist is resting firmly against the strap, allowing you a loose grip on the pole and avoiding any muscle tension or strain in your wrists.
Trekking pole technique: On flat terrain or slight incline/decline
Swing the opposite pole forward to the foot you're stepping on. Right foot and left pole should swing forward and make contact with the ground, as with left foot and right pole. Consciously distribute your weight onto the poles with each step.
Trekking pole technique: On uphills
Swing the pole forward and to the ground at the same time as each foot, so, left pole and left foot, and right with right. With steep inclines move the poles a little further in front of the body.
Trekking pole technique: On downhills
Plant left pole to the ground in front of the body just before stepping onto your left foot, then right pole just before right foot. When slippery, place extra pressure onto the poles.
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