Nordic Walking Roller Poles

Posted: January 29, 2016 in General

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in the Nordic Walking field – something new catches your attention. 

In this case it occurred on interstate 10 on the road to El Paso at a rest stop!

I met the Tim Affield, inventor of Nordic Walking Roller Poles on his morning walk (pictures below from his website but you get the idea)!

I was fascinated to learn about his unique Nordic walking adaptation and thought you might be too!

My SWIX Nordic poles are fixed length with carbide tips covered by rubber tips.I use one of the other depending on where I’m walking. Mine  also have special “hand straps” so I never really have to grip the handles with my fingers. The instructions say to simply press back with  the heel of the hand. 

Here’s where the Roller Poles differ:

Instead of carbide tips or rubber “shoes” these devices have one way locking “ratchet” wheels. Press back on the poles and the wheels lock and dig in like the regular Nordic walking poles. 

These roller poles are adjustable in length the way medical devices like crutches or walker are. That’s different than adjustable Nordic or Trekking poles that have a twist lock. If I were using an adjustable pole, I’d definitely feel more secure with those used for medical devices!

My poles are designed to be used mostly with a straight arm movement that starts at about the height of a “handshake” and moves back. Tim’s poles were adjusted longer and his motion began from a bent arm staring with a “triceps extension” movement. 

Likewise the handgrips place the hand palm down for ergonomic reasons. I wasn’t familiar with the reasoning but have held my hands like that with my straps on my poles and it works very well and seemed to remove some strain I had in the heel of my palm during fast poling. With the hands in this position it’s almost like “crawling” without getting down on all fours!

I wondered how well the wheels work. Tim says they work on all terrain and haven’t worn out after 3000 miles! Anything has got to be better than the rubber tips – they can cost $10-$14 to replace (including mail) and don’t last long. Mine are worn out after less than a year and I do lots of other things besides Nordic Walk!

I didn’t get a chance to test them myself but I’d like to sometime – their price point is higher than my sticks so that probably won’t happen for a while!

It sure makes me wish I could replace my rubber rips with one way locking wheels though!

And I’d really like to test them compared to other Nordic Poles! I hope we see a lot more of them in use!


Pan-X ApparatusHere’s what this poll is asking about… Dr. Schwartz’ “Pan-X” or “Strength Endurance Exercise Device” as pictured on this page.

It’s use is described in this earlier post: “Jogging Longstrength Style”

Here’s a sample workout using a therapist’s walker as a substitute to give you some ideas. A real Pan-x machine would be more sturdy and not only allow dipping, but also have a higher cross bar for pulling up.

Your participation is very important. I for one would like to see this project go forward!

Hey, if there are FEATURES or PRICE RANGES that would affect your decision, PLEASE leave your thoughts in the comment section.

PS The blog owner has no plans to build or market these devices. Someone who might want to asked me to post this poll however.

Another Take on the Walk and Squat

Posted: December 19, 2015 in General

This article at Men’s Fitness fit my topic earlier today about “Walking and Squatting“.

It fits the basic definition of walking and squatting, but it’s at a heavier weight than what I described earlier because I was referring to HeavyHands.

This involves a heavier but submaximal squatting weight. Shouldering the weight, the athlete walks 10 meters (or across the gym) and does a set of squats. After the last squat, another walk with the weights is done, then another set of squats, Etc.

The exercise involves a huge amount of muscle. Is it panaerobic?

I’ll leave that for you to decide… I’d assume it would be MORE likely “panaerobic” if some upper body work were done… Some overhead presses, some push presses, or jerks possibly. Of course it might be easier if these were front squats…or  done with Dumbbells or Kettlebells at shoulder height. 

However you do them, they could be another way of adding walking and squatting to your routine.
Note: Image courtesy Men’s Fitness article referenced…

A while back I wrote about discovering that Dr. Schwartz would (when he chose) squat every 10 paces while walking and taking his handweights overhead (“Level 3” or “Level 3.5” in “HeavyHands speak).

Previously I’d done sets of 20 squats while walking with HeavyHands, but always wondered how effective it was. I became fascinated with the idea of squats every few paces because, that way, the longer the distance the more knee bends are done.

In the midst of my experiments I re-read Schwartz’ “The HeavyHands Walking Book” his sidebar on page 13 “Preview of the Evolution of a Super Walk”.  He noted that after developing a respectable workload with 2 or 3lb HeavyHands (though he often used heavier ones) it came time to maximize the leg aspect:

Lastly, you add more leg [to attain a “Super Walk”] in the form of knee dips, 0r semi-duck walks….That last addition of leg strength endurance, by itself, can amount to as much work as conventional walking without weights and dips is!

That was an interesting observation. Adding “duck walks” or “knee dips” could add enough to the overall exercise to double the value of walking without weights alone! I suppose doing a squat every few paces is the “ultimate knee dip”.

In my “experiments” I tried various walking modes. One time I wanted to see the effect of squatting without the weights. I let my wife carry the HH weights that day and walked and squatted every 15 to 20 paces. I find when walking with someone else who is not doing the knee bends, I get woefully behind which is frustrating!

Wearing my Polar heart rate monitor, I noted that this level of walking and squatting – without weights – resulted in heart rates approximately equal to a brisk pace with my HeavyHands! Naturally I expect to find (when wearing a heart rate monitor which I rarely do!)  Of course adding the hand weight back and using Dr. Schwartz’ 10 paces should boost the training value even higher.

I don’t always know the distance I’ll be travelling so I’ve taken to counting the number of squats while trying to keep to the same number of paces between squats so I can better gauge progress. If I only have a short space to walk  with my HeavyHands (one day I was walking laps to the street and back from the back door) I found it more effective to do sets of 5 squats.

If you’re used to doing squats either continuously to high numbers or in sets for high numbers (100 to 500) you’ll notice you can use the walk and squat method to do lots of squats without the “burn” of continuous squats. By doing one good form squat periodically, it should improve the safety of the squatting… one is more rested and warmed up between repetitions. One never “squats to failure” this way.

On the other hand, I wonder if I’m missing something by not doing relatively higher numbers at a time? I’ll have to test the “walk and squat set” method some too. Either way, I’m bound to be getting better results than walking alone.

As I mentioned previously, I’m a bit worried about walking lunges and “duck walks” for my use because of a pre-existing knee issue. I’d rather plant my feet securely then squat instead of doing so “on the fly” especially on the uneven trails I often walk. On concrete walkways, though, I’ve done “duck walks” for stretches.  The “Walk and Squat” though is easier for me to keep track of because I can count squats every so many paces more easily than I can gauge the distance and form of my “duck walking”. (I’m not against it, I’m just not satisfied with how I’m doing it!)

Overall re-reading what Dr. Schwartz was thinking in terms of his goals for the “super walk”… one with maximum exercise value because it activated as much upper body muscle and leg muscle as possible… I’m more intrigued than ever with the “walk and squat”.  If I lived in a home with stairs or even could exercise somewhere conveniently with plenty of stairs, I might tend to focus on those more. Under the circumstances, the “walk and squat” is becoming my “Go To” exercise when I’m not doing Kettlebell Swings. (I find the two go well together but that’s for another post).

I was going to write more about my latest experiment “Ski Walking and Squats” but that will have to wait for a different post too…

Thanks for reading. Your comments are appreciated.


Nordic Walking Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nordic Walking Source: Wikimedia Commons

As big fans of HeavyHands know, one of Dr. Schwartz’ early inspirations (besides a torn hamstring from running) was CROSS COUNTRY SKIING.  The “Panaerobic” action of all limbs moving simultaneously against resistance gave cross country skiiers HUGE abilities to process oxygen … far more than other athletes.

Nordic Walking is the “cousin” of cross country skiing and uses similar poles to approximate the action of skiing when it’s not winter. It too is “Panaerobic”.

That raises the question… Wouldn’t then Nordic WALKING be as useful as HeavyHands?

Good question…

Here’s how I answered the question yesterday when it came to deciding… do I grab my Nordic Walking NSticks or take a pair of hand weights to workout?

First, it’s not necessarily an “either/or”, “all or nothing” decision. I use and like them both. But how to decide?

Workout Objectives

Nordic walking sticks are light… much lighter than even one “heavyhand” weight usually. Mine had a TOTAL SHIPPING WEIGHT of 1.7 pounds including the packaging! That’s lighter than two of the lightest hand weights! Lifting the sticks between steps may tire you out after hundreds or thousands of steps, that’s not where the aerobic benefit of Nordic Walking comes from.

The ability of Nordic Walking to increase aerobic workloads by 20 to 40% or more while activating so much upper and lower body muscle comes from the downward/backward stroke that – with the legs – thrusts the body forward. Though the poles are very light, the energy used to push the body forward can be quite extensive.

While the trapezius, pectorals, biceps, and frontal deltoids work to pull the pole into proper position for the next step, the real muscle exertion in the upper body comes from the backward/downward push. In that case the triceps, rear deltoids and upper back and latissimus muscle groups get the bulk of the work.

With the basic HeavyHands “Walk and Pump” movement, the exertion pattern is almost exactly OPPOSITE… the muscles lifting the weight forward get most of the exercise, though a strong backswing emphasis of the HeavyHands can indeed work the upper back and triceps quite well.

Part of the “Panaerobic Equation” that determines the effectiveness of the HeavyHands movement is the RANGE OF MOTION. Raising the arms and weights above the shoulder to overhead  (“Level III”) significantly enhances the workload during exercise.

When it comes to Nordic Walking there are limitations in the range of motion because the sticks are fitted to one’s height and their benefit is derived from gripping the ground and pushing off, not being raised over head.  While experienced walkers will learn ways to adjust the range of motion slightly as walking speed is increased or decreased, users may not be able to get as much aerobic benefit as  they might from Level III work. Trying to artificially lift the sticks higher to mimic it or go too fast can cause the user to trip themselves over the sticks with disastrous consequences!

One of Dr. Schwartz’ interests as a psychiatrist was exercise variety. He himself wanted exercise to be constantly challenging, new and sustainable. As any reader of the HeavyHands books will notice his curiosity prompted him to invent and promote numerous variations in exercise movement to not only work as much muscle as possible, but to avoid boredom!

As the body and mind tire from the basic “pump and walk movement”, the weights, for example, can be used in some completely different way like swings across the chest to work “fresh” muscle groups while continuing to walk.

Nordic Walking definitely DOES NOT offer this variety of exercise. The same predominant exercise pathway is used throughout the effort without variation for the most part. Boredom may be avoided by the scenic nature of the walking path, but not by exercise variation for the most part!

With both Nordic Walking and HeavyHands, some “quadriceps” and “lower back” activation can be done by walking in a “duck walk “or “Groucho Marx walk” though more variety may be obtained with HeavyHands probably. It’s worth testing, but this author hasn’t done much.

Practical Issues

There are  VERY REAL practical issues related to one’s choice of sticks or weights. Yesterday we were going to a state park we’d never visited before…

Would the trail be hilly? Would the path be flat? In other words, would I benefit from ADDITIONAL SUPPORT to keep my balance on a rough trail?

In the case of unknown terrain, it’s best to use Nordic walking sticks if there’s any concern about unsure footing.

As it turned out the trails were hardly flat except for brief stretches. The trails were up and down and twisting… at times the Nordic Sticks seemed a bit more like “Trekking Poles” but they did their job of not only providing upper body exercise, but also making the hike safer.  In the event of a poisonous snake nearby, I’d rather have a Nordic stick handy if needed than a hand weight! Sorry Dr. Schwartz!

Try Both

That’s what I ended up doing….

Not sure about the terrain, both sticks and weights went in the car. The ranger said one trail was “level” and the other was “rugged”.

We took the “rugged” trail first using Nordic Walking sticks.

Later we took the “level” trail using HeavyHands.

(We found out they were both equally rugged and probably would have done best with the Nordic sticks on both of them, but “oh well”! )

For the ULTIMATE VARIETY, one can’t go wrong doing BOTH Nordic Walking and HeavyHands…

For maximum potential strength and activating as much muscle as possible while operating on safe terrain, HeavyHands with increasing weights and a variety of movements activating as many muscles as possible will likely be superior.

As always the exercise you will actually do provides the best results!


SandowSchwartz (1)

Eugene Sandow Leonard Schwartz

Sometimes, HeavyHands users get stuck in a rut…the standard “pump and walk” exercise is usually the first one we learn and becomes the one we “default” to.

Though Dr. Schwartz wrote two books highlighting many different techniques for obtaining the variety needed to keep HeavyHands interesting mentally while providing a full body workout, sometimes other variations may be desirable.

As I was out on an hour and a half walk recently, I remembered some exercises I’d read about in David Bolton’s The Lost Secret To A Great Body.

Walking along I found myself going through the parts of this workout that I could remember and it kept my heart rate up nicely while being a bit of “active recovery” during this lengthy walk. It enabled me to exercise using muscles relatively untouched by the standard “pump and walk” and which, by that time, were getting fatigued.

As I was reflecting on it later, though Dr. Schwartz wasn’t interested in being as well muscled as Eugene Sandow who was arguably the first “bodybuilder”, Schwartz’ physique was along Sandow’s “classic” lines. Though as a physician Schwartz didn’t care about “bodybuilding” for its own sake,  the type of “useful” muscle and proportion Schwartz considered the ideal was something he shared with Sandow in many ways.

“Pump and Walk” Courtesy

So what is Bolton’s book about?

Sandow’s Dumbbell

David Bolton in his research into the use of light dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds) found that Sandow, his instructor, and most of the old time advocates of dumbbell training suggested virtually the same routine and considered that routine fundamental to overall fitness. Even the ones not selling body building courses by mail (Bobby Pandour) ascribed to the same system of training basically.

Men at their peak like Sandow reportedly used 7 pound dumbbells (Pandour used 10 pound bells), but so that students would understand the mental focus required, Sandow produced a special dumbbell/gripper that demanded constant tension!

HeavyHands users will find it interesting that Dr. Schwartz – while using heavier weights for some specific exercises like Double Ski Poling – tended to max out with walking weights in the 8 pound range and often used lighter weights for faster movements and more “work”. He too derived long term benefits from weights easily dismissed as “too light” by many. His understanding of exercise was much different than Bolton’s, but those differences aside, this article mention’s Bolton’s exercises for the variety they can add to a HeavyHands routine.

As our understanding of “progressive resistance” increased, these claims to benefit from insanely light weights seemed preposterous, and things like Sandow’s strength and muscularity were attributed exclusively to “secret” training he never talked about.

As Bolton studied the matter, he concluded people had missed something… the mental action and tension that attends the exercise and gets effects that are not dependent solely on the weight. That seemed to jibe with a McMaster’s University study mentioned toward the end of Bolton’s book.

I understood this better after I’d been swinging the HeavyHands already and was warmed up first. I could “feel” the movements better than simply doing them “cold”.

One thing that modern fitness folks are starting to comprehend as they revisit some of the “old ways” is the impact of muscle control and focus in the use of light weights (or simply tensing muscles alone) and how that relates to strength and endurance performance… ask Pavel sometime as he lectures on Maxick, a famous muscle control artist and strongman.

Of course Sandow and others used the qualities developed through their dumbbell work to attend to their strength feats later… in Sandow’s case literally later in the evening during his performances! The dumbbells were the base workout.

So what are some of the exercises in Bolton’s book?

  • Alternating Dumbbell Curls
  • Alternating Reverse Dumbbell Curls
  • Alternating Crucifix Dumbbell Curls
  • Simultaneous Crucifix Dumbbell Curls
  • Standing Dumbbell Pectoral Fly’s
  • Alternating Dumbbell Presses
  • Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises
  • Simultaneous Arm Circles Dumbbell Wrist Circles 1 (Clockwise)
  • Dumbbell Wrist Circles 2 (Anti-clockwise)
  • Dumbbell Punching Movement
  • Dumbbell Good Morning Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Shrugs
  • Dumbbell Crossovers
  • Dumbbell Side Bends
  • Simultaneous Dumbbell Back Extensions
  • Calf Raises
  • Toe Raises
  • Deep Knee Bend On Toes
  • One Legged Squat
  • Straight Legged Sit-Ups
  • Leg Raises
  • Hyperextensions
  • Push-Ups

Of course not all these exercises are things you’re going to do on a HeavyHands outing… and they’re not “panaerobic” unless you’re moving at the same time… and some – like shoulder shrugs – were always mentioned by Dr. Schwartz.

Still Bolton’s book is an interesting read, provides thoughts on variations for HeavyHands training at the very least, and reminds us that while many people may underestimate the value of training with light weights (a common criticism of HeavyHands), they may not have the last word on the subject if the weights are being used correctly!

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hang around the world of kettlebells for very long and you’ll start to hear about the “What the Heck Effect”…

That’s when someone starts training faithfully with kettlebells only to find that their ability to do something almost completely different happens! “What the heck?” Nobody’s complaining, and nobody saw that actually happening as a result of kettlebell training… but that was the only thing that changed.

Why do such things happen? Because kettlebell exercises focus on general strength and conditioning instead of “sports specific” conditioning, or so the reasoning goes.

This post (and the next one about HeavyHands training) hopes to catalog some “What the Heck Effect” sightings with kettlebells (this post) and HeavyHands (a future planned post).

Of course, it’s impossible to track down all of them to produce such an article… so readers are encouraged to use the comments section to PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN “What the Heck” experiences as a result of kettlebell or HeavyHands training!

(From this point “What the Heck” will just be noted as “WTH”…)

Even this author has experienced the WTH effect…

  1. HeavyHand Surprise. Due to the oppressively hot summer heat down South, kettlebells in the air conditioning became a very attractive workout option! Following the Kettlebell: Simple and Sinister Routine for several months SEEMED to be good “cardio” but no actual use of a recumbent bike or treadmill happened. The only “cardio” was 10 sets of Kettlebell Swings done “on the minute” seemed to do a great job! Finally after a couple months of this routine, the weather got cool enough to do some HeavyHands. Ten minutes a day (never more than 30 minutes one time) made it possible to swing 3 lb HeavyHands for an hour and a half without a problem the first day the weather allowed!
  2.  Handstand Pushup. A while back a friend started doing only kettlebell snatches and military presses. That went on for several months until he got a crazy idea in his head. He wondered if he could do a handstand pushup… even though he’d never done one before! To make a long story short, he tried and for the first time in his life he could do a handstand pushup. He’d never done them before and the only change he was aware of was working with kettlebells.
  3. SEAL Gets Truly “Operational”, Part 1. Despite the renowned SEAL training, this operator never felt “fit enough” for the challenges confronting him till he discovered the kettlebell and began doing the “Rite of Passage” program instead of simply training to pass the SEAL fitness test. “The kettlebell got me in great shape, and better operational shape. It took less time, was more fun, and didn’t interfere with my ability to operate…And I maintained — and even improved — some of the things I measured. I could not believe it. Later, I would go on to use the kettlebell to prepare myself for other ‘adventures.’ I loved the simplicity and the ‘max results with minimum effort’ aspect.” Read it all here…
  4. SEAL Part 2: According to this interview, the SEAL didn’t mention everything… The same SEAL mentioned above is, Eric Frohardt CEO of StrongFrist. He spent several months doing presses, swings, and snatches with a 53- and a 70-pound kettlebell. He did not touch the barbell or the pull-up bar. When he decided to test himself, it turned out that his 360-pound deadlift went up to 450 and he suddenly could do a strict pullup with over 100 pounds.
  5. Runs Faster. In one of the comments to the above article, a reader says: “I was a decent track athlete in college, running mid to low 22s 200m dash and around 50 flat in the 400. Definitely faster than your average person. I was the same as you, great endurance, could do around 23 pull ups at my best, but completely fell apart under load. My body didn’t feel strong when I was loaded up! Eventually I had a 3rd degree hamstring tear running the 200, and I had to learn how to move all over again…[but now] I feel faster and more explosive now than ever before.”
  6. Street Combat. The fairly well known “Secret Service Test” with the kettlebell is to do 200 one hand snatches (change hands once) in 10 minutes with a 24 kg kettlebell. How did that become the “gold standard”? Anyone who can keep that pace for 10 minutes has an awesome advantage when it comes to the hand to hand combat. Some say that this move is “as close to combat as possible without trading punches.” Those able to accomplish this feat have plenty of strength and stamina when it comes to movements like risking blocks, breaking holds, upper cuts, breaking an opponent’s balance, and delivering a fight ending front kick. The fact that the snatch requires a burst of energy and then relaxation before “reloading” makes it ideal for training strike type actions.
  7. Deadlift Power. Per Pavel “Powerlifter Donnie Thompson stopped deadlifting altogether, started kettlebelling and took his deadlift from 766 to 832 in less than a year.”
  8. Grappling Prowess. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt kettlebell students of Senior SFG instructor Doug Nepodal have seen superior results on the mat once they have switched from a fancy periodized “sport-specific” conditioning regimen to kettlebell swings and get-ups.”
  9. Outperform Fitness Instructors. “I decided to do something different today and chose a workout dvd that usually gets my heart rate way up and was a great workout for me. I have not done this workout in 4 weeks (I have been doing kettlebell workouts and joint mobility exercises exclusively for 4 weeks). Today the dvd got me sweaty, but didn’t get my heart rate up. The instructor on the video was sucking air and I’m thinking, “you really need a kettlebell”. Read more testimonies here…
  10. Pullups from Nowhere. TPROONEY3 said: “I have not been able to do pull ups for about 22 years. I have been working with kettlebells for about 18 months. I started doing some hanging leg raises on a pull-up bar at the gym to strengthen my core, but nothing resembling a pull-up. About three weeks ago, I looked at the pull-up bar and was curious. I jumped up and knocked out 8 consecutive pull-ups. What the hell!? I can’t DO pull-ups.
  11. Half-Marathon. Please don’t try to go from 100 kettlebell swings a day to running the marathon because of this heading but here’s what  StrongFirst writer Emily Bearden  had to say. Please note the lady is a former track athlete, retired professional Muay Thai fighter, etc., etc. She writes “When I signed up to do the Brooklyn Half, my body felt great. But the moment I started training runs, my hip started giving me trouble. So I stopped running, but continued my strength training: a 6-day-a-week barbell and kettlebell training program starting 2 months out from the Brooklyn Half. I never missed a workout….It wasn’t my intention to run the half marathon without training runs. But this experience proved to me how important strength training is.” Her article is definitely worth reading for her routine, though no half-marathon is on this writer’s horizon any time soon!

Know any other good links to “What the Heck” effect stories in the Kettlebell world? Please leave a comment. The same goes for any experiences you’ve had with the “What the Heck” effect of doing HeavyHands!

Note: Updated 9/15/2015