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Effects of Hiking Pole Inertia on Energy and Muscular Costs During Uphill Walking


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 6 - p 1117-1125
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318167228a

Introduction/Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of using hiking poles with different inertia on oxygen cost (V˙O2) and muscular activity.

Methods: Eleven subjects walked at 3 km·h−1 on a treadmill inclined at 20% grade. Three mass (240, 300, and 360 g), load distribution, and walking frequency (preferred, −20% and +20%) conditions were tested. Each subject also walked without poles and carried a 360-g mass. V˙O2 and average EMG (aEMG) of nine muscles from lower (soleus, gastrocnemius lateralis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, gluteus maximus) and upper (latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and anterior deltoid) limbs were recorded.

Results: Using poles significantly reduced lower limb muscle aEMG values (P < 0.001) by about 15% and increased upper limb muscle aEMG values (P < 0.001) by about 95%. Hand-masses of 360 g did not result in an increased V˙O2, and the only modification in terms of muscular activation was greater biceps brachii activity (+55%, P = 0.006). Biceps brachii and anterior deltoid activity were also influenced by pole mass and load distribution (P < 0.01). Walking at high frequency increased both aEMG and V˙O2, whereas walking at low frequency redistributed the muscular work from the thigh muscles to calf and upper limb muscles although this did not lead to an increased V˙O2 compared with that at preferred frequency. No interaction between mass and frequency was found for aEMG or V˙O2.

Conclusion: Using poles and changing frequency have important effects on muscle recruitment, whereas the effects of mass were limited when considering poles available on the market.

1PPEH Laboratory, Jean Monnet University, Saint-Etienne; and 2Decathlon Research Center, Biomechanics Laboratory, Villeneuve d'Ascq, FRANCE

Address for correspondence: Matthieu Foissac, MSc, 4, bd de Mons. BP299, 59665 Villeneuve d'Ascq, France; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2007.

Accepted for publication January 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine