Categorized as walking with a speed at the high end of the natural walking gait, power walking typically ranges in speed from 7 to 9 kilometers or 4.5-6 miles per hour.
One foot must be in contact with the ground at all times to technically qualify as power walking as opposed to running or jogging.
This exercise, while primarily targeting the lower legs, engages much of the entire body when performed at an elevated pace. Power walking works the following muscle groups:
- External Abductors
- Internal adductors
- Erector Spinae
- Arm and shoulder muscles
Race walking and power walking, while similar and both highly effective forms of exercise and calorie burning, have a few main differences.
Race walking is a highly competitive and technical form of walking performed in track meets all over the world, and even in the Olympic games. Power walking is primarily used for fitness, whereas race walking is for competition. Race walking also maintains a faster gait, with experts able to cover 8 to 9 miles per hour.
History of Race Walking
Though there are some minimal form and pace differences between power walking and race walking as mentioned above, there is not much to be found on the origins of power walking, and since race walking is an Olympic Sport, its lineage is much more easy to track.
Race walking looks easy until you understand the pace the walkers have to maintain. The “straight-leg rule” means that the knee is not allowed to bend until it passes under the center of the body.
Judges observe the form of each walker and hold up paddles to penalize them for “loss of contact” on the road and “bent knee” infractions. If a racer receives 3 warning cards from separate judges, he or she is disqualified from the race.
The first documented race walking contest dates back 400 years to England and spread like wildfire throughout much of the world. By the 1800s, it rivaled horse racing in popularity for one reason: gambling. Spectators could bet on either competition to make it more interesting.
In these legendary competitions, racers would walk for days. While typical racers would try to walk 100 miles in 24 hours, others were longer, lasting as long as 40 days.
Whereas 1908 marked the first men’s race walking Olympic competition, women were not granted the same opportunity until 84 years later. Race walking continues to be a part of the Olympic games today.
How to Increase Your Walking Speed
To prepare yourself for a power walking session, you need to warm up your body.
- Walk at a comfortable clip for 2-4 minutes
- Walk for 1 minute on your heels
- Perform basic leg stretches
There are 2 main ways to propel yourself into a faster walking motion:
- Increase Your Stepping Frequency. To increase the pace of your steps:
-Make sure to roll through your feet and push up with your toes
-Use a pendulum motion with your arms, keeping them bent at 90 degrees.
-Your hands can go up to, but not higher than your chest
-Adapt your arm swings to the cadence of your strides to synchronize the movements.
- Propel Yourself Into Deeper Strides. To increase the length of your steps:
-Push your foot further forward by increasing the rotation of your hip, utilizing a wider range of motion.
-Extend your arms further to sync with your deepened leg strides
-When your arms swing back, extend it by reaching far behind you and pump it forward in an explosive movement to gain momentum and propel your body forward.
You can choose the method of speed-walking that suits you, or you can perform one and then the other.
- Improved overall health
- Weight management
- Strengthened lower leg muscles
- Stress Reduction
- Protection from joint injury
- Reduced chance of illness and disease
- Improved overall agility
- Low impact workout
- Race walking
- Chi Walking
- Nordic/Pole Walking
- Brisk Walking
Power Up Your Walking Game
Whether you are interested in all the health benefits of walking, but hate wasting the time it takes to engage in a leisurely stroll, if you want to keep your heart rate up and burn some extra calories, or if you have suffered an injury and need a low impact way to exercise, power walking is a great way to get and stay fit.