Inchworms aren’t particularly regarded for their core strength. There are no social media selfies of caterpillars showing off their 106-pack abs, for example. But the inchworm exercise is a solid go-to exercise when you’re looking to sculpt your core.
Sometimes called the walkout exercise, this low-impact, standing-to-plank-position move is popular among trainers with good reason. “The inchworm is primarily a core exercise, but you’ll also feel it in your shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., director of fitness and nutrition content for Openfit. “It works muscles all over your body.”
Best of all, it can be modified easily to make it more challenging.
How to Do the Inchworm Exercise
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Keeping your core engaged and back flat, hinge forward at your hips and place both palms on the floor. Bend your knees slightly if necessary.
- Walk your hands forward until you assume a high-plank position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your body should be straight from head to heels.
- Reverse the movement, walking your hands back toward your feet, to return to the starting position.
What Muscles Does the Inchworm Exercise Target?
The inchworm is a compound (multi-joint) exercise that hits several major muscles.
You have to stabilize your spine as you bend and walk your hands forward, and that lights up your abdominal and spinal erector muscles. These stay engaged as you keep your back and hips in alignment while in plank, and continue to fire up as you walk your hands back.
Arms, shoulders, and chest
As you come into high plank — and especially if you add a push-up to the sequence (more on that in a bit) — your pecs, delts, and triceps engage to support and move your body.
The following tweaks can be used to make the inchworm more challenging.
- Inchworm push-up: Once you reach the high-plank position, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor, and then push back up before returning to the starting position.
- Inchworm walk-up: Once you reach the high-plank position, lower your right forearm to the floor, and then your left. Push back up to a high plank and then return to the starting position.
- Inchworm to alternating side plank: From the high plank, transition to a side plank by shifting your weight onto one arm and rotating your body to raise the other one toward the ceiling. Return to a high plank and repeat on your other side before resuming the inchworm and returning to the starting position.
- Inchworm to sumo squat jump: When you return to the starting position, hop your feet out wide and perform a sumo squat, or keep your feet together for a squat jack.
You can also make the inchworm exercise part of a dynamic warm-up (seen above with a cobra variation in Openfit’s 600 Secs program) since it’s a low-impact move that not only engages many major muscle groups, but also helps increase mobility and flexibility by working your arms and hips through large ranges of motion. Maybe those inchworms should post selfies after all.