The Inchworm is a full-body exercise that increases strength and flexibility. Your body weight is the only equipment you need to make this low-impact exercise highly effective. Named after the rhythmic movements of inchworms, this move works your core, arms, chest, and upper back while engaging the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders, hips, glutes, and quadriceps, and stretching the hamstrings and calves for a full body challenge. The Inchworm is a great body weight exercise to perform on its own, or if you have a good baseline level of strength, it is a great exercise to incorporate into an active warm-up before strength training or a cardio workout.
How do you do an Inchworm?
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, roll your shoulders back and engage your abdominal muscles. Inhale.
Gently exhale as you bend forward from your hips, bending your knees as much as you need to for your hands to reach the floor. Inhale and relax into the stretch. Exhale.
As you inhale, slowly walk your hands forward, without moving your feet (your heels will begin to rise off the floor). Continue walking yourself forward until you reach a plank position (top of a push-up) where your hands are directly under your shoulders and your body forms a straight line from your heels to your head. Hold plank for 1 breath.
Inhale and as you exhale walk your hands back to your feet.
Return to standing by slowly rolling back up, imagining straightening one vertebra at a time, inhaling as you rise.
Repeat 8-12 times.
Variations & Challenges
There are many variations that you can add to the basic Inchworm exercise to increase the strength challenge or add additional stretches. Here are a few of my favorites:
Add a push-up. From plank position, slowly bend your elbows and lower down part way to the ground. Then push your body back up. The push-up can be done in a modified position from your knees or stay up on your toes for a full push-up.
Add a runner’s lunge. From the plank position, bring your left foot to the outside of your left hand. Hold for a breath cycle. Return your left leg back to plank position and repeat on the right side. For an extra stretch, try adding a twist -from the lunge position, twist your body toward your front leg, reaching your (same side) arm to the sky.
Add shoulder taps. From the plank position, touch your left shoulder with your right hand and return to plank. Then touch your right shoulder with your left hand.
Add a full body stretch. Return to standing and lift your arms out to your sides and then above your head until your palms touch.
In general, the Inchworm is a safe exercise for most people, especially when performed in a controlled, steady manner. However, anyone with tight hamstrings, wrist pain, or shoulder pain, may find the exercise uncomfortable to perform. If you try the movement and it causes pain, stop the exercise.