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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

How to Inch Your Way to Fitness: The Ultimate Guide to the Inchworm Exercise

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

An inchworm moving on a log


Inchworm exercise demonstration
Image Source: Sweat app


If you’re feeling bored with your usual workout routine, why not give the inchworm exercise a try? It’s a great way to crawl out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself to new heights!

The inchworm exercise is a dynamic exercise that mimics the way an inchworm moves: it stretches out, then curls up, then repeats. It sounds simple, but it can be quite challenging and rewarding.


The inchworm exercise is a total-body movement that works your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system. It strengthens your core, upper body, and lower body, while also stretching your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and lower back. It also increases your blood circulation and oxygen delivery to your muscles and organs, which boosts your energy and metabolism.


The inchworm exercise is versatile and adaptable. You can do it as part of an active warm-up or cool-down, or as part of a circuit training or high-intensity interval training session. You can also modify it to suit different levels of fitness and different goals. You can do it anywhere, anytime, with no equipment needed.


In this article, we will explain how to do the inchworm exercise, what are its benefits, and how to modify it for different levels and goals. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the inchworm exercise and provide some tips and tricks to make the most of it.



What is the Inchworm Exercise?

The inchworm exercise is named after the way an inchworm moves: it stretches out, then curls up, then repeats. To do the inchworm exercise, you need a flat surface and enough space to lie down. Here are the steps:


  • Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

  • Breathe in, engage your core, and as you breathe out, bend at the waist and reach down to touch the floor in front of your feet. Keep your legs as straight as possible, but don’t force it if you feel too tight. You can bend your knees slightly if you need to.

  • Walk your hands forward until you are in a plank position, with your hands under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Make sure you don’t sag or arch your back, and keep your hips level.

  • Hold the plank for a second, then walk your feet forward toward your hands, keeping your legs as straight as possible. You can take small steps or big steps, depending on your flexibility and comfort.

  • Stand up slowly and repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions or time.


Here is a video demonstration of how to do the inchworm exercise:




Benefits of the Inchworm Exercise

The inchworm exercise has many benefits for your health and fitness. Here are some of them:


  • It strengthens your core muscles, which are important for stability, posture, and preventing back pain.

  • It works your upper body muscles, especially your shoulders, chest, arms, and back, which help you perform everyday tasks and other exercises.

  • It stretches your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and lower back, which tend to get tight from sitting or standing for long periods of time.

  • It increases your blood circulation and oxygen delivery to your muscles and organs, which boosts your energy and metabolism.

  • It improves your coordination and balance, which can prevent falls and injuries.


Proper Technique: How to Perform the Inchworm Exercise

To perform the inchworm exercise correctly and safely, you need to pay attention to some details. Here are some tips on maintaining correct body alignment and form:


  • Keep your head in line with your spine throughout the movement. Don’t look up or down too much.

  • Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button toward your spine. This will help you stabilize your trunk and protect your lower back.

  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears and don’t shrug them. This will prevent tension in your neck and upper back.

  • Keep your elbows slightly bent when you walk your hands forward or backward. Don’t lock them out or flare them out too much.

  • Keep your hips level and don’t let them drop or hike up too much. This will ensure that you are working both sides of your body equally.

  • Keep your legs as straight as possible when you walk them forward or backward. Don’t bend them too much or drag them on the floor.

  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically throughout the movement. Don’t hold your breath or hyperventilate.


Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Generally speaking, any mistakes you make with the inchworm exercise are unlikely to cause major harm. The harm comes not as much in the potential for injury (although as with any physical movement, there’s always some potential for injury), but in denying yourself the full benefit of the exercise. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:


  • Going too fast or too slow. The inchworm exercise is not a race or a marathon. You want to find a pace that is challenging but comfortable for you. Going too fast can compromise your form and increase your risk of injury. Going too slow can reduce your intensity and limit your results. Aim for a smooth and steady movement that matches your breathing pattern.

  • Not engaging your core. The inchworm exercise is primarily a core exercise, so you want to make sure you are activating your core muscles throughout the movement. If you don’t engage your core, you will lose stability and put more stress on your lower back and other joints. To engage your core, think of bracing your abdomen as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach. This will help you keep your spine neutral and your hips level.

  • Not stretching enough. The inchworm exercise is also a great way to stretch your posterior chain, which includes your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and lower back. These muscles tend to get tight from sitting or standing for long periods of time, which can affect your posture and mobility. To stretch them effectively, you need to keep your legs as straight as possible when you walk them forward or backward. Don’t cheat by bending your knees too much or taking small steps. Try to reach as far as you can with each step, without compromising your form or comfort.


Modifications and Variations

The inchworm exercise can be modified to suit different levels of fitness and different goals. Here are some variations you can try:


  • To make it easier, you can shorten the distance between your hands and feet when you walk them forward or backward. You can also place your hands on a raised surface, such as a bench or a step, to reduce the load on your upper body.

  • To make it harder, you can increase the distance between your hands and feet when you walk them forward or backward. You can also add a push-up when you are in the plank position or lift one leg or arm off the ground to challenge your balance and stability.

  • To make it more dynamic, you can add a jump when you stand up from the inchworm position. You can also alternate between walking forward and backward with your hands or feet to create a continuous movement.

Inchworm push-up variation. Verywell / Ben Goldstein
Inchworm push-up variation. Verywell / Ben Goldstein


Who Should Not Do the Inchworm Exercise?

The inchworm exercise is generally safe and beneficial for most people, but there are some exceptions. If you have any of the following conditions or injuries, you should avoid doing the inchworm exercise or consult with your physical therapist before trying it:


  • Shoulder or wrist injuries. The inchworm exercise puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders and wrists, especially when you walk your hands forward or backward. If you have any pain, inflammation, or instability in these joints, you should not do the inchworm exercise.

  • Cervical or lumbar spine issues. The inchworm exercise requires you to keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the movement. If you have any problems with your neck or lower back, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or osteoporosis, you should be cautious with the inchworm exercise. People with mild or moderate spine issues should consult their physical therapist before doing the inchworm exercise.

  • People with high blood pressure or heart disease should be cautious when doing the inchworm exercise. The inchworm exercise can elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, especially if you do it at a high intensity or for a long duration. However, the inchworm exercise can also have health benefits for people with cardiovascular conditions, such as improving their flexibility, strength, and endurance. People with high blood pressure or heart disease should consult their physical therapist before starting any new exercise program, and they should always monitor their symptoms and intensity level during exercise. They should also modify the inchworm exercise to suit their fitness level and avoid doing it at a high intensity or for a long duration.


FAQs About the Inchworm Exercise

Here are some common questions and answers about the inchworm exercise:


Q: How many calories does the inchworm exercise burn?

A: The exact number of calories burned by the inchworm exercise depends on several factors, such as your weight, height, age, gender, intensity, and duration. However, a general estimate is that you can burn about 10 calories per minute by doing the inchworm exercise.


Q: How often should I do the inchworm exercise?

A: The frequency of doing the inchworm exercise depends on your fitness level and goals. If you are using it as a warm-up or cool-down, you can do it before or after every workout. If you are using it as part of a circuit training or high-intensity interval training session, you can do it 2 to 3 times a week, with at least one day of rest in between.


Q: What muscles does the inchworm exercise work?

A: The inchworm exercise works your whole body, but mainly targets the following muscles:


  • Core muscles (abdominals and obliques)

  • Shoulder muscles (deltoids)

  • Chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor)

  • Arm muscles (biceps and triceps)

  • Back muscles (latissimus dorsi and trapezius)

  • Glute muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus)

  • Leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves)


Q: Can I do the inchworm exercise if I have lower back pain?

A: It depends on the cause and severity of your lower back pain. The inchworm exercise can be beneficial for some people with lower back pain, as it can strengthen the core muscles that support the spine and stretch the tight muscles that cause tension and stiffness. However, the inchworm exercise can also aggravate some lower back conditions, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or osteoporosis. If you have lower back pain, you should consult with your doctor before trying the inchworm exercise. You should also listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort during the exercise. You can also modify the exercise to make it easier or more comfortable for you, such as shortening the distance between your hands and feet or placing your hands on a raised surface.


Final thoughts

The inchworm exercise is a simple but effective movement that works your whole body, improves your flexibility, and gets your heart rate up. It is a great way to warm up before a workout or cool down after one. It can also be used as part of a circuit training or high-intensity interval training session. You can do it anywhere, anytime, with no equipment needed. Try it today and see how it improves your fitness and well-being!

If you have any questions or feedback about the inchworm exercise, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me via email. I would love to hear from you!


Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it. If you want to learn more about fitness, health, or wellness, you can check out my other articles on my blog or subscribe to my newsletter. You can also follow me on social media for more tips and updates.

Have a wonderful day and keep moving! 😊

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