inchworm-exercise
October 5, 2021

Inchworm Is an Equipment-Free Exercise You Need to Know

Inchworm is not only found as a garden pest. Inchworms can be used as a full-body exercise as well. All you need is your body and a mat or flat surface. They are easy to do for anyone, from beginners to experts. They can be used to strengthen stability and work many muscles. Although they can be done anytime, their stretching properties make them ideal for use at the beginning of a workout. Learn all you need to know about inchworms including their benefits as well as how to do your best.

MEET THE EXPERT

  • Nico Gonzalez is an Integrated movement specialist, Master Instructor for Balanced body education, and the owner of Fitness Physiques By Nico G.
  • Joy Puleo is the Balanced-Body Education Program Manager. She is also a Pilates expert.

What Is Inchworm?

You’re probably picturing yourself crawling along the ground inch by inch when you hear the term inchworms. The move involves moving from a standing to a plank and back position with small forward and reverse motions of your fingers. Puleo claims that this move is functional and dynamic because it involves moving from a standing position to a plank position and back. Gonzalez also says that they are “one of the most cost-effective exercises you can do.” They are “most commonly performed at the start of training sessions such as strength training, interval-based exercises, or just to prepare for a cardio session”, but they can also be done anytime.

Benefits of Inchworm

You will need to use your core, upper, and lower bodies simultaneously for this exercise. We mean it as a “full body” move. Gonzalez states that inchworms are a great way for mobility to be increased, warming up the body for exercise, and firing up the core. Gonzalez says the plank position activates the core and fires up the body by activating both the upper and lower bodies simultaneously. He also mentions that the “greatest benefit of the inchworm” is the ability to strengthen the hamstrings as well as flexibility in the back.

Puleo states that “starting in the upright position will bring awareness to posture and how we are organized against gravity.” With that awareness, “placing your hands on the ground requires flexibility in the back and hamstrings.” Walking out to the plank requires stability and strength, while walking forward and back into hinges requires mobility and strength in the hips, shoulders and hips. Rolling up to stand requires flexibility in the spine, as well as learning how to get off the ground.

How to Perform Inchworms

NICO GONZALEZ / DESIGN TIANA CRISPINO

  • Start in a standing position, with your back to the mat.
  • Your vertebrae should be rolled down so that your hands are directly in front of your face.
  • Slowly extend your arms outward until you reach a high plank position. Puleo states that if the client is strong enough she will ask them to raise their hands above their shoulders. This will challenge the core and strengthen the shoulders.
  • Move your feet towards your hands. Puleo recommends that the back be as long as your pelvis is toward the ceiling.
  • After your feet are as close as possible to your hands, you can roll back to your original position.
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  • Repeat.

Common Inchworm Mistakes

Although this move is simple, it is important to pay attention to proper form.

  • Extend your lower back: Gonzalez advises that you “be careful about maintaining a strong neutral low back,” as overextending can cause undue strain on your body.
  • You don’t have to perform the entire move. If you have tight hamstrings some of the positions may be difficult. Instead of standing straight up, try starting from a plank position. Then, do whatever you can. Gonzalez states that you should feel a hamstring stretch between a 1-10 on a scale from one to ten during this move.
  • Not keeping your body sufficiently long: Puleo states that “finding the right length here will minimize its value and create stress in the shoulders, neck and neck.” To ensure a longer spine, hinge at your hips.
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Do not hold too long. This is a dynamic move. Puleo warns against holding too much in one position. This exercise is great for teaching core integration with the hips and spine.

Who Should Avoid the Inchworm

Inchworms are not suitable for anyone who is unable to balance or vertigo. You might feel dizzy when you move from a standing to seated position to the ground and back. This is not a good choice if you have a wrist injury. Your weight will be on your hands. Avoid planks that place pressure on your neck and shoulders. Puleo also recommends that you proceed with caution if you have hip or spine limitations.

Modifications and Variations

You can modify this exercise to make it more difficult or easier for you.

Modifications

Gonzalez suggests that people who are less flexible should “do the pike position” to limit their flexibility. Allow your knees to bend at that point, and then stretch for between four-to six reps. This will allow your muscles to relax and lengthen dynamically.

To reduce the pressure on your wrists, core and shoulders if you are unable to do a high plank, try this move on a bench.

Puleo recommends using a dumbbell to stabilize your wrists if you are having trouble with your wrists.

Instead of walking forward with your legs to meet your hands you can walk your hands to the side and then return to standing.

Variations

  • Add a pushup while in the plank position.
  • For an additional challenge, extend your arms outward from your shoulders while you are in the plank position.
  • To challenge your lower abs, lift and lower one leg while in high plank.

The Takeaway

Inchworms can be done all over the body without any equipment. To move from a standing to a plank position, they use your core, upper body, and lower body. Because the movements are small and slow, you can “crawl” forward in a similar way to an inchworm. Anyone with wrist, neck, back, hip, or shoulder problems should avoid inchworms. They are not suitable for those with vertigo and balance issues. You can make the exercise easier or harder, so it’s possible for everyone (who doesn’t have preclusive injury). Inchworms are an excellent choice if you want to kickstart your exercise routine.