Daily walks can be a great way to lose weight (especially the dangerous but easy-to-lose belly fat) and strengthen your quads and hamstrings. However, it’s important to also strengthen your glutes, which are one of the body’s largest muscle groups.
By concentrating some of your efforts on strengthening the gluteal muscles, you’ll improve your walking form, make it easier to walk at a faster pace and even prevent many common overuse injuries. Try including one or two of these exercises during your walks two or three times a week. Mix and match them to keep things interesting, and as the exercises get easier, increase the number of repetitions or add weights.
Following a 10-minute warmup, complete 20 forward lunges (10 with each leg). Start with one set of 20 and build up to 2–3 sets per session. In between sets, make sure you complete another 2–3 minutes of walking while you recover.
The move: Begin in a split stance with feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your back knee down toward the ground, keeping your front knee tracking forward over your middle toes. Engaging your glutes and pressing through your front foot and the ball of your rear foot, stand back up.
Either after your set of lunges or following the first 10 minutes of your walk, complete 15 air squats. Like the lunges, start with one set and increase the number of sets as tolerated. Walk for 2–3 minutes between sets and continue with the rest of your walk once the squat routine is complete.
The move: Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. With your shoulders back and your head up, bring your arms out in front of your body and squat down as if you were sitting in a chair. Maintain a neutral spine and make sure your knees don’t go below a 90-degree angle if you’ve had knee issues in the past. With your body weight supported through the heels, engage your glutes and drive back up to the starting position.
If you’re looking for a slightly more advanced exercise from lunges, stepups are an excellent choice. They’re also ideal for people who walk through urban areas or parks with access benches or picnic tables. If you do loops around a park, for instance, do one set every loop.
The move: Plant your right foot on a bench, lean forward and step up so you’re standing with both feet on the bench. Then, step back with your right foot and plant it on the ground. Then, step back with your left foot. Next, step up with your left foot followed by the right foot. Complete 10 stepups with the same foot on the bench before switching to the opposite leg.
Another slightly more advanced exercise that’s good to progress to is mountain climbers. In addition to targeting the glutes, this exercise is also good for building core strength.
The move: Start in a plank position with a neutral spine, your hands underneath your shoulders and belly button pulled in toward your spine. Then pull your right knee underneath you toward your right elbow, maintaining stability in your upper body, shoulders and a neutral spine. Switch legs and repeat for 20 seconds.