4-Week Walking Plan For Total-Body Strength

Emily Abbate
by Emily Abbate
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4-Week Walking Plan For Total-Body Strength

The best thing about walking is its accessibility. It’s also one of the most beneficial habits for your health. Adding more steps to your daily routine can improve heart healthincrease mental sharpness and more. For example, going for a walk outdoors can reduce feelings of frustration and help you get into a more meditative state.

But all walking isn’t created equal. Enter Bethany Rutledge, a USAT certified triathlon coach based in Atlanta and author of “Courage to Tri,” with a four-week total-body walking plan that includes incline walking and bodyweight strength exercises. This plan is geared toward improving both aerobic fitness and strength. “Adding strength moves into your walking can help you torch extra calories and build lean muscle (which in turn, helps you burn even more),” she says. “Plus, simulating hills by adding incline walking to your arsenal improves your strength and outdoor walking fitness.”

WALKING PLAN TERMINOLOGY

Throughout the plan, you’ll see a few different buzz words. We outline what those mean, here:

Endurance walk: This intensity level is between recovery and steady state. You should be able to easily converse.

High-intensity walk: Walk as quickly as you can. At this pace your breathing should be very labored and talking is difficult.

Recovery walk: Walk at a comfortable pace, and focus on catching your breath. This low-intensity walk is also used for warmup and cooldown walking.

Steady-state walk: Walk briskly, your breathing is elevated, but you can still talk easily.

Walk Incline Ladder:
This walk includes a ladder of work, starting at 3-minute efforts and descending to 1-minute efforts, then slowly working back to start:

3 minutes at 6–9% incline
3-minute steady-state walk
2 minutes at 6–9% incline
2-minute steady-state walk
1 minute at 6–9% incline
1-minute steady-state walk
2 minutes at 6–9% incline
2-minute steady-state walk
3 minutes at 6–9% incline
3-minute steady-state walk
Cooldown: 5-minute walk

Walk Strength Circuit: 

Warmup: 5-minute walk
Strength round 1: Squats, pushups and lunges
5-minute steady-state walk
Strength round 2: Planks, birddogs and lateral lunges
5-minute steady-state walk
Strength round 3: Dumbbell row, bicycle crunch, superman
Cooldown: 5-minute walk

WALKING PLAN EXERCISES

You’ll also incorporate a few basic full-body movements, including:

SQUAT

The move: Start standing with your feet at shoulder-width. Toes should be slightly turned out. Keeping an active core, squat as low as you can, maintaining tension through your legs, sinking your weight into your heels. Press back up to start for one rep.

PUSHUP

The move: Start in a high plank. Keeping your elbows close to your rib cage, lower your body in a straight line toward the floor. Push through your palms back to start for one rep.

LUNGE

The move: Start with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge (your knee shouldn’t extend past your toes) and lower slowly for 5 seconds. Push through your front heel to return to standing. This counts as one rep. Continue for 30 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.

PLANK

The move: Get into a high pushup position, maintaining a strong core and creating a straight line from head to heel. Hold.

BIRDDOG

The move: Start in tabletop position. Simultaneously lift your right leg and left arm, kicking straight back through the right leg and reaching forward with your left arm. Make sure your back stays in a neutral position throughout the entire movement. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly return to start. Continue, alternating sides.

LATERAL LUNGE

The move: Start standing with your feet together. Step to the left with your left toe pointed directly forward and allow your left hip to drop down and back. While bracing that hip and keeping the right leg straight, step the right leg in and repeat.

DUMBBELL ROW

The move: Stand in a split stance with your left foot forward, hold a dumbbell with your right hand. Keeping your abs tight and spine naturally straight, hinge forward from the hips about 45 degrees, reaching your right arm toward the floor and placing your right hand on your left knee to help maintain a neutral position. Row right your arm behind your back, pulling the weight to side of your torso. Lower arm to starting position. Repeat on the opposite side to complete the set.

BICYCLE CRUNCH

The move: Lie on your back with your hands clasped behind your head. Lift your legs to tabletop position. This is your starting position. Crunch up, then twist from the torso as you draw right elbow to left knee and extend right leg straight out. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

SUPERMAN

The move: Lie face down on the ground with your arms and legs extended. Lift your legs, arms and chest off the floor. Hold for 4 seconds. Slowly lower your arms and legs to return to start; repeat.

Incorporating three rest days each week, Rutledge’s goal is to enable anyone to get comfortable with movement and the different walking zones, before cranking things up another notch.

About the Author

Emily Abbate
Emily Abbate

Emily has written for GQ, Self, Shape and Runner’s World (among others). As a certified personal trainer, run and spin coach, she’s often tackling long runs or lifting heavy things. In addition to that, she’s working on Hurdle, a podcast that talks to badass humans and entrepreneurs who got through a tough time —a hurdle of sorts— by leaning into wellness.

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