The secret to fitness walking is a strong core and limber joints. Strength training exercises for brisk walking should therefore combine endurance, flexibility and weight-bearing.
Whilst strength training typically focuses on lifting weights and using other gym equipment, research shows the gym is not the most beneficial strength training exercises for brisk walking.
Health and fitness experts recommend focusing on strengthening the muscles and joints that are most specific to the activity you’re performing.
Brisk walking puts the most strain on your shins, calves, hips and lower back. Your core muscles will also need a good workout together with balance and coordination.
Rather than heading to the gym, you can perform strength training exercises for brisk walking at home or when you’re out and about; a park bench and steps for example.
Goal Setting Strength Training Exercises for Walking
Strength training for brisk walking fundamentally involves muscle control and building up parts of the body that absorb the most pressure.
The 15 exercises below, focus on weight-bearing postures together with improving flexibility in your knee, hip and ankle joints. The goals of these exercises are to:
- Increase strength and endurance of relevant muscles
- Co-ordinating muscles to operate efficiently through motor control
- Improve lactate threshold of muscles when walking up hills
If you already have a regular fitness regime, the 15 strength training exercises for brisk walking outlined below can be incorporated into your typical exercise routine.
Alternatively, you can combine the exercises to build a training routine specifically designed for brisk walking.
Warm-up for Strength Training
Before you dive straight into strength training exercises for brisk walking, take the time to warm up. This is important for boosting blood flow and lactating your muscles. Warm-ups reduce the risk of injury.
If you are just starting a fitness program, take more time to sufficiently warm-up and don’t overdo your first couple of sessions. It’s important to listen to your body so don’t do the full round of reps we recommend below until your body is attuned to strength training exercises.
To warm up, spend a few minutes performing hip swings, stretching your hamstrings, and flexing your knees and ankles. You should also walk at a moderate pace to warm up your limbs before you get into the heavy stuff.
Speaking of which…
Strength Training Exercises for Brisk Walking
1. Balance and Reach
Balance is a quality that helps you to avoid injury during brisk walking. It’s also beneficial if you’re rambling across uneven terrain.
To perform balance and reach exercises:
- Stand on one leg with your raised foot slightly off the ground
- Slowly lift your non-standing leg up behind you and lean forward
- Keep your hips and pelvis level
- Tap the floor with your fingertips and slowly come back to a standing position
- Repeat 5 times and switch legs
2. Head for the Hills
Brisk walking requires endurance. You’ll be walking at a pace of around 3.5-5mph for 15-20 minutes stretches or more at a time so you need to build up your stamina.
Hillwalking increases the intensity of a strength training routine. Steep inclines are harder than running and give your calves and quadriceps a good workout.
Coming down the other side is also beneficial for activating your core, connecting your mind-muscle coordination and your sense of balance.
The number of hill walks you do during a strength training routine will depend on how the size of the hill and the type of other exercises you integrate into your workout. Either way, plan a least two hill climbs a week.
3. Heel-toe rock
The heel-toe rock is another great exercise to test your balance. It also strengthens your toes, ankles and calves.
- Balance your weight equally in both feet and bend your knees
- Gently transfer your weight backwards and come on to your heels
- Switch your weight forward and lift your heels off the floor so you take all your weight on your toes
- Rock back and forth 12-15 times counting one heel to toe and toe to heel as one round
- Rest and repeat two more times
4. Back Lunge into Font Leg Stretch
Another balancing act:
- From a standing position, put your right foot behind you and come into a lunge position
- Your left knee should be bent parallel to the ground above your ankle
- Hold this posture for 5-10 seconds
- Bringing your right leg forward move into a standing position with all your weight on your left leg and raise your right knee in front of you
- Hold this posture for 3-5 seconds to steady your balance
- Slowly stretch your right leg out in front of you and hold
- In one motion, return your right knee to the bent position and fluidly behind you into the lunge
- Repeat three times on the right leg and three times on the left leg
- Perform three reps on each leg, resting for 1 minute between reps
5. Side Planks
Side planks are useful for strengthening your core and, depending on your technique, can also benefit your balance and focus.
- Lay on your front and come into a plank
- Turn slowly to your right and raise your right arm in the air so you take all the weight of your upper body on your left arm. You should now be on your side
- If you can balance, place the right foot/ankle on top of the left foot/ankle. If you can’t balance in this position, place the right foot in front of behind the left.
- Hold for 10-12 seconds and return to plank. Stay in plank for five seconds.
- Perform the same movement to your left so you take the weight on your right arm.
- Return to plank and repeat on your right, then back to your left. Do this five times.
6. High-Knee Marches
This one is simple:
- Stand with your legs together then raise one knee as high as you can
- Return the raised knee to the floor and lift the other leg
- Repeat the movement quickly as though you’re marching
7. Hip Opener
Brisk walking relies heavily on the hips so this twisting abs exercise is an essential addition to any strength training program for brisk walking.
- Move into a lunge position with your left knee bent and right leg behind you. Place your right leg on the floor
- Place your left palm on your left knee and push it outwards
- Turn your foot onto the sides so you can push your leg further away from your body and open your hip wider
It’s a classic but professional personal trainers agree squats are among the best strength training exercises for brisk walking. Squats work your legs but also impact your core and upper body strength.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips
- With your head straight and eyes forward, raise your arms in front of you so they are level with your shoulders
- Keep your back straight, squeeze your abs and slowly lower your stance as far as you can
- Complete 15-20 reps, take a 10-second rest then repeat. Do this three times.
9. Ab Twists
The abdomen often gets overlooked as a strength training exercise for brisk walking. You may not realise it but you actually use your abdominal muscles more than you realise when you’re walking.
- Place the palm of your right hand on top of your left thigh, slightly round your back and squeeze your abs
- Twist down to the left. You should feel your stomach muscles crunch. Do 12-15 repetitions, then switch sides
10. Finger to Foot Stretch
This is another ab twisting exercise and, in addition, works on your stamina to build fitness.
- Lie on your back with your arms in a T-position and your feet apart a little more than shoulder-width apart.
- Raise your left leg upright into a stretch and reach your right hand to touch your toes – or ankle if you can’t quite reach
- Lower and repeat on the opposite side
- Do ten rounds on each side and rest for 15 seconds.
- Repeat three times
11. Leg Curls
Leg curls work your hamstrings and help to balance the growth of quadriceps which are synonymous with brisk walking.
- Kneel on all four and raise your leg in the air behind you. Ideally, your leg should be horizontal with your back but don’t worry if you can only lift it all the way.
- Bend your knee so your foot is in the air then straighten your leg again
- Repeat 12-15 times
- Rest for 30-seconds and repeat. Do this three times
12. Ab crunches
There are several ways to perform ab crunches. Our suggestion is designed for strength training exercises in a park in any weather – so if the grass is wet, you don’t have to lay down to crunch those abs
- Sit on the edge of a park bench with your hands on either side of your thighs.
- Bend your knees your chest then slowly lower them towards the ground but without touching the floor
- Slowly bring your knees back towards your chest and back to the ground
- Repeat 12-15 times. Take a 20-second break and repeat.
13. Hip Stretch
If your job entails sitting for most of the day, this hip stretch exercise will help loosen you up for brisk walking.
- Stand tall with your back straight
- Step forward with your right leg, keeping your left foot on the floor. Your right knee should rest squarely above your right ankle at a 90-degree angle. Your toes should support the weight on your left side
- Tilt your hips forward slightly until you feel a mild stretch in your left hip and hamstring. Hold for a slow count of five seconds and ease yourself backwards.
- Repeat the movement face times
- Step back and change legs
- Repeat two more times on both sides.
14. Heel Walk
Weight-bearing exercises that work the muscles in front of the ankle and strengthens the feet are ideal for brisk walking.
- Stand upright with your feet together. Lift both your feet at the same time and stand on your heels.
- Take 20-30 small steps forward using only your heels. To test your balance, turn around and walk back to your starting position.
- Rest for 20-seconds and repeat the circuit. Do this three times.
15. Interval Walking
Professional personal trainers that specialise in strength training exercises for brisk walking routines always recommend walking at a pace then resting. This helps your body to build endurance.
The rests enable you to recover your breath and go again. This means you inevitably covering more distance. Ideally, you should use a circuit so you can measure your progress.
- Start this exercise by walking at a normal pace for a minute or two
- Speed up to brisk walking pace for three minutes
- Slow back down to normal walking pace for one minute
- Move through the gears to brisk walking pace for another three minutes
- Repeat this pattern until you complete your circuit
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