Whoever names common exercises must be striving to embarrass people. I’m aware that doing the “fire hydrant” move makes me look like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant, but I’d personally rather just not think about it. Same thing with an “inchworm exercise”: I’m trying to feel strong and powerful, not like a puny little caterpillar. The name is more appropriate than it might seem, though, because not only are you moving in an inchworm-like manner, you’re building serious core strength — something inchworms actually have a lot of.
Of course, as with any exercise, the key to making the most out of it is proper execution. An inchworm typically requires that you start standing, then hinge forward until your hands can touch the ground. Keeping your legs straight, you then walk your arms out until you’re in a raised plank position, walk your arms back in and repeat. Self recommends doing two sets of 10 reps each.
Because the inchworm utilizes your arms, it can be easy to accidentally rely upon these muscles as well as those in your shoulders and upper back, rather than your abs. Your arms, shoulders and back are important and all, but getting some shredded delts isn’t the single goal of the inchworm. So, to do it right, you have to engage your core. Easier said than done, especially if you’re new to ab workouts.
Something that demonstrations on YouTube particularly emphasize with the inchworm is staying mindful of your hips. The goal is to neither allow your hips to dip too low nor to raise them too high. Instead, you should maintain control of your hips so that when you’ve reached the furthest point of the inchworm extension, your entire body is relatively straight. In doing so, you’ll be flexing your stomach muscles and ensuring that your range of motion is originating from your core.
In addition to building strength, the inchworm also provides a solid stretch to your back and hamstrings. It might even help you finally manage to touch your toes again. Since it has these elements of non-static stretch and muscle engagement, the inchworm can be a particularly good warmup for cardio and other types of exercise. There is also tons of potential for added modifications, like up-and-down planks or push-ups.
Considering how many different aspects of the body the inchworm exercise can target, they’re definitely worth the grief of mimicking a caterpillar. Pretending to be a critter while exercising probably makes the whole experience go by faster, anyway.