It's true: Walking can actually help firm and flatten abs. But unless you know how to make a few minor but wholly effective adjustments to your walking routine, you may miss out on a fantastic opportunity to whittle away some of your belly bulge.
"If you're looking to firm up your stomach, you really need to strengthen your transverse abdominis," says fitness expert and walking guru Sarah Kusch. "It is the Spanx of your core! It holds you in and gives you that nice slim shape. Because its main function is to stabilize your pelvis and help you balance and move your legs, there are easy ways to activate it during your walk."
And if you wouldn't mind shedding a little extra padding, you'll also want to pump up the power of your calorie burn. "It's a winning combination for a trim, toned belly," says Kusch. Ready to get started? Add these belly-firming tweaks to your next walk.
Move your arms
Not only does swinging your arms at a faster rate help you walk faster—and ignite serious kJ burn—but that movement also engages the upper body, lower body, and, of course, your abs. "The movements required to propel the body forward, for instance, don't begin in the lower body, but in the core—the abdominal region. Simply placing one foot in front of the other activates the psoas muscles—the deep pelvic core muscles—required to move the thighs," explains Kusch. "Simply propelling your arms faster requires the body to use more energy, burn more kilojoules, and will melt off belly fat."
Up your incline
Your glutes aren't the only things on fire the minute you start walking up a hill. Adding any sort of resistance to your walk can help up your calorie burn and increase lean muscle mass. "Increasing your lean mass can boost your metabolism and help you burn more kilojoules at rest, resulting in a smaller waist," explains Kusch, who recommends incorporating inclines to your walks at least 3 days per week and several times throughout your walk.
Punch it out
Uppercuts and jabs aren't just for boxers. Incorporating these moves into your walking routine not only increases your heart rate and jump-starts your metabolism, but also engages your core muscles (and strengthens your back). "Forward punches and overhead reaches while keeping your core very engaged are a great way to tone up abs," says Kusch. "As you punch, contract your abs, and hit with power; draw your arm back and engage your upper back." Try doing 20 forward and 20 overhead jabs every 2 minutes of your walk. Sure, you may look a bit odd, but throw on some Spotify, get in the zone, and punch your way to a trimmer stomach.
Draw in your waist
"The key to activating the transverse abdominis—the muscle responsible for a flat tummy—while walking is to gently draw in around the waist as you lift your rib cage away from the pelvis," explains yoga trainer Tiffany Cruikshank.
Not only does this slight tweak take the pressure and weight off your hips, but it also helps to increase respiration, improve posture, support the sacroiliac joints and lower back, and, of course, flatten the belly and waist. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning back while you walk. Gaze toward the front of your body, lightly pulling in your chin. Relax shoulders and draw shoulder blades together slightly.
Use your knees
Side crunches aren't the only way to tone up your obliques, the abdominal muscles that run vertically down the side of your stomach. Fitness expert Dempsey Marks recommends adding in knee-to-elbow crosses during your walk to help trim down your waistline.
As you step forward, bring your opposite hand behind your head with your elbow pointing out to the side. Rotate your abdomen and touch your elbow to your opposite knee. "It can be a bit tricky to balance during this exercise, so be sure to take your time and perform it slowly," advises Marks. Complete eight reps on each side before taking a break and walking normally. Repeat two to four times throughout your walk.
Try straight legs
Sure, you may look funny (read: like a robot), but walking with your legs straight can help target the abdominals. "When you walk with straight legs, your body must engage your lower abdominal muscles as well as your hip flexors," explains Marks.
"Walking with straight legs puts more emphasis on your lower abdominals than walking normally because you are lifting up your entire leg rather than just from the knee up." To do it, lift your leg as high as you possibly can while taking a step forward—try to get your foot about 2 feet in the air. To make sure you're engaging your abs and not just your hip flexors, draw your belly button into your spine to engage your core. Try it for a minute of walking, 8 to 10 times throughout your walk.