Regular ol’ walking does work your glutes (along with your hamstrings, quads, calves, and core), but certain tweaks to your form or technique can give your glutes muscles some extra love. “As one of the biggest muscles in your body, you want to keep your glutes strong in order to keep your overall body in alignment,” says Rebecca Louise, a mindset and fitness coach and author of It Takes Grit. “They support your lower back, especially when you’re lifting or keeping your pelvis and core stabilized.”
If you don’t work on your glutes in your exercise routine, the surrounding muscles have to step in to compensate. “This puts a lot of stress on the knees, hips, and lower back,” says Peloton instructor Jess Sims, who notes that your glutes are part of your core. “Your glutes allow the upper and lower extremities [of your body] to function properly.” She points to the example of running: To have proper form, it’s important to tuck your pelvis forward (or, as she likes to say, “take your butt with you”). “If you don’t do this, you might feel pain in your lower back, hips, or knees,” says Sims.
You don’t have to do anything particularly excessive in order to turn your walk into a glutes workout, either. Keep scrolling for trainer-approved tweaks that make your steps especially beneficial for toning and building strength in your all-important butt muscles.
Does walking tone your but and build muscle?
If you’re aiming to get your 10k a day steps in with hopes of making your butt bigger, we have some bad news for you. According to Los Angeles-based certified personal trainer, Daniel Saltos, also known as Train With Danny, the short answer is no. Walking alone won’t help build your booty muscles, despite the rising trends you may have seen on social media.
Walking is absolutely a great form of exercise, and one that doesn’t get a ton of love because it’s so chill and easy compared to other forms of exercise, Saltos says. But, rather than building butt muscles, walking can actually make your bum a bit smaller.
Here’s why: “Walking is a low-impact movement that offers a great way to burn calories,” Saltos explains. “When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose fat. The body doesn’t discriminate [between] the areas from where fat is lost, and one place where there is typically ample amounts of it is on our rear end. To build your glutes, you need some form of strength work, a stimulus of some sort that puts your glutes under tension. Walking on its own doesn’t do this.” So there you have it.
Tone and strengthen your butt with these walking workouts
But again, on the brightside, there are ways to turn a simple stroll into a glute-centric workout that helps strengthen and tone your butt, along with other parts of your lower body.
Like with any new fitness routine, patience and consistency is key. To see the results, Saltos recommends doing a minimum of three 30-45 minute butt-toning walking workout sessions per week featuring the moves below and committing to it for six to eight weeks.
1. Hit up an incline
One tried-and-true glute-burning upgrade to a walk is to get your steps on an incline. "Walking on an incline, either on the treadmill or on a hill, is a great way to switch up regular walking and target your glute muscles," says Louise. Start with a smaller incline and work your way up to increase the intensity.
2. Hold a high knee
For this walking workout, you're taking four to six steps before balancing on one foot as you bring the opposite leg into a high knee pause. Squeeze the glute of the leg that's still on the ground, push your hips forward, and draw your navel in towards your spine. "It's so important to work our bodies unilaterally," says Sims. "This helps to eliminate overcompensation and also helps your body neurologically practice balancing so that when you miss a curb or you trip, your body can minimize injury risk because you've introduced these balancing movement patterns."
3. Do some 'butt zaps'
For this walking tweak—which Sims calls a "butt zap"—simply bring awareness to your glutes by squeezing the glute of the foot that's still on the ground. "What you're doing is pushing your pelvis forward as you squeeze the glute," she says. So, basically, you're giving an extra squeeze to the side of your glutes that's powering your base foot, and alternating as you step forward. For an added challenge, Sims recommends exaggerating your walk by putting your heel down first, rolling through the center of your foot, and as you go onto the ball of the foot, do a calf raise, and add the butt zap.
4. Take it sideways
Sims also recommends lateral step-outs, which fire up your gluteus medius, aka the part of your glutes that help with hip movement. "Turn to the side, bend your knees a bit extra, and do sets of 10 to 20," she suggests. Break into these after you reach certain minute or mile marks to switch up your steps.
5. Mix it up with an incline lateral
To take things up a notch, try this technique, which Saltos swears by, that mixes an incline with lateral steps. He describes it as “one of the best booty burners of your life.” Remember to take it slow as you’re starting off. And, Saltos notes it’s important to “maintain your balance by keeping your core engaged, holding an athletic and wide stance, and squeezing in your glutes.”
6. Do a lateral hill climb
This technique is similar to the previous one, the difference is you’re talking it outdoors. To really up the challenge factor, Saltos recommends turning it into a full-blown, glute-centric walking workout. Here’s the sequence he recommends: walk in a flat area for 10 minutes. Then do five to eight sets of 12 reps of left lateral steps, followed by five to eight sets of 12 reps of right lateral steps. Finish with a five-minute cooldown walk in a flat area.
7. Flip it and reverse it
Another genius and highly effective hack for elevating your stroll into a butt-burning sesh is by simply walking backwards, which will fire up your glutes and hamstrings. “When taking your steps in reverse, make sure to land with your toes first, a slight lean forward, and your knee over your toe,” Saltos says. “Toe to heel and repeat.” Want more of a challenge? Saltos suggests an interval reverse walk. To do it, walk at a brisk pace for one minute. Then walk in reverse at a moderate pace for one minute. Repeat the cycle for 10-15 rounds.
8. Do an interval reverse walk
If you really want to step up your butt-burning walk (no pun intended), you can mix the above techniques into one workout. Saltos calls it “around the world.” Start by walking forward for one minute. Then walk for one minute in reverse, followed by a one minute walk to the left, and a one minute walk to the right. Repeat the cycle for five to 10 rounds.
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