Walking. It can improve recovery, performance, and body composition, yet many lifters avoid it because it's not "hardcore" enough. Too bad for them. Here's a walking plan that every lifter should add to his or her weekly program.
First, Know Your Heart Rate
Schedule a 25-60 minute walk 3-5 times a week. Plan it as intentionally as your bench day. Try to keep your heart rate in a low intensity zone, anywhere from 100-120 beats per minute. Don't worry about using a heart rate monitor, just do this:
- Take your pulse at your wrist and count the beats for 6 seconds.
- Take the number of beats, multiply it by 10 and there you go, you have a relative heart rate.
Keep it constant for the entire duration of the walk. Try inclining a treadmill 3-10% to achieve that heart rate if needed. And don't hold on to the rails.
Five Reasons to Program Walks
Here are five reasons why walking complements your work day, your training, and your physique goals.
There's been a lot of talk about the "fat-burning zone" over the last decade, but anytime you can maximize caloric output while minimizing orthopedic, systemic, and mental stress, that's going to be a sustainable winner for fat loss.
Think of stress as an investment. You have an ideal allotment of it that you can invest in the physical and aesthetic changes you want. Your goal should be to invest most of that into meaningful training, not haphazard hyper-intense cardio and repeat death-runs on the football field.
Sure, sprinkling in high intensity training is a great way to maximize performance and hormonal response. But it ought to be used judiciously. Consider the slower, more sustainable low-intensity movement as a moneymaker for fat loss. There's not a lot of stress you have to invest in it to get a lot out.
One of the most influential bodybuilders of our time, Dorian Yates used walking as a secondary cardio in the preparation for many of his Mr. Olympia titles. He was, and still is, jacked and conditioned to the brink of physical perfection. And he used long duration walking to spark fat loss.
Since walking is low intensity and low impact, it can speed up recovery while mitigating stress in the joints and central nervous system.
During the active coordinated gait cycle, musculature of the legs, arms, and core become engaged in a reciprocal pattern in an on-and-off nature. This pattern taps into the oblique slings of the body made up of the glutes, core, lats, and pecs, in conjunction with agonist/antagonist contractions of the extremities in order to move the body forward smoothly.
These synergistic muscle actions place pressure through the lymphatic and venous systems in order to push excess fluid that's accumulated through local stress back into central circulation. From there, excess fluid will be excreted centrally. Managing local and systemic inflammation is the name of the game in recovery, and walking is the simplest way to do it.
Most lifters hate long duration cardio. When left with a choice of moving iron or riding the exercise bike, you can understand why many feel this way.
But sometimes we just have to do the stuff we don't want to do. The key here is making sure that we place a strong emphasis on big ticket items like strength training and conditioning while getting in the bare minimum cardiovascular work we need to develop a good base function.
Adding walking to your day will develop that base, help you recover quicker between working sets in the gym, and may even improve some of those "minor" vitals (blood pressure, resting heart rate and respiratory rate) associated with your lifespan.
Walking can actually be a powerful pain reliever. It can activate key stabilizers of the spine, improve functionality within the prime movers of the body, and trigger recovery and blood flow to tissues that need activity, especially if you're broken down and hurt.
Chronic lower back pain is common. And people have been looking for ways to ease their pain without much success over the past twenty years. I'd venture to say that we're now collectively in a lower back pain epidemic.
The key muscular players in chronic lower back pain are the quadratus lumborum and the norotious psoas (muscles located on the back and front sides of the spine). These are deep stabilizers responsible for integrating the lumbar spine with the pelvis and hip complex. These two synergistic muscles are prime stabilizers, and really act as somatosensory organs as well as mechanical movers and stabilizers.
As lower back pain is initiated for whatever reason, the deep stabilizers are usually thrown into a heightened state, either becoming functionally tight or not activating to the point of smooth and sequenced function.
Through research and real-world study with athletes, walking has been shown to be a functional remedy for these two muscle groups. During the gait cycle, the psoas and QL from opposite sides of the body interact and function together in order for you to walk normally. Your body will find a way to coordinate this movement, keep you upright, and moving.
Improving your gait, finding optimal heel strikes, foot patterns, and keying in on the quality is the way we get you to tap into the vast benefits that walking provides for getting rid of that nagging lower back pain.
One advantage of walking is cognitive enhancement and wellness. Increased blood flow isn't just siphoned to the active musculature involved in the movement, it's also shuttled to the brain. Increased cerebral blood flow also cuts the risk of vascular and degenerative diseases, but it also boosts creativity and the mental "flow" state. Some of the most innovative minds the world has ever known, such as Einstein, Da Vinci, and a host of influential thinkers, went for walks.
You may be thinking that the reason you lift is to gain mental clarity and refreshment, but who couldn't use more of this? Walking is the key to tapping into your mental muscle while sparing your body the stress of overtraining.
Even short bouts of 10-15 minutes at a time daily can ignite creative juices and stimulate deep thought processes throughout the day. And there's also the added benefit of not sitting for eight hours, letting your posture melt into your chair, then trying to go perform at a high level later on.