Of all the core training exercises out there, one of my favorites is the hand walkout. It builds strength in your anterior core and lats very quickly, it trains the abs isometrically like Dr. Stuart McGill advocates, and it’s an excellent alternative to the ab-wheel rollout. Plus, the hand walkout will boost your squat and deadlift by augmenting the transfer of force between your legs and upper body. And since it requires no equipment, you can do it anywhere.
But it’s also an advanced exercise that I only use with clients who are ready for it. Here’s a brief video of my client, MMA superstar Ralek Gracie, performing the hand walkout.
Importantly, Ralek is an advanced athlete and that’s why he needs advanced core training exercises. This exercise might be too difficult for you right now, and there’s no reason to jump straight into a high-level exercise unless you’re ready.
How do you know if you’re ready for the hand walkout? You must first be able to perform the modified hand walkout (knees down) for 10 perfect reps.
Here’s how to do the modified hand walkout:
1. Start on all fours with knees and hands shoulder width apart. Hands are directly below shoulders (left pic).
2. Tense the glutes, brace the abs like someone is going to punch you in the stomach, and then “walk” your hands forward. The hips should shift forward as soon as you reach your left arm out (center pic).
3. Continue walking your hands out until your abs are just a few inches off the ground (right pic). Reverse the movement by walking your hands back to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Once you can perform the modified hand walkout for 10 reps, it’s time to take a crack at the hand walkout. You’ll probably be surprised how much more difficult it is so don’t try to do too much too soon. Before you attempt your first set of the hand walkout, perform 5 reps of the modified version to prepare your joints and muscles. Next, do three sets of the hand walkout for as many reps as possible.
A key technique point for the hand walkout (knees up version) is to hold the end position (arms extended out in front) for one full second. This is the position that leads to the greatest strength gain so you shouldn’t back out of it too soon. Watch the video and observe Ralek’s brief hold at the end position.
When you can knock off 10 perfect reps with the hand walkout your anterior core is as strong as it needs to be. You can add a weight vest and work your way back up to 10 reps, too, but this can be overkill.
For either exercise it’s important to keep your head neutral with your spine. Tensing your glutes and bracing your abs will ensure that your spine stays in proper alignment.
Two Ways to Make the Hand Walkout Work for You
There are two primary ways you should use the hand walkout. First, and most obvious, is as a stand alone core exercise in a full body circuit or any other split. The second way to use it is as an activation drill before lower body exercises. The hand walkout ramps up neural input to your core and lats which, in turn, allows your core to brace harder against resistance. This trick augments your ability to transfer force to immediately boost your squat, lunge, or deadlift poundage.
If you use it as an activation drill don’t do three sets of as many reps as possible since it’ll accumulate too much fatigue. Instead, perform one set of three reps before your heaviest set of squats, deadlifts, or lunges.
Here’s a recap of two ways to use the hand walkout:
1. Core strengthening: perform three sets of as many reps as possible 2-3 times per week.
2. Core activation: perform one set of three reps 30 seconds before your heaviest set(s) of lower body exercises.
Be sure to watch the clip a few times before trying the hand walkout, and keep all the technique tips in mind.
I’ll send a free autographed copy of Huge in a Hurry to the first person who posts a new video of 10 perfect reps of the hand walkout.