Despite its goofy appearance, the duck walk exercise is in fact quite beneficial for a variety of aspects relating to an individual’s health or fitness.
In particular, the duck walk acts as an effective lower body exercise for individuals that wish to avoid the usage of weights or any sort of resistance that may negatively impact the body.
The duck walk presents quite a variety of benefits, ranging from being an excellent bodyweight movement for the leg muscles to being a potential fat-burning movement that is easily accessible to anyone, anywhere.
The duck walk is a bodyweight compound exercise most often utilized by athletic or home-based training programs for the purposes of improving the entire lower body as a whole, muscle tissue and connective tissue included.
It is generally considered to be a beginner-friendly exercise that is suitable for all healthy individuals that wish to reap the many benefits that they provide.
To perform the duck walk exercise, the exerciser will stand in an open space with the heels set at a distance of shoulder-width apart.
Then, bending at the hips and knees, the exerciser will squat until the hip crease is below parallel with the knee’s horizontal plane.
From this squatting position, the exerciser will begin to step forward, ensuring that the foot is completely flat against the ground before taking another step with the opposite side.
Repeat this crouch-walking motion as many times as necessary until the set is complete.
The duck walk is a compound exercise, meaning that it trains more than a single muscle group at once.
Due to the position and movement that is characteristic of the duck walk, practically every muscle group located in the lower body is recruited to a certain extent, though not equally.
The muscles that are trained the most by the duck walk are the quadriceps femoris, the glutes, the calves and the hip flexors - all large muscle groups that play important roles in everyday activities like walking or balancing upright.
Other muscles that are incidentally or statically recruited by the duck walk exercise are the abdominal muscles, the hamstrings and the erector spinae.
The main reason why the duck walk is performed in the first place is to develop the muscles of the lower body - especially those of the hip flexors, the soleus, the gastrocnemius and the gluteus muscles.
This is achieved through bodyweight-driven resistance placed on the legs during dynamic movement, initiating a hypertrophic response and resulting in larger and stronger lower body musculature.
Because of the fact that the hip flexors, calves and glutes are utilized in nearly every movement involving the legs, significant improvements in athletic ability will be developed from regular performance of the duck walk exercise, especially in regards to maximum jump height and sprinting speed.
Because of the position and movement pattern with which the duck walk is performed, exercisers will note that their hip and knee mobility are significantly improved with regular performance of the aforementioned exercise.
This will generally result in a lower risk of injury when performing exercises of greater impact, as well as greater stability when performing dynamic movements involving the hip and knee joints.
Because of the low resistance, aerobic nature and long time under tension utilized by the duck walk, some level of cardiovascular training stimulus is achieved, resulting in greater aerobic ability and muscular endurance.
This is especially useful for athletes and individuals who work a physically demanding job, as the low-impact nature of the duck walk alongside its capacity to build cardio ability means it is perfectly suited for the lifestyles of such individuals.
Though it is no surprise that bodyweight exercises induce caloric expenditure, the high volume and lengthy time under tension with which the duck walk is performed can make it quite suitable for acting as a fat-burning tool, all without placing excessive impact on the joints.
The latter point is especially important as some of the most effective fat-burning exercises like sprinting or jump rope can place a significant level of impact on the body, resulting in chronic injuries and general discomfort over longer workout sessions.
Generally, exercisers should seek to keep each set of the duck walk at a moderate level of intensity.
This can mean reducing the speed at which you are moving your legs while performing the exercise, or only performing it for a length of time that is short enough to avoid total muscular exhaustion.
A good starting point for novice exercisers is to attempt to perform the duck walk for anywhere between twenty and thirty seconds per set.
The duck walk doubles as a mobility drill alongside its role as a low-level resistance exercise, making it excellent for stretching certain joints located in the legs.
In particular, the duck walk is quite effective at promoting mobility and proper blood flow in the calves, shins and pelvis - although the tendons of the knees and thighs will also be stretched to a certain extent by this exercise.
In order to prepare your body for a workout session involving the duck walk exercise, it is important to perform dynamic mobility movements that target the hip flexors, calves and glutes. Failing to do so can result in cramping, poor range of motion and premature fatigue that can otherwise reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Furthermore, it is advisable to warm up the cardiovascular system as well by performing low impact steady-state cardio for a short length of time, raising heart rate and blood flow prior to performing the duck walk.
So - should you perform the duck walk for its benefits? Absolutely - especially if you are new to exercise or have poor mobility in the lower body.
Keep in mind that the duck walk is not the only exercise that can achieve its characteristic benefits, and that if you find yourself unable or unwilling to perform the duck walk for whatever reason, there are dozens of other exercises that can readily substitute it with no issues arising whatsoever.
1. Buckthorpe M, Stride M, Villa FD. ASSESSING AND TREATING GLUTEUS MAXIMUS WEAKNESS - A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Jul;14(4):655-669. PMID: 31440415; PMCID: PMC6670060.
2. Erickson, R. (2013, June). How to Walk on Tip Toes for Exercise. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from Healthy Living website: https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/walk-tip-toes-exercise-17839.html