Speedwalking: How to Teach the Pushoff Technique

It’s often said that walking is the ideal exercise. It’s a relaxing, natural activity that is low-impact and requires no special equipment. However, your physical education students might prefer a faster, higher-energy exercise that still possesses the same qualities. If so, why not try speed walking! (Otherwise known as race walking).

In teaching speed walking, one of the keys is the pushoff. Here’s how to improve that important part of walking technique, plus a workout you can use when speedwalking


The pushoff is the phase of each stride in which the toe leaves the ground after the leg has pushed backward. Unlike runners, the walker cannot rely on elastic energy to provide propulsion by bouncing off the feet when they make contact with the ground. As a result, the pushoff is vital in providing forward propulsion.


While keeping the heels on the ground as long as possible, be sure your students push fully backward on each stride – if they are doing so, the back leg will appear fully extended behind the walker.

As the leg moves backward and the heel can no longer stay in touch with the ground, your students should roll forward on the foot and push off hard with the toes and balls of the feet. They may feel their butt muscles contracting during this final push-off. As they push off, your students should feel themselves being propelled forward.


To help your students experience the feeling of a good pushoff, have them face a wall, hands on the wall, the front leg forward and bent, and the other leg back and bent.

Instruct them to lift the heel of the rear leg and, keeping that leg straight, use the ball and toes of the back foot to push against the wall. They should feel the force they generate with their back foot as they push off – that’s the same feeling they should have when they push off during speed walking.


You can also give students the feeling for a good pushoff by having them walk uphill. Uphill walking forces walkers to emphasize a good extended pushoff.


Interval walking is an exercise you can use that involves speed walking.

This workout can be performed in any gym or even limited outdoor spaces. It’s sure to get heart rates up! Great for kids young and old!


In a gym or long space, define the following terms:
* Single: one length of the gym
* Double: down & back (two lengths)
* Triple: down, back, down (three lengths)
* Quadruple: down, back, down, back (four lengths).

On each end of the gym, post a large sign showing the workout (see right). The idea is that students will walk two warm-up laps, then six singles (lengths of the gym) separated by short breaks, then four doubles, etc.. …until they finish with 2 cool-down laps.


Explain the workout, then have students pair up and work their way through the workout. Walk with them and encourage those who are struggling to keep up.


1. Stretch after the warm-up laps and after the cool-down laps.

2. After EACH single, double, triple, etc, students MUST wait 10 seconds (or other length) of time before they can walk again OR wait until their heart rate recovers to a certain BMP (120 for 18 year olds, for example).

3. Each interval MUST be walked at maximum speed. The idea is to really create a wave workout, where heart rates go up and down, up and down.

4. You can also have students perform other exercises between intervals (for example, heel raises, wall sits, squats)

1. Ruth Iknoian, Walking Fast, Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998.
2. Dr. Sandy Kimbrough, Association Professor and Assistant Department Head with the Department of Health and Human Performance at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Dick Moss is the editor of Physical Education Update.com, the Fun Stuff for Physical Education Newsletter and the Physical Education Update Blog.

Article Source: Speedwalking: How to Teach the Pushoff Technique