5 reasons to crawl — and how to do it anywhere

Crawling — not just for pubs anymore. It’s strength, endurance, mobility and stability work for anyone, anywhere! Babies do it, bugs do it, bears do it, and so should you. Why, you ask? Here are 5 reasons I love to crawl.

It ties your body together.
Crawling allows hips and shoulders to work together under load, bearing weight on all four limbs while the head is held in the “up” position. Our bodies are built like an X, tying limbs together through the midsection. The stronger our “core” is, the better we can move. Anybody can suck in their gut or intentionally brace, but crawling uniquely strengthens our core reflexively. What does reflexive mean? It means muscles kick in without having to consciously tell them to. If someone runs into you, reflexive stability allows you to regain your balance without falling over (hopefully). Want to feel the difference in your own body? Try this: Brace your core to perform 1-5 good ‘ol sit ups, gutbusters, or planks. Pay attention to your breath, how this feels between your shoulders and hips, and what muscles you are consciously firing. Then try crawling backwards (head up!). Crawling should allow you to breathe easier and feel your midsection”zip up” without “telling it to.” Can’t feel the “zip”?  Try leopard crawling backwards (with your knees floating off the ground) or uphill.

It strengthens your brain too.
Crawling is a cross lateral movement that strengthens both the left and right side of the brain and enhances learning by allowing increased communication between the two sides. The repetitious movement helps stimulate and organize neurons to improve cognitive processes such as comprehension, concentration and memory. Crawling infants visually determine where they want to go and physically move in that direction (with their hands), thus establishing and improving hand/eye coordination, a skill we all use later in life for reading, writing and sports activities.

It’s a great way to play with (or embarrass your kids).
I’m not sure who is more mortified by “public crawling,” my husband or my kids, but I thoroughly enjoy all of it. Aside from the pure joy to be gained by embarrassing my kids, however, it’s a great way to play. Got younger kids? Throw them on your back and load the crawl. Elementary school age kids? Play “crawl tag.” At our house this always results in a lot of cheating, laughing…and panting! Older kids? I can’t speak personally to this because we’re not there yet, but if you can’t get them to join you I’m guessing pure public embarrassment is the way to go (see above example).

It’s cutting edge…
The benefits of crawling have gained momentum in the media over the past few months. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or wannabe expat, it’s one safe topic! Articles point to crawling as the newest fitness trend in The Washington Post, The Independent, and (if you enjoy playing Where’s Waldo, see if you can spot anyone you know in the video clip).

You can do it anywhere.
When I learned the benefits of crawling, I found opportunities to do it everywhere…in the privacy of our fenced-in backyard, around the indoor track at the gym, in hotel hallways, and on the way to a mailbox on a family “walk” to name a few. I love crawling up (and down) the hill behind my house, but one of my favorite applications of crawling is on vacation. In any hotel room, I can simply set a timer for as many rounds as I want of 20 seconds of work/10 seconds of rest, alternating crawling forward, backward, laterally, and on an axis (spin crawling). It gets my blood flowing, brain functioning and works out the kinks, all in the time it takes to brew a good cup of coffee.

So you’re convinced that crawling is the new superdrug, but how do you do it? It really is as easy as it sounds. Get down on your hands and knees, keep your gaze forward (head up), and crawl. This is one strength move you can’t screw up. If you want to up the ante a little, float your knees off the floor while keeping your back parallel to floor and hips even (we call this leopard crawling).

Use this simple 3-ish minute crawling series as a warmup or cool down, repeat it a few times as its own workout, or use it as active rest between strength sets. If you’re taxing your grip with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or even the pull up bar, crawling is a great way to counteract that forearm tension. Try one line between each strength set.

Crawl forward 20 paces, 10 dead bugs
Crawl backward 20 paces, 10 hip bridges
Crawl to the R 20 paces, 10 windshield wipers
Crawl to the L 20 paces, 10 forward backward rolls

Want to learn more about crawling and other ways to reset your body (and brain!)? Check out Original Strength (OS) for more info and great videos. Or let one of the OS Certified Coaches at Catalyst show you what crawling can do for you!

author: Steph Hoeper


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