Exercise Spotlight: Crawl Your Way To A Better Body
Whenever I hear Kanye say “You need to crawl before you ball”, I always just imagine he’s talking about bear crawls…because, you kind of do need to crawl before you ball. Am I right?
Crawling, a seemingly elementary movement, is one of the best nourishments for your body and your brain and works magic for your strength, mobility, health and athleticism.
Unfortunately, bear crawls get sadly butchered, especially when done in bootcamp environments, and most don’t understand the deep, primitive and neurological benefits of crawling. Instead it’s just seen as something done with no other purpose than to wear people out and make them sweaty.
Crawling is what we call a developmental movement pattern. Which means, as babies we all learned to crawl before learning how to walk. This helped us develop all of the small, intrinsic muscles we need for good movement and posture (these are the same muscles that weaken as we become less active, causing most of the aches, pains and injuries we typically blame on aging).
Crawling also helps our left and right brain hemispheres get better at communicating with each other – which means it can improve our ability to think, focus and function. The very first time you attempt crawling properly, you’ll understand what kind of brain-f*ckery they are.
Crawling also cultivates balance and proprioception while integrating our brains with our bodies, as there are numerous neurological benefits to increasing ground contact and moving in a cross-body pattern (opposite arm/opposite leg movement).
It’s kind of like hitting the reset button on your body.
You literally have to crawl before you walk.
Crawling is also the foundation of our gait pattern, or the movement of our limbs during locomotion. If you have an irregular or inefficient gait, you’re probably not going to have good luck if you try to run, perform single leg exercises or participate in other athletic activities.
This is why we learn how to crawl first as babies – because crawling helps prime our bodies for upright activities by teaching our shoulders and hips to work together like they’re designed to, and to develop reflexive strength in our core.
The best core exercise on the market.
Crawling is an AMAZING core exercise, and it provides stability to our hips, shoulders and pelvis as well. When we lift our knees off the ground while bear crawling and move forward, we are challenging our core to keep our spine neutral (meaning not overly arched or rounded) and to prevent our hips and pelvis from drooping and rocking from side to side as we shift our weight with each step.
In doing so, we also learn how to disassociate hip movement from lower back movement – which is super important for the longevity of our spine and preventing injuries.
Performing crawling without shoes on is also an excellent way to ease into barefoot training and develop foot strength.
Catch your breath
Last but not least, we can’t deny the conditioning element of crawling. Crawls can be done for distance, time, weighted, backwards and sideways and you best believe your heart rate will be elevated.
- Set up on all fours with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
- Lift your knees an inch or so off the ground until your hips are level with your shoulders.
- Take a baby step forward with your left hand and right foot. Repeat on opposite sides.
If this is too difficult, which it is for most beginners, keep your knees on the ground and perform a Baby Crawl by just crawling on your knees with your opposite arm and opposite leg, keeping your core braced.
–Imagine there is a large glass of water resting on your lower back while crawling and you CAN NOT spill it. This means your hips MUST stay level with your shoulders and may not rock back and forth – no butts wagging up in the air like this:
It’s really important to take small, slow baby steps. Your knees shouldn’t be coming up to your chest when you crawl, they should stay right under your hips.
-Don’t make the mistake of “hanging” on your shoulder blades (top picture). Actively press your chest away from the ground so your shoulder blades aren’t squeezed together while you crawl (bottom picture). Doing so will help bulletproof your shoulders (read more here)
-Crawling shouldn’t feel like a max effort movement, you should maintain the ability to breathe through your nose and into your belly, and control your tension.
Go get your crawl on, it will make you a better, stronger human and more efficient mover.
Please reach out with any questions: Erika@HurstStrength.com