Born to Crawl: How to Get Fit on All Fours

Everybody knows that babies and animals crawl, but adult, fully developed humans walk. Thus, we tend to consider upright, bipedal movement as the 'proper' way, and crawling as a stage that needs to be overcome. However, recently so-called 'crawling' classes have been taking the fitness world by storm, and it seems to be much more than just a new craze.

Everybody knows that babies and animals crawl, but adult, fully developed humans walk. Thus, we tend to consider upright, bipedal movement as the ‘proper’ way, and crawling as a stage that needs to be overcome. However, recently so-called ‘crawling’ classes have been taking the fitness world by storm, and it seems to be much more than just a new craze.

It’s not just for babies

Babies don’t just crawl because they are unable to walk. Moving on all fours creates myriads of important connections in their developing brain, stiumulating neural centers responsible for cognitive function, memory, and coordination; it develops their upper-body strength and binocular vision; it promotes interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain. It is so essential for a baby’s development that, as some research suggests, a lack of it can be even linked to ADHD .

As we grow up, we stop not only crawling, but also jumping, balancing on one foot, climbing, and so on. Since all these activities promote advanced coordination and include the whole body, a recent trend in ‘natural’ exercises calls for their re-integration into fitness routines. But even among the range of ‘natural’ exercises, crawling seems to stand out.

– Crawling, be it on your hands and knees or on your hands and feet, involves your whole body: arms, shoulders, core, even feet. Thus, you build strengh everywhere simultaneously (here is a study showing complex muscle and brain patterns resulting from adults crawling )

What can it do for you?

  • It helps develop bilateral coordination and strength, especially when you move ipsilaterally (righ arm and left leg and vice versa);
  • It develops so-called ‘reflexive strength’ that allows you to control your movement automatically – for example, when you get caught on something but do not fall; thus, it reduces clumsiness;
  • It builds upper-body strength and promotes the interaction between lower and upper body;
  • As all new exercise and movement patterns, it stimulates cognitive functions in the brain;
  • It can help improve your range of movement and flexibility – often, it is the brain that inhibits the motoric range in hips and shoulders, perceiving too much movement as dangerous; thus, your physical flexibility range can be larger than what your brain allows – here is a video illustrating that)

  • When done correctly, it can be a very strenuous and challenging exercise, burning lots of calories;
  • It can be done just about anywhere – at home, in your garden, at the beach…

Get down and exercise

So is there a correct way to crawl? Whole exercise programs have been developed and can be easily found online, but here is a start. Try crawling like a baby: if you find it easy, proceed to move ipsilaterally (left hand and right knee together and vice versa). Then, try crawling on your hands and feet, keeping your knees and arms bent and your back flat (so-called ‘bear crawl’). Finally, try the advanced ‘lizard crawl’, placing your elbows on the floor and keeping your knees very low, but off the ground. Use knee and elbow protection if you have to, and avoid anything that’s painful: remember, crawling can be intense, so you have to exercise caution at all times. Many more crawls can be found here.

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