Paleo Fitness Movements: Crawling

Simple crawling movements loosen the hips, prime the core, and warm up the shoulders. Crawling also ties your movement together; it syncs the right and left hemispheres of your brain through contralateral movement — the movement of corresponding body parts on opposite sides, such as moving your right arm and left leg together and vice versa.

Humans are naturally contralateral movers. This means that when you walk, you ought to move your left arm with your right leg and your right arm with your left leg. Crawling can help reset these natural contralateral patterns, which, in turn, reduces your risk of injury.

And depending on how you serve it, crawling, just like the Turkish get-up, makes for a great workout in and of itself. In fact, it’s a marvelous cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning exercise.

The two variations of crawling are

  • Crawling on hands, knees, and feet, forward, backward, and sideways

  • Crawling on hands and feet, forward, backward, and sideways

Crawling on your hands, knees, and feet

Crawling on your hands, knees, and feet is often referred to as creeping. You want to start with creeping because it provides a larger base of support, and you perform it in a slower manner. Simple creeping works wonders for the hips, shoulders, and core.

To set up for creeping, get down on your hands and knees, and place your arms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Your feet should be planted, not pointed — meaning your toes are tucked. Keep your back flat at all times. Refer to the figure and then follow these steps to crawl forward, backward, and sideways:

[Credit: Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ulmer]
Credit: Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ulmer
  1. Move forward by moving your opposite arm and leg together.

    Your right arm should move with your left leg, and your left arm should move with your left leg.

  2. Move backward by simply reversing the movement of Step 1.

  3. Creep laterally, or sideways, by matching the movement of your right arm to your left leg and vice versa.

On just your hands and feet

After you feel like you have a good handle on creeping, you may progress to crawling on just your hands and feet, also known as bear crawls. To set up for crawling, get down on your hands and knees, and place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

[Credit: Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ulmer]
Credit: Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ulmer

Then lift your knees slightly off the ground and turn your hands and feet slightly outward if that feels more comfortable. Your knees should remain bent and your butt relatively low. Then follow these steps to move forward, backward, and sideways:

  1. Move forward the same way you would with creeping, by matching up your opposite arm and leg.

  2. Reverse the movement from Step 1 to crawl backward.

  3. Move to your left and right, following the instructions for the creeping exercise.

Take five minutes right now to get down on the ground and crawl around. Try crawling forward, backward, left and right. It may seem tricky or awkward at first, but keep practicing. Over time, crawling will feel more and more fluid.

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