Do you remember when you were a baby? Crawling was the primary form of forward motion when you were a young child. It was a contralateral movement that formed the basis of most human locomotion. Crawling from A to B helped improve your coordination and conditioning.
Now that you’re all grown up and can walk, jog, and sprint, you may think you do not need to get back on the ground and crawl. But you would be wrong. Returning to your baby roots will raise and make you sweat like never before and give you another form of cardiovascular exercise besides the dreaded treadmill.
Here we’ll get into what crawling is, how to do it, its benefits, common crawling errors, and a few variations to turn heads and the gym. Why? Because they will not believe how cool you are.
What Is Crawling?
Crawling is a bodyweight exercise that trains multiple muscle groups, including the shoulders, glutes, hip flexors, abs, calves, chest, forearms, groin, hamstrings, and lats.
How to Do the Basic Crawl
- Start on all fours, hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips.
- Press your hands into the ground, and then hover the knees just above the ground.
- Ensure your spine is neutral and your head is up.
- Crawl forward by taking small steps with your right arm and left leg, then your left arm and right leg for distance or time.
Do you want to know why you got so strong as a baby and able to walk? Because of all the muscles you trained while crawling. What muscles?
- Triceps (isometric)
- Forearms (isometric)
- Upper Back (Traps & Rhomboids)
- Anterior core (isometric)
- Lower back (isometric)
- Hip flexors/quads
It’s easier to say all the muscles. Don’t believe me? Get down on the floor and see for yourself.
4 Crawling Benefits
And no, it’s not being able to act like a baby because some already have that covered. Crawling trains your entire body, but that’s not the only benefit. Here are a few reasons crawling needs to become part of your programming.
- Improved coordination: Crawling, like running, walking, and many other human locomotion activities, is a contralateral movement. Put simply; you’re moving your opposite arm and an opposite leg on the floor with the pull of gravity, thus improving the coordination between your upper and lower body.
- Core Strength: For your spine to stay neutral and your hips not to say side-to-side, your anterior core and lower back contract isometrically to prevent this from happening. Think of crawls as a moving plank, but only harder.
- Improved Conditioning and Muscular Endurance: You’ll notice one thing when crawling on the floor: your heart rate will go up. The opposite arm, opposite leg movement, and the constant tension on your entire body make crawling a legit exercise to improve your conditioning. IMO this is way better than another round on the treadmill.
- Better Hip And Shoulder Mobility: Hip flexors, glutes, and deltoids are the main drivers for crawling. Extending and flexing your hips and shoulders, combined with time under tension for those muscles, will strengthen them and help improve their overall movement.
3 Common Crawling Mistakes
Crawling is one of those exercises you will see performed and think, wow, that looks so easy even a baby can do it. Yes, at its core (see what I did there) seems simple, but you need to watch out for these common mistakes.
- Don’t Sag: The crawling is a moving plank, and when you lose core stability and your lower back starts to arch, all the core benefits go poof. If your core is beginning to lose position, reset or discontinue the set.
- The Hips Don’t lie: When your hand and toe leave the ground, your lower back and obliques engage to keep your hips level and prevent rotation. If you feel your hips swaying from side to side, get wider with your feet to give you a bigger support base.
- Watch Your Step: Some get in a hurry to complete the required distance or reps and take bigger ‘steps’ with their hands and feet, and the two errors mentioned above happen. Slow it down and take small steps and enjoy the time under tension crawling gives you.
Crawling Programming Suggestions
Being a bodyweight exercise and all you need is space, crawling is a versatile exercise that can be programmed into the warm-up, your strength training programming, or subbed in on cardio day. It isn’t easy to do for time, and it’s best performed for a distance or steps in which a step with both hands equals one step.
Sub a crawl variation as a warm-up exercise crawling 20 steps forward and backward to prepare your body for what’s coming. Or do it as part of your core routine after your warm-up to prepare you for the work ahead. For example
1A. Crawl variation: 20 steps forward and backward
1B. Farmers Carry: 40 yards
1C. Ab Rollout: 8-12 reps
Due to crawling being a full-body exercise that trains multiple muscle groups, it’s excellent to superset it with an upper or lower-body exercise on strength day. For example
For stronger shoulders.
1A. Overhead Press variation: 6-12 reps
1B. Crawling: 20 steps (forward and backward)
Or for improved core strength, hip mobility, and coordination.
1A. RDL Deadlift: 6-12 reps
1B. Crawling: 20 steps (forward and backward)
But wait, there is more. Because crawling raises your heart rate and uses multiple muscle groups, it’s a great exercise to sub in on conditioning or cardio day. When you are up for a challenge, try this cardio triset.
1A. Kettlebell swings: 10 reps
1B. Crawling: 10 steps (forward and backward)
1C. Med Ball Slams: 10 reps
Perform as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes, resting when needed.
What has been talked about so far is the bear crawl, and when you feel comfortable and ready for the next challenge, take these progressions out for a spin. You’ll be beating the babies around the childcare in no time.