Crawling – Serious Exercise not just for Kids!

Crawling is fundamental to the development of proper movement for humans, and it is not just good for babies!     Crawling builds specific strength, mobility and movement skills that are key to mobility, stability and strength throughout life.

The crawling pattern:

Sets the base for walking and running

Develops hand-eye coordination

Develops visual triangulation that will later assist with reading

Develops core strength and stability

Develops mobility of foot, ankle, and hip

Teaches the contralateral cross crawl patterning – this activates a special area of the brain called the “Corpus Callosum” located between the left and right sides of the brain, and it is responsible for helping the left and right sides to communicate.    This communication is essential for all human movement.    The more this pattern is practiced during crawling, the stronger the pathway and communicate between the left and right sides of the brain becomes.

Develops Postural Control

Integrates Reflexes

Lengthens the long finger muscles

Develops the “arches” of the hand which are essential to proper hand function

Learning to separate the two sides of the hand – while carrying something and crawling.   This fundamental skill is what is required to button a shirt, zip a zipper, color, and write with a pencil or pen.

Development of the Thumb and Web Space

Develops the coordination of the neck and eye muscles essential to moving through the world

Develops spatial awareness

So crawling is a big deal and NOT just for babies.    As we get older and spend more and more time sitting on our butts (sitting is really bad for us and yet most of us spend more and more time doing it as we get older).    Crawling is a key movement pattern that unites all your sensory organs including your entire balance system consisting of eyes, inner ear structures; and proprioceptive system (sense of self and your bodies structures in space and in relation to one another).   It can literally help improve balance, overall coordination, core strength, endurance and mobility.  

Bear Crawl Exercise

If you think bear crawls are not for you because you are already fit think again – crawls can humble even the fittest athletes in the world.     Just try 20 seconds of bear crawling and you will get the picture!  Nearly every muscle in the body is worked during crawling exercise and there are many variations and all of them can be beneficial, but to make it simple we will focus on the bear crawl!

A properly done bear crawl is essentially a travelling plank.    You have to keep the core stable like the plank, but by crawling forward, sideways, and backwards you really challenge the entire body in all planes and directions resulting in big increases in functional strength, endurance and even cardiovascular capacity (crawling is harder than it looks!).

Keys to proper bear crawl:

Start with hands underneath shoulders and knees under hips with feet down and balls of the feet in contact with the ground.   Lift up so that knees are a few inches off the ground keeping hips low and back straight from hips to top of head.    Crawl forward by moving left hand and right leg forward and repeating on other side.     Also try crawling backwards (really challenging) and to the right and left.   In fact doing square crawling (four steps forward, four steps to the side, four steps back, four steps to the other side to complete a square is great for tight spaces!    See how many times you can do that straight!

For a great video on the bear crawl see:  https://youtu.be/DIEU9gh8FWs  – Todd Durkin