Crawling is the first movement we learn as humans. It is a basic human movement that we evolve beyond as we learn to walk; however, this does not mean that it should be avoided later in life.
Crawling promotes proper movement patterning and helps develop other similar movements while challenging strength and stability. Because of this, crawling exercises are a great choice for athletes and non-athletes.
With this in mind, crawling does not have to be like that of babies on hands and knees. You can perform many different crawling exercises to gain great benefits. Three crawling variations are the Leopard Crawl, Bear Crawl and Seal Walk.
The Leopard Crawl starts in a push-up position and promotes great movement coordination as it forces contralateral movement (opposite arm and leg) and core stability. This movement is slow, steady and small as the opposite arm and leg step together while maintaining a solid extended push-up position.
This crawl is great both as a warm-up/activation exercise, and as a main workout exercise. In teaching core stability as the hips remain square, athletes learn how to properly control and move their body just like they would when they sprint in a contralateral (opposite arm, opposite leg manner). Maintain a neutral spine and braced core as you crawl in to ensure that form is proper.
The Bear Crawl starts from a position that has high hips compared to a push-up position with both knees slightly bent. Movement is the same as the Leopard Crawl as it is contralateral with the opposite arm moving at the same time as the opposite leg.
This variation can be used as either a warm-up/activation move or a main workout exercise. Because hips are high on this movement it is a great tool to teach movement through the hips as opposed to the lumbar spine. If a butt wink occurs, then you’re improperly moving through the lumbar spine. If this occurs, make sure to breathe into your abs and obliques while bracing your core. This helps to maintain proper alignment.
The Seal Walk begins from a push-up position with each hand turned facing outside and feet either on Valslides (one for each foot), some sort of scooter or other mobile mode depending on what is available and what surface is used for the flooring. Unlike the other crawls, this one is not contralateral as the legs do not move.
This crawl requires the most isometric strength as the legs and core stay as stable as possible the whole time while the arms are the only moving part. Keeping the hips stable, this walk teaches how to disconnect the upper body from the lower body. While the lower body stays planked, the upper body does all of the movement. This variation teaches proper bracing because that causes the hips to stay stable, if you do not stay stable then the core is not being braced as it should in this variation.
All of these variations can have the added challenge of doing them going backwards. Only attempt that once you have made the forward variation seem relatively easy.