Crawling Improves Athletic Performance... No Really, It Does!

“Baby crawls?”

“Yep, hands and knees, and crawl forward.”

“Like a baby?”

“Yes, just like a baby”

Athlete gives me side-long skeptical look…

This is a conversation I’ve had dozens of times with my athletes. Baby crawls are usually the first step in the crawling progression that all of our athletes experience. From there we progress to forward and backward baby, bear, leopard, and spider crawls/ We’ll also throw in an occasional tiger and lateral bear crawl .

Why Crawl?

I discussed hard core and soft core (or reactive core) in the primal roll post, so if you haven’t read that, I suggest you take a brief hiatus from this post to skim through that. Crawling taps into the reactive/soft core and is the next step in training the core muscle activation sequence. Recall that the inner core muscles (diaphragm, transverse abdominis, and spinal multifidi) must engage before the outer core (abdominals, obliques, and erectors) to avoid compensation patterns. Rolling, as we learned, teaches that sequence in a fairly controlled environment (aka, lying on the ground) and the crawls add the next level of challenge- moving against gravity. Think of crawls as the “level up” from rolls.

Reason #1: crawls help reinforce the core muscle firing sequence to avoid compensations down the road.

Crawling is a cross-body movement. What to I mean by that? Cross-body (also called cross-lateral) movements are those that require the left and right side to coordinate with each other to produce movement and, in some way, cross the midline of the body. Walking, running, and pretty much any feat performed in athletics are also cross-body movements. Cross-lateral movements make strong connections between the left and right side of the brain and their respective innervation patterns. You can read more HERE or HERE if you want the lite version. By practicing and training cross-body movements your brain becomes more efficient at organizing your body and how it moves. Therefore, when an athlete is on the field/court/pool his/her movements will be faster because the brain can get the message out more quickly.

I can personally attest that crawling improved both my sprint form and my endurance for running overall. I suspect it’s because a) my brain was more efficient at sending those signals and b) my inner core was stronger and coordinated with my outer core.

Reason #2: crawls strengthen and reinforces global organization for all movements.

As mentioned before, crawls train the core, and who doesn’t want a stronger core? They are also fantastic ways to finish out a workout. A surprisingly tough finisher: bear crawl 10 yards + deadbugs x 6/side; perform for 10 minutes. Waaaaay more challenging than it appears at first glance. You can also pair them with other exercise, such as pushups, if you really want to destroy, I mean, challenge yourself.

Reason #3: crawls increase overall core strength and are deceptively difficult finishers.

This post is just a brief primer on the types of crawls and why we utilize crawls at SAPT. There are plenty of other variations and more in-depth information about the benefits of crawls, but I wanted to keep it short and sweet.

And for your viewing pleasure, Steve Reed circa 2011...