Learning to Crawl

By Colin Pistell from Fifth Ape

One of my mother’s favorite stories is “How Colin Learned to Crawl.”  I started to roll earlier than most babies and I got very good at it – fastest rolling baby in the West. Crawling was a different story. I’d roll onto my stomach, my eyes would fix on a destination in front of me, I’d skooch up my little legs, and I’d rocket off – in the opposite direction. Apparently I found it quite frustrating.

Well, I finally figured it out and I’ve been a huge fan of crawling ever since.  My Parkour students at Fifth Ape must demonstrate competency in crawling before we move on to more complicated movement patterns – it’s that important. Crawling (also known as “QM” or quadrupedal motion) is a potent developer of trunk and rotary stability.  More advanced variations will really challenge your neuromuscular control and greatly improve balance, coordination, agility, and adaptability. It’s a great drill for all ages and can be incorporated into some really fun movement games. Today, we’ll be looking at the foundational QM, the cat crawl – similar in many ways to the standard bear crawl or Grok crawl that many folks might have tried, but with a few variations I think you’ll enjoy.

Setup

1)  Assume a solid plank position. Make sure your shoulders are nicely packed against your torso, your lumbar spine is neutral , and your core is engaged.

2)  Step your right leg up, keeping your knee in a line with your right elbow. Make sure you keep your hips level – no twisting!

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3)  Step your left hand forward, keeping it in line with your left leg. Again, don’t let your hips swivel or drop.

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4)  Distribute your weight equally on all four limbs and take a moment to make sure your back is flat, lumbar spine is neutral, your core is engaged and your knees are off the ground.

Movement

1)  Step your left leg forward and your right arm forward in one smooth movement.

crawl_main4

2)  Your left leg should travel in line with your left elbow – try not to let it drift outside!  Similarly, your right arm travels in line with your right leg.

3)  Don’t let yourself sag in the middle or stick your hips and butt up in the air. Keep those knees off the ground!

4)  That’s one step! Now keep going!

Advanced Practice Tips

  • Experiment with different pacing. Try to make each step slow and silky smooth – like you’re a tiger in the tall grass, then try picking up the pace to a quick trot.
  • Play with your step pattern. Try moving your hands and feet at the same time, then try stepping first with the hands, then first with the feet. Get creative and see how many different step patterns you can come up with.
  • Try not to have your hips roll on each step – we call it “tail wagging” at Fifth Ape. It’s tough, but a great way to develop stability/motor control in your lumbar spine and hips. (Watch the video below for some examples)
  • Once you’ve got the hang on moving forwards, try moving backwards!  Backwards crawling is a potent neuromuscular challenge and will likely humble you the first time you attempt it. Remember to maintain a contralateral movement pattern (moving your opposite hand and foot) If you find yourself moving the same side hand and foot, you will likely lose balance and fall over!

Add some Cat Crawls into your movement session and you’ll soon develop fantastic core stability and hip control. They’re also a ton of fun!

Cat crawls are just scratching the surface of QM possibilities. Next time, we’ll talk about two more advanced variations – Monkey walks and the Gorilla Gait!