The best exercises are those that don’t just improve one aspect of our health but rather can be used to improve wellbeing in several areas. The squat is great for this for instance: not only does it obviously strengthen the legs, but because you’re working the largest muscles in the body in a ‘compound fashion’ it’s also highly effective at stimulating a hormonal response meaning greater all-round muscle growth and fat burning.
And because it works so many muscles in unison, it’s also great for improving core stability and eliminating back pain.
But if you want a type of exercise that has even more benefits than the mighty squat, then you need look no further than crawls. Crawls are an incredible category of exercise that involve crawling across the ground with various different techniques – and all of them can do wonders for your strength, physique and general health.
The Spider-Man Crawl
First let’s look at an example of a crawls. One of the most popular is the ‘Spider-Man crawl’ which involves staying in a low down press-up position, then bringing one hand forward, while bringing the opposite knee up on the other side so that it’s close to your elbow. From here you will then simply repeat the movement with the opposite hand and opposite arm in order to gradually move forward.
You can also adapt this to become the bear crawl simply by raising your lower body slightly so that your buttocks are pointing in the air. The lizard crawl on the other hand is the same as the Spider-Man but even lower to the ground…
To use the crawl as an exercise you can set yourself a stretch to crawl – perhaps the length of a local field for instance – and then rest at the end before crawling back. Essentially then it should be broken down into a series of sets and repetitions as with any resistance exercise, and you should be travelling far enough and low enough that you reach failure by the end of each ‘rep’.
The crab crawl though is quite different. Here you will start out sitting on the floor, then lift yourself on your hands (just behind you) and your feet. Now you’ll ‘scuttle’ in each direction, like a crab presumably. The army crawl is performed like a commando on your toes and elbows.
There are many benefits of crawls that make them so effective and so popular. For starters, crawls are a unique challenge that are quite unlike most other exercises. This makes them a great way to mix things up in the gym when perhaps you are starting to run out of ideas/inspiration for your workouts. Likewise, exercising using crawls is a bodyweight exercise that you can use anywhere – so it’s great if you’re training outdoors and don’t have access to weights.
Crawls are also unique in that they train the core and the slow twitch (endurance) muscle fibres in a manner similar to plank, but in a more dynamic manner that trains the whole range of movement. These are great when used at the end of a workout as a contrast to more explosive exercises such as clapping press-ups.
Really though, what makes crawls so interesting is the fact that they’re so good for improving proprioception (your awareness of your own body in space) and for strengthening your central nervous system. This is because they are training you to use your whole body in coordinated unison in order to move forward while maintaining balance. Because you are bringing up the opposite hands and feet with each step forward, you are improving communication between the two sides of your body and brain. Movements like these are called ‘contralateral movements’ and they’re fantastic for increasing your agility and reflexes – great if you’re into sports or martial arts.
So there you have it, a number of great reasons to start incorporating crawls into your workouts.