Crawling. We did it when we were little. But now? Now we never crawl and when we do, it seems ridiculously hard. But here’s the thing about crawling--it’s probably the best core move you aren’t doing. It's also a great full body cardio exercise that you can do anywhere.
Crawling is an extremely challenging contralateral movement, which means we have to be coordinated enough to get our opposite leg and arm to work together. It is a movement we were able to do as babies, but struggle to relearn as adults. However, once we relearn how to crawl, not only can we improve our coordination, but we can also strengthen our core and improve our cardiovascular conditioning.
Here’s how to do 6 Basic Crawling Variations with one move for a great cardio-core workout:
1. Basic Beginner’s Crawl – Baby Crawl:
If you’ve never crawled as an adult, you’ll want to start with the Baby Crawl. By doing this crawl on your knees, you will teach your body the contralateral movement while making it easier on your muscles to stabilize and move.
To do the Baby Crawl, start on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Step your right hand and left knee forward then your left hand and right knee. Keep your steps small so that your opposite arm and opposite leg can work together while you keep your hips fairly still. Brace your core as you crawl forward.
The Baby Crawl forward is the easiest variation. Once you’ve learned to move your opposite arm and leg together, you will want to try the Backwards Baby Crawl.
With the Backwards Baby Crawl, make sure to keep your steps small so you don’t overload your shoulders. You will do the same contralateral movement you did to crawl forwards, but step backward. Keep the movements small and tight and make sure your core is engaged the entire time. Once you feel comfortable with the contralateral movement, try progressing to the Table Top Crawl.
2. Basic Table Top Crawl:
The Table Top Crawl is a great way to advance the Baby Crawl and really challenge your entire core – everything from your shoulders to your knees. If you move quickly, it will also really get your blood pumping. The best part is, you can do it down your hallway if you don’t have access to a gym!
To do the Table Top Crawl, get up on your hands and knees. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands under your shoulders just like you did for the Baby Crawl.
Next, flex your feet and lift up onto your toes and hands. Take a step forward with your left foot and right hand, keeping your knees close to the ground and your back flat.
Next, step forward with your right foot and left hand. Keep alternating, moving the opposite arm and opposite leg together. Take small steps with your feet so that you don’t get too spread out and your hips don’t start to wiggle. Keep your core tight and still. Just like with the Baby Crawl, the Table Top Crawl is easier forward than it is crawling backward.
To do the Backwards Table Top Crawl, make sure you don’t get too spread out. Take small steps back with your feet so that you can keep up with your hands.
If you reach too far back with your feet and stretch out, you’re going to put a lot of pressure on your shoulders and you won’t be able to move fluidly. You also won’t be able to keep up the contralateral movement if you take really large steps. Keep your steps nice, short, and compact to start with.
With both the forward and backward Table Top Crawl, make sure to keep your knees close to the ground. If your butt goes up in the air, the move won’t be as core intensive.
Beginners first attempting this crawl may need to have their butts up higher in the air. Your goal is to keep your knees an inch or two off the ground.
3. Lateral Table Top Crawl:
Because we move in every plane of motion in life, our crawling should work our core in every plane. That is why it is important to include the Lateral Table Top Crawl. Beginners may need to do a Baby Crawl variation of this move from their knees.
To do the Lateral Tabletop Crawl, set up on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Flex your feet and lift up onto the balls of your feet.
Starting with your hands close together and your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart, step your left hand to the left so your hands are about shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot in toward your left foot to bring your feet together. Next, step your right hand to meet your left hand so your hands come back together as your feet move back apart.
Keep stepping the opposite arm and the opposite leg out to the side until you need to change directions.
4. Gorilla Crawl:
The Gorilla Crawl is a great crawl for anyone looking to work their legs a little more and open up their hips.
To do the Gorilla Crawl, start standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Reach out and place your hands on the ground in front of you with your legs slightly bent and your butt up in the air.
Shift your weight forward to your hands on the ground and then jump your feet forward outside your hands. Shift your weight back onto your feet as you land outside your hands. Then, again, reach your hands out and place them in front of you on the ground, shifting your weight forward so you can jump your feet back outside your hands.
Your weight may feel like it is a bit forward during this crawl. Do not stand up between reps. The more mobile your hips are, the more you will be able to get your feet outside your hands. If your hips are tighter, just jump your feet up as close to your hands as possible. Beginners can also step their hands out one at a time instead of jumping both hands out at the same time.
5. Lateral Gorilla Crawl:
If you want something that requires less core strength and mobility while still working out your legs and shoulders, try the Lateral Gorilla Crawl.
To do the Lateral Gorilla Crawl, start in a crouch on the balls of your feet as if you are sort of squatting down. Place your hands on the ground and out to the left about under your shoulders. Shift your weight forward onto your hands and press off your hands to help you jump your feet over to the left. When you land, your hands will now be on your right and you will land back in a crouch.
Don’t try to jump high. You want to jump feet left so you can move laterally.
In the crouch, shift your weight back to your feet and lift your hands and place them again out to the left. Again shift your weight to your hands and jump your feet past your hands to the left. Continue moving left. When you are ready to come back right, you will reach your hands to the right then jump right. Stay low in the crouch the entire time and alternate pushing off your hands then your feet.
Do not let your butt go up in the air.
The Inchworm is a great crawling variation to strengthen your entire core while also improving your mobility and flexibility. If your hamstrings are tight, this may be a very challenging movement.
To do the Inchworm, start standing with your feet together. Keeping your legs as straight as your flexibility allows, bend over and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Walk your hands out while keeping your legs straight until you are in the plank position. (See the main photo above for an overview of the inchworm crawl).
In this plank position, drop your hips toward the ground as if performing Upward Facing Dog. You will keep your arms straight and drop your hips to the ground, pressing your chest out. You can even look back and up toward the ceiling. Raise your hips back up and return to the plank position before you begin to walk your feet in.
Keep your legs as straight as possible as you walk your feet in and push your butt up toward the ceiling. Walk your feet in as close to your hands as your flexibility allows.
Repeat the Inchworm by walking your hands back out while keeping your legs straight. If you need a break, you can stand up between Inchworms. Beginners may need to bend their knees a little as they perform the Inchworms. Try to stretch your hamstrings by keeping your legs as straight as possible.
Using these 6 crawls you can get in a great Cardio-Core Workout. You can pick one and add it to any circuit as a core exercise. You can also use them all for your cardio conditioning by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and crawl around. Each of these moves on their own can be a full-body, core-intensive cardio workout!
For more Crawling Variations, check out these 21 Fun Crawling Exercises.
Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.