Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crawl for a Mile

They (someone) used to say you can never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes. There is wisdom in this saying. All too often we make assumptions about things before we do our own research and investigation. We take information, whether it be about people, eggs, cholesterol, bread, strength training, or whatever, and we judge it - good, bad or indifferent. Few of us ever really seek experiential knowledge. Admittedly, it is easier to just take information and let it form our opinions. But, if we really want to know something, we should set out to experience it, to learn from it. 

Take crawling for instance. I believe crawling, specifically spider-man crawling, is perhaps the greatest way a person could move, or train, if they wanted to build a strong, resilient body. Spider-man crawling builds foundational strength - the strength that all other strength, including absolute strength, is built upon. If you have this foundational strength, you can safely increase your strength potential, whether it be your absolute strength, your strength endurance, or both.  

Let's be honest. When it comes to strength training, most people probably don’t think about crawling around like a spider. Yet spider-man crawling will absolutely increase your body's ability to move better and it will make you stronger. Do you want to increase your overhead pressing strength? Spider-man crawl. Do you want to improve your squat? Spider-man crawl. Do you want to be able to nail the naked warrior pushup? Spider-man crawl. 

How does this work? The answer may be multifaceted. Crawling is a foundational pattern that is wired into your brain. You were made to crawl. It is your gait pattern, your contra-lateral gait pattern. This contra-lateral gait pattern is a developMENTAL pattern, it improves and develops your brain. Crawling actually nourishes your brain and creates new neural connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It literally ties your brain together and in doing so, allows your body to move more efficiently. This movement efficiency improves your mobility and it helps with strength, but that is not where most of the strength benefit comes from. The real strength benefit from crawling comes from the fact that crawling ties your body together, it connects YOU as an X. The center of your X, your core, is knit together through this simple movement. The stronger your center is, the more injury resistant you are,  and the stronger your entire body can become.

Spider-man crawling is "gentle, reflexive strength training." It literally weaves your body together. Every time your hand or foot touches the ground, you are stimulating reflexive strength through the sensory nerves, or mechanoreceptors, in your hands and feet. These nerves send information to your brain and your brain sends information to your muscles telling them to contract. Try this yourself. Just baby crawl and notice how your triceps fires as soon as you place weight on your hands. If you pay attention, you will fill your lats fire too. Guess what, this is happening in the muscles you don't even know about like your rotator cuff muscles and even your obliques. The same thing happens through your feet as you spider-man crawl. Almost every single muscle you have, your stabilizers, your prime movers, all of them, are effected and "trained" by spider-man crawling. Every step sends a signal for them to contract. Every step gently and reflexively ties you together (Your X is tied together - from one hand to the opposite foot), laying a foundation of strength. 

Even if you could place the wonders of it's reflexive strength building nature aside, spider-man crawling is still the way to go if you want to have a solid foundation for strength. When done for time or distance, spider-man crawling places the body under a tremendous amount of tension - safely. Time under tension builds strength. Spider-man crawling also reinforces the gait pattern - it requires and builds coordination. Coordination helps build strength. Spider-man crawling can also improves your body’s movement patterns by increasing mobility and improving stability. Better movement opens the door for safe, effective strength training. For those of you who also enjoy adding metabolic conditioning to your training, you’re in luck. Spider-man crawling even builds tremendous cardiovascular health and stamina. It will give you the "heart of a racehorse", as Pavel Tsatsouline used to say. 

If you want to maximize your strength potential and resiliency,  spider-man crawling is strength training at its best. It is a foundational strength building exercise. Foundational strength is needed for all forms of strength, regardless of your definition of strength. You cannot have a solid structure without a well laid foundation.

Remember, do not judge this information, and do not take my words for fact. Experiment with spider-man crawling for yourself. Experience it. Spend some time learning from it. Crawl for a mile in my shoes, so to speak, before you dismiss this or embrace this. You have absolutely nothing to lose from spending time implementing this simple, safe exercise into your training program. Try it twice a week for a month. Try to work up to 10 straight minutes of spider-man crawling nonstop. Once you can do this, you are really strong. You'll certainly be a lot stronger than you were before you tried it.

Opposite limbs move together. Keep the butt down, this is not a bear crawl. 

If you want more information about the wonders of crawling check out Becoming Bulletproof, available on Amazon and here!


Aleks's Courage Corner said...

Upon first reading the title of this blog I thought this was going to be a crawl-for-one-mile challenge. Even though it wasn't, it was a great post! I can totally attest to the power of crawling. My pressing strength has gone up, and my squatting strength has gone way up! On a whim, I tested out my old pistol PR the other day (70 lbs) and found I could do it on either leg! I haven't practiced pistols seriously since October, and certainly not weighted ones! The next day, I cleaned and front squatted two 53 lb kettlebells for 20 straight reps - again, with no squatting practice other than what I was getting from crawling!

This stuff is the real deal. The next step is crawling for 1 mile :)

Tim Anderson said...

Aleks! Thank you so much for sharing this. What an amazing testimonial.

So awesome.

And believe me, you can crawl a mile. Though the idea is more fun than the actual event!

Bill Sorenson said...

Compelling article. I'll add Spider Man crawling to workouts this next month Thanks Aleks!

Tim Anderson said...


Let us know how it goes.

Thank you!

Sascha Pfeifer said...

Hi Tim,

great article!
Your Blog is always a great inspiration for me. Thanks a lot
for sharing your knowledge!

I have to crawl in the next days....

Take care!

Tim Anderson said...

Thanks for reading, Sascha. Let me know how the crawling goes.

John G said...

Hey Tim,
This post came at just the right time. Lately i have been floundering around about what to do in my training, what are the most efficient, results producing methods. Crawling had made up a big part of my training, but for some unknown reason, I took a break from it about 1-2 months ago. I got up to a 1/2 mile non-stop(which was my goal at the time). This post just fired me up to start crawling again! Thanks!


Tim Anderson said...

Hey John,

It is good to hear from you. Crawling can take a toll on you mentally - it is tough. And, sometimes the mind has to be ripe for crawling.

1/2 mile is a good crawling goal - way to go! Have you ever crawled 1/4 mile backwards? That is special. You should try it. I think you will love what it does for you. ;)

Jim Mara said...

Great post, I find crawling to be extremely beneficial for those who need reflex stabilization work and those who perform badly on the push up and rotary stability test on the FMS screen. I have been combining crawls and push ups, 15 crawls then 5 push ups for as long as I can tolerate. Then doing dips on the parallel bars afterwards is a real joy.


Tim Anderson said...


Thanks for the tips with the FMS screen. I have found the same thing. Crawling is a great restorative exercise. It just makes things "right".

Dips are always a joy!

SK said...

Hey, Tim! I just needed to comment on this particular blog post because I realized today that my squat strength has improved after merely three days of scattered throughout the day!

These are not major crawling feats, mind you. Just simple forward, backwards, side-to-side all within an 8x8 area at my workplace during my breaks. I cannot believe the difference that a cumulative of ten minutes the past three days has made. Fantastic!

I'll definitely be adding crawling and other resets everyday and as a warm-up for my training days as well!


Tim Anderson said...

SK, fantastic! Thank you for sharing. And reading!!