A Visual Introduction to (Foot-Hand) Crawling Skills
By Peri Zourides, MovNat Team Instructor
“You have to crawl before you can walk.”
Yes, but why? Anyone familiar with MovNat and the Natural Movement practice will see online how much crawling we do. You can call us crawling crazy. But more than a good photo on Instagram, there is so much benefit in the movement that carries over to strengthening your body & mind (yes, your mind), and is also practically useful in so many environments and contexts.
Before we go further, here’s a quick distinction about which crawling we’ll look at. Within MovNat we have a number of crawls:
We delve deeper into these and more in our MovNat Certification Program, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the Foot-Hand Crawl.
You will notice the names of the crawls are not animals. We don’t Bear Crawl, Monkey Crawl, Scorpion Crawl, Crab Crawl, etc. Why? Because we are human! As you can see the names are straight forward and self explanatory relating to human Natural Movement.
Now there are movement systems that do these “animal” crawls, and I myself have attended some courses as experimental training. There is nothing wrong with having them in your movement practice. But remember when we are looking at things through a MovNat lens, one key principle separates Natural Movement from “Animal” Movements: PRACTICALITY.
If you are out in nature and need to get over some slippery rocks in a river, or have to get across a mossy fallen tree branch, will you try and pretend to be a Bear or Scorpion? Or, will you lower your Center of Gravity (COG), apply more Points of Contact (POC) with your hands, and safely transfer your weight to a more stable Surface of Support (SOS)? Being human, you should choose the latter.
Note: If these terms seem foreign to you, you can learn more about the unique language and methods of Natural Movement in The Practice of Natural Movement book and in the MovNat Certification Program.
Why Crawling is Critical for Humans
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move onto why crawling is so important for us.
Our bodies are a wonderful tapestry of muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia, tendons, nerves, organs and cells from top to bottom.
From a movement perspective, the “slings’ in the body are key in how we move and how a contralateral (opposite sides) pattern such as crawling is critical in how we walk and run.
We are aware that with walking and running, the opposite arm moves forward with the opposite leg. The faster we walk and run, the faster this exchange between the 2 limbs should take place. If this is news to you, I encourage you to try walking and running with the same arm and leg moving forward at the same time and let me know it works out for you. #ineffecient
The slings at play here are your Anterior (front) and Posterior (Back) Oblique Sling. Essentially, think of the body as a big moving X.
Now the modern fitness industry likes to talk about the core and core exercises. Well, I challenge you to find a more complete “core” movement than crawling. We’re looking at the bigger picture than just your abdominals. Because in MovNat, we don’t focus on just one body part, or just the aesthetics. It’s always about your body and movement as a whole. So, when you crawl, regardless of which way your arms and legs are oriented, your torso must always be stable. Don’t “tighten your core!” You still have to move!
Our hands and feet are high sensory points in the body. And in our development from birth, when we start on the ground, our touch with them is very important in giving our brain feedback to our environment. Hence, why we want to touch, grab, pick up, lick, eat, squash, bash, step and do so much with our hands and feet as we start to understand the world around us (remember when I mentioned the mind at the beginning?).
Foundational positions for the Foot Hand Crawl
As with all techniques in MovNat, we either progress or regress the movements when teaching. Regardless of your skill and fitness level, beginner or master, we can always come back to the basics. And those who master the basics become strongest and most ADAPTABLE.
As we look at this introduction to crawling, I’ve used baby photos to illustrate the importance of a few of these positions in our crawling development. As we age, we should be able to continue to get into these position, which provides a good diagnostic for the health of our neck, back, hips, wrists, and other joints.
Please choose the appropriate surface and clothes for practicing. You DO NOT have to be barefoot, bare kneed, outside or exposed. All of these techniques can be practiced safely indoors, on a mat and with appropriate clothing; or even with bolsters (e.g. pad or yoga block).
This is one of our first weight bearing positions as you develop upper body strength and lift your head.
- Get onto the floor and place your hands out in front of you.
- Lightly lift your head and chest to look around your environment just like a baby would. A healthy spine should have some level of extension in it.
- Breathe slowly and deeply though your nose. At no point should you force your position with tension.
Go ahead and give it a try!
Reaching is a huge part of our development as we explore our surroundings. Good range of motion comes from comfortably reaching and rotating to different positions.
- Get onto your hands and knees and simply reach to various points around you.
- If you can add some objects around you like pens, marbles, stones, etc. to pick up, even better.
- Again, always move from a place of ease without excessive tension, especially in the neck, jaw and shoulders.
Our patella doesn’t fully form until we’re about 3 years old. Hence, why we have the ability to drag our knees across the ground when we’re young. For many adults, this is not feasible as years of misuse and disuse may mean your knees are very sensitive. Hence, the recommendation to practice on an appropriate surface.
- From your knee hand position, simply step your right hand forward and move your left knee up behind your left hand.
- If you pause and look at yourself, you will see that you have an open side and closed side; or, a short side and long side.
- This contralateral sequence will always need to be correct for you to move efficiently. Remember what we said about walking or running with the same arm and leg forward?
Where do I go from here?
That wraps up our introduction to Foot Hand crawling. There’s a bit more than you thought, right?
That’s the great thing about the MovNat system. We can identify movement inefficiencies by deconstructing movement in this way. Then we can appropriately progress your practice to increase strength, volume, complexity or intensity.
For a truly comprehensive instruction to efficient crawling, see our mini e-course:
“The 10 Evolutionary Steps of Human Crawling”
Or, dive deep with an in-person MovNat Certification Event near you!
About the Author
Peri Zourides, MovNat Expert Trainer (Level 1, 2, 3 and Aquatics & Combatives Certified) and Team Instructor, is the owner of Seven Star Energy Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is a multi-disciplined training facility that offers Natural Movement, Kettlebells, calisthenics, martial arts, rehabilitation treatment and mindfulness training. Read Peri’s Full Bio on the MovNat Team page.