The Benefits of Quadrupedal Movement

“You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.”
— Shaun Hick

The Benefits of Quadrupedal Movement

Why we should crawl?

One of the first actions of locomotion that we'll ever undertake as humans is crawling – moving on all four limbs across an even or uneven surface, usually around six months to 1 year old. But it's often neglected once we leave childhood. By the time we are adults, many of us have completely forgotten how to crawl. That is unfortunate, because there are some amazing benefits of quadrupedal movement, both for adults and children, which many people overlook.

First and most importantly, quadrupedal movement helps to improve your body's balance and range of activity. In short, being able to move very quickly on all four limbs helps your body transition more dynamically between two very different states of movements – think of moving very quickly from a crouching position to a standing position, or vice versa.

For that reason, quadrupedal movement is a core skill taught in many martial arts, and other pursuits such as parkour. You've heard the term "cat-like reflexes," right? Well, imagine being able to pounce like a cat, moving your body at a moment's notice with remarkable agility.

Move like an animal

Quite simply, learning to crawl is one of the best ways to develop fluid transitions between movements. For example, I play with a full range of quadrupedal movements based on animal locomotion. For example, learn to walk like a cat or a crawl like a bear. Get low and compact to navigate tight fitting areas and hard-to-reach locations.

Secondly, it's hard to deny the full body workout potential of quadrupedal movement. When you're down on all fours, you're hitting your quads and shoulders, as well as your core and legs. Don't just move forwards, experiment with quadrupedal movement backwards, sideways, on diagonals and in random directions too.

Working the mind

Finally – and this is probably the most surprising benefit of quadrupedal movement – you are exercising your mind regarding improving cognitive function every time you crawl. That's because the two sides of the brain are responsible for controlling opposite sides of the body. As you move front-to-back, back-to-front and side-to-side, your brain is processing these challenging signals. Both sides of the brain are communicating. Over the long-term, quadrupedal movement could become a cognitive boost, a way to improve memory, focus and productivity. It also can improve proprioception - the ability to sense the body regarding its position in relation to its environment. Research looking at quadrupedal movement in adults in the journal Human Movement Science concludes that: 

"Performance of a novel, progressive, and challenging task, requiring the coordination of all 4 limbs, has a beneficial impact on cognitive flexibility..."

It's too easy to dismiss quadrupedal movement as something only a baby does. However, as anyone who's ever watched a baby crawl, or anyone who has tried to do it themselves as an adult, knows, propelling yourself forward in a crawling formation takes quite a bit of coordination, focus and power. 

Take some time to include crawling in your movement regimen, try a Bear Crawl.