Crawling as a Pilates exercise and movement pattern, I have introduced crawling into my Lucan Pilates classes as a warm up exercise.

Crawling is the first complex movement pattern that we learn as children. Crawling as an infant is very important to create strong shoulder and hip joints, co-ordination and core strength preparing us for walking.

Crawling teaches us functional core strength and movement. When crawling we are using our core muscles to stabilise our spine, hold our bodies in the air while also moving all our limbs. This is the way the core works naturally when running and swimming, which is in direct contrast to static exercises such as crunches and sit ups,

Types of crawls

There are various types of crawling and many newly named crawling patterns in primal movement circles, below are few:

Standard crawl

A typical crawl is left-hand, right-knee, right-hand, left-knee, or a hand, the diagonal knee, the other hand then its diagonal knee. This is the first gait most humans learn, and is mainly used during early childhood, or when looking for something on the floor or under low relief. This is the most natural of the crawls and is the one that requires the least effort.

Bear crawl:

The bear crawl is almost identical to the standard crawl, but the feet are used instead of the knees, which creates an arched or squatted body posture. This works as a faster crawl but requires more effort to maintain.

Crab crawl

The crab crawl is an upside down bear crawl. This is the most unnatural of the crawls, requiring the most effort, and is used in crab soccer. The crab crawl starts by sitting down with the feet and hands flat on the ground, the hips are then raised off the ground and the chest faces the sky.

Leopard crawl/High crawl

The leopard crawl is a military-specific crawl. This is a two-beat gait like a trot: an arm/elbow is advanced with the diagonal knee. This is designed for the smallest silhouette possible, and the body is often nearly or actually touching the ground, and although the elbow and knee are the main focus, most of the respective limbs touch the ground.

Tiger crawl

The tiger crawl is essentially a highly accelerated combination between crawl and leopard crawl. It uses the hands and the knees/feet depending upon the situation, while maintaining a silhouette almost as small as that of the leopard crawl. This is relatively fast gait but can take large amounts of energy.

Some of the benefits of crawling exercises:

  • Strengthen hip & shoulder joints
  • Unloads the spine
  • Rich tactile, visual, & sensory input
  • Fires almost every muscle in the body
  • Stimulates both sides of the brain (co ordination)
  • Works on reciprocal movement patterns
  • Improves ability to dynamically control core muslces
  • Takes advantage of primal movement system (“hard wired” in CNS)


Crawling is being used more and more as an exercise technique to help improve core strength, joint stability and co ordination among adults. Try it next time you are in the gym or working out in the local park, I use Spiderman Crawling as a warm up when training.