One of the more underappreciated developmental milestones in an infant’s life is the act of crawling. First words, walking, reading – these get all the attention, but it’s crawling that helps kids develop the important upper and lower body strength that will serve as a foundation for later activity and basic movement. Some pull and push with their arms while scooting along with their knees. Others crawl with their elbows like soldiers slogging through a battlefield. Whatever their methods, when compared to kids who skipped crawling and went straight to walking, early crawlers seem to have better motor skills. They understand bilateral coordination (using the arms and legs in reciprocal movements), they have a better sense of depth perception, and all that time spent on their hands gives crawlers better grasping strength.
For today’s workout, let’s take a cue from babies. Your motor skills are already developed and I imagine your depth perception is fairly accurate. You can probably grasp pens all right, and when walking you’ve learned not to swing your left arm as you step with your left leg. A baby crawling is about getting a total body workout and developing every muscle group for later use in life. We don’t need to crawl to develop basic skills anymore, but we can still hone them. Incorporating crawls into your workout routine can train your body to work in concert with itself while increasing overall strength. Legs pushing, arms supporting, back pulling, abs twisting, core maintaining, body balancing: the crawl – done correctly and intensely – hits everything.
So what makes a Grok crawl different from your basic bear crawl?
The Grok crawl is ultimately about crawling, and it does use the classic bear crawl as a starting point, but the similarities stop there. To perform the Grok crawl, get in the bear crawl position – on all fours, back straight, butt slightly raised, core tight – and crawl quickly, using your arms and back to pull you as your legs drive you forward. After ten or so paces, leap as far as you can using your legs and arms to collect power, as if you’re pouncing on a small animal (if you see an actual small animal, feel free to pounce on it). Maintain the pace and repeat the leaping. Mix it up with a series of successive leaps, or a stretch where you simply sprint-crawl for 40 yards. Just let go. The great thing about crawling is that letting go allows instinct to pretty much take over, so you can focus on going hard and fast.
So that’s the basic Grok crawl, but there are tons of other quadrupedal motions you can use to switch it up. In fact, switching it up is absolutely essential to getting the most out of your Grok crawl workouts. Keep your body on its toes and constantly surprise it with new motions and new angles to optimize results and make exercise interesting and sustainable. A few suggestions include:
Keep your butt down and your body as close to parallel with the floor as possible to focus on your arms. You’ll almost be doing moving pushups.
Raise your butt up high, forcing your legs to do most of the work; your arms will support you, but they won’t be driving you forward.
Let your legs drag behind you and pull yourself forward using only your hands. Imagine both legs are completely broken and useless. For an added kick, hold kettlebells in each hand as you plod along (kettlebells make everything better).
Learn from the gorilla. Instead of using your open palms, which can make your wrists sore, crawl forward on your knuckles.
Crab walk. Flip over and crawl on your back; alternate between bear crawling and crab walking.
Instead of the usual alternating arm/leg crawl, try moving both arms to vault yourself forward, drawing your knees to your chest – almost like you’re performing the butterfly stroke on land.
Hit the sand, or find a hill or staircase. You’ll find crawling in sand or up an incline (or both at once) will increase resistance and give you a better workout, and a downhill Grok crawl adds another level of difficulty (great for shoulders and triceps).
If you have joint issues but don’t have access to a pool, Grok crawling is a fairly low-impact anaerobic replacement for sprints (just take it easy on the leaps and bounds).
Strap on a weight vest or wear a backpack full of books for extra work.
Make like a soldier and keep your body against the floor, using your elbows to crawl forward.
Treat the Grok crawl as you would any intense cardio exercise. Try Tabata intervals or my beach sprint routine (except with crawls), or anything at all, really. It’s a completely adaptable workout that’s good for beginners and experts alike.
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.