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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 21, 2009

The “Grok Crawl”

By Mark Sisson
62 Comments

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.

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62 Comments on "The “Grok Crawl”"

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John
John
7 years 4 months ago

The inclusion of bear crawls in an exercise program is crucial in that, in addition to a great work out, its function can benefit people in potentially urgent situations that require getting down, taking cover, or crawling to safety in a burning building.

Adam Steer - Better Is Better
7 years 4 months ago

Great example of Primal exercise. I’m a big fan of this kind of movement, as it’s great for building relative strength. If you can’t control your body in space efficiently, why would you pick up an external weight?

I posted another great example today of very “primal” bodyweight exercise from one of my coaches, Scott Sonnon:
http://www.bodyweightcoach.com/05/animal-bodyweight-exercise/

Hope you enjoy.
Cheers,
Adam

Reid
Reid
7 years 4 months ago

Funny this is the post today. I have been doing a workout routine inspired by Ross Enamaite’s Never Gymless book and my routine last night was the following:50 yard sprint, 25 yard bear crawl, and 25 yard crab walk. Repeat as many circuits as possible in 15 min. It was hard work. Crab walks crushed me.

Vasco
Vasco
7 years 4 months ago

hehe, I know that one rather well…
also found crab walk to be toughest.

as for the grok crawl, just for clarification, without variations, is it any different from a regular bear crawl?

John Sifferman
7 years 4 months ago

There are so many variations, that it’s no problem getting on all fours to have fun and build general conditioning.

You can make games out of crawling too – the crab walkers try to trip the bear crawlers and vice versa. Hip bump wars, red light/green light, etc. etc.

jpippenger
7 years 4 months ago

This will make for a great workout that I can do with my three year old.

gcb
gcb
7 years 4 months ago

Would Grok use kneepads and gloves?

Mary Anne
Mary Anne
5 years 7 months ago

of course! Grok, after crawling around, would realize, with his/her superior brain, that some protection on post-paleo surfaces is quite all right!

Ryan Denner
7 years 4 months ago

I sneak up and pounce on my roomates dog, except the dog isn’t small. Its better when the dog wrestles you, then it gets really primal!

Rob
Rob
7 years 4 months ago

Thank you Mark!

pjnoir
pjnoir
7 years 4 months ago

Today parents quickly pass over the crawling stage with upright aids and walkers to keep the ‘little’ one from crawling, proudly announcing to friends that the little guy/gal only crawled for a few days before dashing around the house upright. No wonder- he never had a chance to do what’s natural.

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 4 months ago

… right before they whisk them off to soccer, hockey, & little league. Without finding out if that’s what the kid really even wants to do.

oops, up on a soapbox again…

Justin from GymJunkies
7 years 4 months ago

Mark why do you have to be such a badass 😉

– Justin

Chris Dunkin
7 years 4 months ago
It is eluded to, but never mentioned, that the real magic of the crawl (belly on the ground army crawl first) occurs in the brain. A well developed cross pattern crawl is one of the first ways in which we express use of both hemispheres of the brain. An infant crawling on the floor sees the world in two dimensions which allows the brain to develop and perfect convergence (the ability of your brain to perfectly overlap the two images it receives from your eyes in order to create dimension). This prepares the infant for the next stage in which… Read more »
hiker
hiker
6 years 1 month ago

that’s interesting. I’ll have to try it.

George
George
7 years 4 months ago
My son developed his full crawl and went right to pulling himself up to a stand holding on to things. The crawl while important, is still just an intermediate phase to walking. If it it were vastly important, we’d use crawling just as much as walking. I think pediatricians try to scare parents too much if their kids don’t do what is “average”. Every child is different and they will figure out things on their own eventually. Lets not go out and scare parents if their child isn’t the perfect little crawler, and went right into standing and walking. We… Read more »
Mark the Weight Vest Freak
7 years 4 months ago

Hi! We do bear crawls to drill quickness on the ground if you ever get taken to the floor on a self-defense situation. Thanks for the crab crawl drill ideas btw, we’ll have to start doing those as well.

Incidentally if you’re going to use a weight vest for this sort of thing, keep it light! 20lbs in one on the crawls darn near killed me! (I weigh 140)

jpippenger
7 years 4 months ago

Tried the bare crawl last night, chased my son around the yard. My shoulders and arms feel well worked out. I had fun with this one. Thanks for the suggestion.

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
7 years 4 months ago

You’re sharing brain-waves with my boot camp instructor. Last night we spent about half our time doing what he calls “bear-with-me”s. Bear crawls interspersed with push-ups, mountain climbers and crab walks. My poor triceps are still sore.

paul
paul
7 years 4 months ago

Great exercise, i’ve also read that crawling serves to cross-over the energies of the body aswell. Apparently in infants before learning to walk they’re energies operate in a unilateral pattern not crossing over. Once crawling comes into the picture energies start to cross from right to left and vice-versa, and the childs ability to learn improves ten fold.

Adam
7 years 4 months ago

We use a lot of similar stuff in Parkour/Freerunning training, although for us it’s normally just called Quadrupedal Movement or QM. A fun game you can play if you have a couple friends is QM Tag, the basic rules being the same as tag except you have to have at least 3 limbs (hands or feet) touching the ground at all times and your chest can never get more than a foot or two above the ground.

There’s a good article here at American Parkour (http://www.americanparkour.com/content/view/3884/1/) too talking about making your QM as apelike and fluid as possible.

Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 4 months ago

Wow, this one takes me back!

When I was no longer *that* young I used to revert to crawling on hills of varying steepness. Even when a lot older I’ve been known to do this on steep hills and not-so-steep cliffs, using techniques not too dissimilar to rock climbing, three limbs and sometimes only two limbs on the ground depending on conditions

Haven’t unleashed my Inner Child (or Outer Child) for a while now though

joe bob skidrow
joe bob skidrow
7 years 3 months ago

This is great, we used to have to do century’s in football if we were late, or drew a penalty during games. The century consisted of a 50yd bearcrawl and 50 yard crabwalk,

fritchbeetle
7 years 1 month ago

If anyone pounces on an outdoor house cat, I won’t be happy. ;p

Wngdwolf
Wngdwolf
6 years 4 months ago
Interesting about crawling and building strength and coordination, but you left at an even more critical component than that! Brain development! A friend of mine is a child development specialist and we had a talk about this years. As it turns out, children who skipped crawling often have learning disabilities, including but not limited to dyslexia! She told me that the first thing she does with new kids – and adults! – with learning disabilities is get them down on their hands and knees and over a period of a few months, they must crawl for up to 100 hours!… Read more »
hiker
hiker
6 years 1 month ago

I’ve heard about that. Easier to do if you’re the CDS, not the teacher.

Mary Anne
Mary Anne
5 years 7 months ago
Well, I don’t know. My MIL was a 1st grade teacher until around 1977 when she retired. She used to take her new class to the gym and watch them move around and then created her reading groups based on what she saw. She also spent recess and p.e. with the children and insisted on all kinds of movement, including crawling, elephant walking, etc. Maybe teachers who are not CDS aren’t allowed to be that involved anymore. I don’t know. But I do know that the highest reading scored high school students in the district during that time all had… Read more »
Shaleah
Shaleah
6 years 4 months ago

Wow, Wngdwolf, that’s really cool…!

Wngdwolf
Wngdwolf
6 years 4 months ago

One thing I love about this Primal approach is its truly holisitic nature. It emphasizes the health of the entire body.

Mary Anne
Mary Anne
5 years 7 months ago

amen to that.

Rob
Rob
6 years 4 months ago

Is there a good Grok Crawl video? I can’t find one on YouTube. It seems the same as a bear crawl.

trackback

[…] The “Grok Crawl” – A simple, Primal exercise that works many muscle groups and comes in handy every time you find yourself in a small tunnel. […]

Nathan
6 years 4 months ago

It’s funny. You never hear about crawls and hand walking as an effective exercise tool, but the most sore I have ever been was after a boot camp class that focused mostly on crawls.

They work

Mary Anne
Mary Anne
5 years 7 months ago

your post just reminded me that my grand-niece’s dad one day decided to mimic her baby movements. you know, the flailing arms and legs business. She kept it up for quite some time but he (very slim and ‘in shape’) was exhausted after less than 5 minutes.

Paula
Paula
6 years 4 months ago

Two years ago I broke my right foot and was at home recuperating for six weeks. I was quite overweight at the time, so I found getting around on crutches to be very difficult. I took to crawling, because it was the easiest way to get from one place to another. When I was able to go back to work, I found that climbing the stairs from the subway was not as exhausting as it had been before. I attributed that to the “workout” I got from crawling around the house for six weeks.

trackback

[…] expect to see throwing show up in future WOWs (along with all the other ancillary movements, like crawling, leaping, dragging, etc), in several […]

Tupou
Tupou
6 years 1 month ago

sounds like fun!

trackback

[…] the Grok crawl? Ross Training dug up a few parkour strength training videos that involve some hardcore […]

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[…] “Grok Crawl” for 25 meters — and have fun with it! ( http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-grok-crawl/ […]

Primal Toad
6 years 14 days ago

I never thought about leaping forward while grok crawling… I will have to try that next time!

trackback

[…] You can also split the difference between these first two variations by keeping your arms straight but still bending your knees. This type of movement is sometimes used in parkour training and is similar to what Mark Sisson calls the “Grok crawl.” […]

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[…] bodyweight movements to the cycle. In addition to walking lunges and broad jumps you could leap, Grok crawl, perform walking pushups, […]

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[…] Meter Sprint 25 Meter Grok Crawls 25 Meter Lunges Weighted Squat […]

Nannsi
Nannsi
5 years 6 months ago
Years ago, my aunt told me about a teacher she had in college. This nun told her that, the night before a test, she should spend a half-hour crawling around her dorm room. Study as much or as little as she wanted, but the crawling was mandatory. Aunty tried it, and it seemed to work. She swears it made her PhD board a breeze. I did it back in the day, and it worked for me. Now that I think about it, that explains the urge I feel to crawl around scrubbing floors or cleaning baseboard molding when stressed. As… Read more »
ana
ana
4 years 11 months ago

Oh I hear you! My husband’s mum is a germaphobe too, and my husband couldn’t dance or have rhythm to save his life! Might have to make him crawl 🙂

trackback

[…] from one corner, Grok crawl to the other side lengthwise. Then, spring up, change directions, and sprint diagonally across the […]

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[…] from one corner, Grok crawl to the other side lengthwise. Then, spring up, change directions, and sprint diagonally across the […]

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[…] said movements. Instead of walking down your hall, crab-walk, leopard-crawl, do lunges, or “Grok crawl.” When coming back the other way, do something else! Make that one stretch of hallway an […]

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[…] know how to Grok crawl, I’m sure. Just be careful on the way down and go deliberately. Since your shoulders will be […]

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[…] know how to Grok crawl, I’m sure. Just be careful on the way down and go deliberately. Since your shoulders will be […]

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[…] lunch, we worked on crawls. We crawled uphill, downhill, backwards uphill, and on flat ground. Crawling the MovNat way […]

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[…] it doesn’t have to be all-out sprints on a track. Cycling obviously works, swimming works, Grok crawls probably work. It’s about output and recovery – both must be maximized for a sprint to […]

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[…] kid gets short bursts of activity. Bust out with squats in the middle of a walk to school. Do some Grok crawls down the produce aisle. Sprint to the stop sign. Pick up every rock you find on your hike, making […]

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[…] gets short bursts of activity. Bust out with squats  in the middle of a walk to school. Do some Grok  crawls down the produce aisle. Sprint to the stop  sign. Pick up every rock you find on your hike, making […]

Brendon
4 years 7 months ago

My favorite that we use all the time with all our athletes and adults: Lateral Crawl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chO3cg4l83Q&list=UUyFsXJd5qXIPsp5f-Mfd4jA&index=3&feature=plcp

kenneth
kenneth
4 years 4 months ago

This is great; however, I am having trouble picturing it and I want to ensure proper form. Do you have any videos for the learners that are more visual?

doghug
doghug
4 years 28 days ago

So glad I found this post!

shaelee
shaelee
3 years 8 months ago

Great exercise for those of us with children, if I start crawling around, I know at least one of them will climb on me, how is that for extra “backpack” resistance or wiggly kettle weights?

trackback
3 years 4 months ago

[…] jag gör det idag för säkerhets skull. Den här veckans WOW är: 50 meter sprint 25 meter ”crawl” 25 meter utfallssteg 50 meter squat med kast (gör en vanlig squat och avsluta med att kasta […]

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