If you’ve ever watched a monkey move around on the ground, you know they’re strong, agile, and limber. That’s why we aim to move like them using Monkey Walks.
Monkey walks 🐵 are a type of movement called locomotion, which means to move your full body through space. When doing the Monkey, you’re using all fours to move about, using your hips, shoulders, arms, hands, and feet.
The Monkey is another type of “animal” movement, similar to the Bear or Crab walks that have been used in calisthenics, gymnastics, martial arts, and playground games. While they might look more like ‘play‘ than sport-specific exercises, their benefits extend beyond just having a good time.
💡 To learn more about these benefits, check out our locomotion page.
How To Do The Basic Monkey
A common mistake people make is thinking they have to kick their legs out behind them to make the movement bigger than it has to be, instead of keeping their legs closer to their hands.
Notice how GMB Trainer Eduardo lifts his hips and keeps his feet close to his hands in the demonstration below.
Step 1: Start in a squat position and reach your hands to the side, one hand outside of your foot and the other just inside your foot.Step 2: Shift your weight toward your hands, pulling yourself to the side you’re reaching toward.Step 3: With your weight on your hands, pick up the back foot (opposite the direction you’re going) and hop back to where your hands are in front of you again.
Monkey Walk Variations For More Strength And Body Control
Below you’ll see 4 variations of the Monkey we use in our programs.
Basic Monkey – straight arms, bent legs, lateral movementLong Leg Monkey – straight arms and straight legsMonkey 180 – straight arms, bent legs, lateral movement, twisting your body with each repLong Leg Monkey Into Deep Squat – straight arms and straight legs, into a deep squat position🧠 Keep in mind that these are not your traditional “progressions” in the sense that one movement is harder than the other.
Any single variation won’t be better than any other, and what you work on will be determined by your needs.
For instance, if you have issues with shoulder strength, you might find that the basic Monkey is easier to work on than the Monkey 180. And if you have hip mobility limitations, the Long Leg Monkey might work better for you.
Once you get stronger with the basic Monkey, you can start to explore the other variations to challenge yourself to get stronger and more flexible.
What If I Can’t Do The Monkey Exactly Like They Are In The Videos? 🤔
The good news is you don’t have to do it the same way they are. In fact, if you’re not used to moving like this, or you aren’t quite flexible enough yet, you’ll have to modify the movement a bit.
For the Monkey, a common concern we get from clients is that they don’t have the flexibility and strength to do a full squat, therefore they think they can’t work on the Monkey properly.
While being able to do a full squat would be great, that level of mobility isn’t required to start practicing and getting the benefits from this movement.
Here’s GMB Trainer Verity showing us how one can modify the Monkey:
Make sure you check out our squat tutorial to build up the flexibility and strength for better squat depth.
The Monkey requires decent shoulder strength and hip mobility, so if it’s extra tough for you, check out the Bear and hip mobility routine.
If wrist pain is an issue, we have a wrist mobility and strengthening routine you can use.
Monkey Exercise Variations And Benefits
|Basic Monkey||• Scapular strength through concentric and isometric protraction and concentric ad isometric depression
• Rotator cuff strength to control eccentric internal rotation and concentric and isometric external rotation
• Spinal strength for eccentric and concentric side-bending, and isometric extension and flexion
• Spinal mobility into side-bending and rotation
• Abdominal strength in flexion, rotation and side-bending
• Hip mobility into flexion and abduction
• Hip strength of flexion, abduction, adduction and external and internal rotation
|Long Leg Monkey||• Everything from Basic Monkey + the following:
• increased action for hip strength and mobility
|Straight leg monkey, starting and returning to deep squat||• Everything from Basic Monkey + the following:
• increased action for hip strength and mobility
|Monkey 180||• Everything from Basic Monkey + the following:
• increased emphasis on motor control and coordination
Since this is a complex animal movement, it requires a lot of full body strength and coordination due to the lateral movement pattern.
The Monkey Walk helps strengthen your spine, upper back, and shoulders, while building abdominal strength from the side-bending and rotational movement. You’ll also be working on your hip mobility through flexion, external, and internal rotation.
Getting comfortable with the Monkey allows for you to do other movements well, like the Crab and Frogger, and it’ll make you more agile, which translates to all other athletic movements.
Here’s GMB Trainer Rebecca Jennifer Rashkin working on a Monkey flow aimed at helping you prepare for handstand practice.
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Adding The Monkey Walk To Your Training
The Monkey is helpful for developing the ability to move laterally using your upper and lower body rhythmically, and it prepares you for skills like tumbling, cartwheels, and being able to keep your balance in awkward positions.
Cross-body coordination and a greater range of motion in the hips is essential if your training has you moving from side to side, or requires you to change directions while running, dancing, or playing sports.
If you want to train the Monkey with other crawling patterns for a strong base of strength, mobility, and body control, you should get started with Elements.
Be Stronger & More Capable With a Foundation in the Basics
With Elements, you’ll get strong, flexible, and agile using various animal movements, helping you move well without restriction.
Your Foundation for Physical Autonomy