Imagine a time when you wanted your body to move in a specific way but you were limited for some reason.
Maybe you bend over at the waist to pick up your toddler for a bath because you know squatting down will make your knees hurt.
Or you notice pain in your shoulder when trying to grab that box of nails on the top shelf in your garage.
You felt tightness in your hips and groin at the gym when while doing lunges, and had to cut the set short even though you weren’t worn out.
Any restrictions you have are almost always due to a deficit in one or more of the following:
Adequate strength you can rely on at any timeReasonable flexibility and mobility through all jointsConfidence in your ability to move smoothly, with control through any range of motion
Barring any serious injuries, most of us could benefit from some basic, yet powerful types of exercise we call ‘animal movement.’
We like to think of it simply as crawling because with these movements, we have you crawling around on all fours.
For example… what if you could move like this? 👇
The reason I’m able to move like this is because:
I have the strength in my entire body to move in and out of awkward movements easily and without pain or restriction.My flexibility is sufficient to a point where almost no position is off limits.The exercises I’ve practiced over the years forced me to be mindful of every movement, enhancing my motor control.
This isn’t to say you have to be able to move like this, but working toward this ability can enhance any athletic movement you’d ever want to do.
And to be clear, the ‘flow’ that I’m doing isn’t a rehearsed routine. It’s just something I came up with on the spot. And I’m only able to do it because of the crawling movements we’re showing you here.
A lot of the exercise programs and routines we love call for very specific movement patterns.
And this makes sense if you’re practicing a particular sport like running or biking or martial arts, or you’re lifting weights in the gym.
Not all programs can address every single thing you need to work on, and we don’t claim that any one program will make you great at everything.
It’s why we encourage people to use our programs creatively – either on their own or alongside your favorite way to work out.
But we teach a very specific type of movement known as locomotion based on 4 animal movements. We’ll get into those exercises more in depth in a second. But first let’s look at why locomotive movements are so important…
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What Is Locomotion?
The quick definition is moving your body through space. Like walking, you stand up and walk from your desk to get your keys, then you walk out the door to your car.
A Really Quick Primer on Movement Terms
When talking about movement, you might hear the following terms:
Closed Kinetic Chain (often described as Closed Chain) – this is where a limb is fixed and the rest of the body moves around it.Open Chain – in which a limb moves around freely.
Walking is an easy way to understand this, where the foot on the ground is the base of a closed chain for that leg. As your body is propelled forward, the leg that is swinging forward for the next step is an open chain movement.
Many traditional training exercises tend to fall under one or the other category.
For instance, pull-ups are a closed chain exercise for the upper body because your hands are fixed and you are lifting your body up toward them, while doing a pull-down on a machine is open chain because your body is stable and you are moving your hands.
So what does this mean beyond just being a neat biomechanics terminology lesson? 🤔
It’s useful because both types of movement provide different stimuli to the body. We’ll discuss this in detail below, using the 4 animal movements we use in our programs.
But one general – and incredibly important – distinction in locomotion work is that the spine and trunk both have to be more involved in creating and handling dynamic forces. Placing the hands on the ground obliges your upper back to work and stabilize to maintain correct positioning.
This is a stimulus we don’t always get in regular activity, and it improves your upper spine’s ability to be a supportive platform for so many activities.
An additional benefit to locomotion is the how the movements change your normal orientation in space.
Check out the position of the Bear walk here. Butt up, head down, weight on your hands. 👇
Most of our days are spent upright with the head level and on “top” of the body. In the Bear, you are inverted (upside down) and this simple change of position has a host of distinctive upshots:
One benefit is the traction of the spine in this position. This is not a heavy force, like you’d experience if someone were to pull on your head, but rather, the Bear position puts your spine into light traction, enough to decompress your neck and upper spine a bit. This along with the active motion can be a very good relief of tension.Another benefit is the shift in body position, which changes circulatory and respiratory responses. This counteracts a lot of the sitting many of us are forced to do in our daily lives.
With this understanding of the broader benefits of practicing locomotion exercises in general, let’s take a look at some more specifics.
4 Animal Moves For A Stronger, More Able Body
We focus on the Bear, Frogger, Monkey, and Crab. All of these movements have you down on all fours, moving your body through space.
Each movement has its own benefits, but all of them, minus the Crab, has you in an inverted position.
These animal exercises are fun, playful movements that go way beyond just being good for warm-ups. When you do them properly, and in a variety of ways, these exercises stimulate and build high levels of strength, flexibility, and body control, everything you need that most sport-specific, singular programs cannot fully cover.
For years, these locomotive patterns have been used in calisthenics, gymnastics, martial arts, and playground games, and their positive effects reach beyond just being fun exercises.