While you may have left your crawling days behind you a long time ago, quadrupedal exercises, another way of saying moving on all fours, are a back-to-nature way to get fit and stay fit. Quadrupedal exercises can be performed almost anywhere since they require no equipment, but that doesn't mean they are easy. In fact, as any soldier who has been through boot camp will tell you, crawling long distances or over rough terrain is exhausting and will leave every muscle in your body feeling thoroughly worked.
Quadrupedal movements, QM for short, place your muscles in an unusual position and force you to support your weight on your legs and arms, which are weaker. In addition, holding your body in the correct position, which is exercise dependent, will also challenge your core and/or glutes as you work hard to keep your hips clear of the floor. Because quadrupedal movements are inherently uneconomical for humans, crawling on all fours will also burn more calories than bipedal movements such as walking or running.
Quadrupedal Exercise Variations
There are a number of ways you can crawl to fitness, each of which will challenge your muscles in different ways. Bear crawls are performed face-down and are probably the most straightforward crawling exercise. Simply gambol forward, backward or sideways on all fours. Crab crawls involve moving in a seated position with your hips lifted clear of the floor. Frog jumps, a four-points-of-contact leaping exercise, will develop both muscle power and endurance, while leopard crawls, a belly-to-the-floor crawling movement favored by the armed forces, are just plain tough all over. With all crawling variations, the faster you move and the further you travel, the more challenging these exercises become. Crawling uphill or downhill or while wearing a weighted vest or backpack will kick the intensity up another few notches.
As beneficial as quadrupedal exercises can be, they are not without risks. Unless you have strong wrists, going on all fours may prove uncomfortable or even painful. If you have weak or previously injured wrists, any benefits may be outweighed by the potential for mishap. Quadrupedal exercises place your core and shoulder muscles under a significant load, so these muscles must be up to the task. Lack of core and shoulder strength will result in joint instability, and unstable joints are prone to injury. To minimize your risk of injury, increase the length, speed and difficulty of your crawls gradually. Always check your crawling surface for anything that might cause you injury as your hands are unprotected and easily hurt. Consider wearing gloves to protect your hands from hidden sharp objects.
Sample Quadrupedal Workout
While you could just go out and crawl to get a workout, you'll experience better results if you follow a more prescriptive program. Following a sample workout can help you get a feel for quadrupedal exercises, and the inclusion of leg and core exercises can provide some respite from being on all-fours. Warm up by performing 5 to 10 minutes of easy cardio followed by dynamic stretches for your major muscle groups. Reduce or increase the distances and repetitions according to your fitness and experience. Next, bear crawl 20 yards, stand up and then perform 20 squats. Walk back to the start and repeat two to four more times. Alternate forward and backward crawls for variety. Next, crab crawl 20 yards, stand up and perform 20 lunges -- 10 on each leg. Walk back to the start and repeat two to four more times. Then, leopard crawl 20 yards, roll onto your back and perform 20 bent-leg sit-ups. Walk back to the start and repeat two to four more times. Last, bear crawl 20 yards, crab crawl 20 yards, frog jump 20 yards and leopard 20 yards to finish your workout.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.