Inchworms and Spiders and Bears, Oh My! Why We crawl and You Should Too

In addition to all of our lying down and getting up, we also do a fair bit of crawling on the floor. Inchworms, bear crawls, spider crawls, monkey hustles.

It doesn’t really matter what you call it. Just get down on the floor and move across the room.


You may be asking yourself, “Why Crawling”?

Why not? Have you ever had to crawl under your bed to retrieve something that rolled underneath it? It’s not easy, is it? Crawling is a primal movement. Watch a baby crawl. They are amazing to watch.

As babies grow, they begin to move their bodies more efficiently. They learn to roll over to their backs and then back to their bellies. They learn to push themselves up (Hello? Cobra anyone? Babies do this the best.) From there, they learn to get to their knees, then they learn to move, one hand and one knee at a time. Then they learn to pull themselves up to standing and then walk. And then they throw it all away as they get older and start sitting on our butts for periods at a time and soon, they lose all this wonderful primal movement.  Then, as an adult,  they find themselves in a conditioning class doing bear crawls and cursing under their breaths about how much they hate this, knowing full well how awesome an exercise it is for them. Whew. That was one long breath. Sound about right? Thought so.

As a modern dancer, I have spent half of my life rolling around on the floor, crawling, doing backward rolls, frontward rolls, sliding to the floor, leaping to the floor and then learning to move from a standing position to a lying position as quickly as possible, then back to standing. Over the past 30 some odd years, I have remained a primal mover. It is second nature to me. One summer, while I was away at a dance program, I remember watching a solo by a dancer whose whole piece was performed on the floor with her talking about how much she loved the floor. I think this is true of every modern dancer out there. The floor is our friend. I am comfortable on the ground, maybe even more comfortable on the floor than I am standing. Therefore, teaching people how to move to the floor and across the floor is a big part of my programming.

Here are some of the crawl variations that we use during our basic training classes.

But what are the benefits of crawling? Well, think about it.

  • When you are crawling, you are working practically every muscle group in your body, from your shoulders, back, trunk, hips, legs…all the way down to your calves and feet. Don’t believe me? Drop down on the floor and try this move:  the bear crawl or basic quadruped crawl (see video below). If your shoulders and quads aren’t burning when you are done…well, they should be. 😉
  • Crawling also works your brain out. How do I know? I just have to watch my clients as they struggle with coordinating their arms and legs, especially the spider crawl. You can “see” their brains trying to make sense of the movement pattern.

But is crawling functional? You bet! How many times have you dropped something on the floor only to have it roll under your bed or the couch? What do you do? Drop down and crawl underneath to retrieve the object? Or do you take the easy way out and look for a broom handle?

One of my clients who is amazingly strong spent one day, morning into the afternoon gardening. And we are not talking a few little flowers here and there. She lives in a row house four stories high and has a number of flowers outside of her house that were in need of attention. Talk about real world training! Here is her email to me….straight from the horse’s mouth:

Head to Home Depot to pick up mulch and potting soil.  Haul six bags of mulch and three 32 quart size of potting soil from store into car.  Haul it out of car. Proceed to lay the mulch–squatting, turning, more squatting, heaving the bag over the border fence, squatting around attack roses and other foliage….Back to Home Depot to grab six more bags of mulch…mulch is now laid on Essex and Fleet Street gardens.  Now to the rooftop. Haul the three bags of potting soil up 16 steps (cheated and took elevator to third floor–but still had to haul from third floor to rooftop).  Back down all the steps to get all the pots; back up the steps with all the pots.   No elevator this time so many many many steps.  Potted the plants–more squatting, lifting, twisting, etc.

Oh wait–so a tiki torch blew off the rooftop last year and we never retrieved it lying on the roof under the deck.  So I do my military crawl from Fleet over to Essex Street and back (under the deck) to pick it up. This was after some fancy maneuvers to even get under the deck!!!

Military crawl under the deck! Heck yea! By the way, did I mention that she is 57 years old?


Knowing how to crawl just makes everyday movement that much easier. Knowing you can get up and down to the floor with ease makes you more aware of your body and will help prolong your life. Crawling is a fantastic way to build upper body strength as well as trunk strength. Don’t discount your crawls! If you don’t use it, you will definitely lose it. So get down to the floor and work those inchworms!

If you want to learn more about primal movements, check out this article here at

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