Woah, it’s been 7 weeks since I blogged. I don’t actually think anyone is worse off for the break, but thanks to everyone who keeps harassing me to add more info. Here’s why I haven’t: I’ve been working at Trader Joe’s, at a brand new sports club in San Diego, with my online clients (I have two open spots), leading a couple workshops back east in DC & NYC, and finally teaching a KB Cert for KB Athletics. So I’ve been busy, it’s also one of the reasons why we haven’t done a BA podcast in a while!
On to today.
More and more we see people crawling in different exercise schools of thought. When many schools of thought come to the same conclusion you really should pay attention, because there is a reason, even if it is not agreed upon by each of the schools. Crawling seems to be rehabilitative in nature, be it because of it being a developmental pattern, because of opposite limb coordinated movement, crossing the midline deliciousness for the brain, or my favorite idea, that functions of the body are asked to be performed when in closed chain vs open chain when they aren’t.
The functions of our muscles were learned by anyone who studied an anatomy book based on their origin and insertion points, and what actions they perform in anatomical position. Biceps flex for instance in the anatomical position, because the proximal end of the arm is ‘fixed’ while the distal end moves. This flips when the distal end becomes ‘fixed’ such as in a crawl, and the bicep (and other “stuff”) has to perform completely different functions than what is normally listed in a physiology book.
That open vs closed chain idea isn’t new when we are talking about leg exercises (seated curl vs kb swings) and we generally agree that the way our bodies are asked to move and the functions that the muscles of the leg perform are different when we are standing vs sitting. The same is true for the upper body though! And that doesn’t seem to be discussed much at all.
When the hands become the fixed point one’s muscles act differently to move or stabilize the rest of the body. This is one reason that big lat pulls don’t equate to pull-ups. This also is the reason that a big bench doesn’t always make for solid pushup performances. Well….the different actions of the muscles is one reason…the other large reason being the increased activation of stabilizer/deep muscles when in a closed chain.
So…this leads to…what do we do? We crawl. Forwards, backwards, sideways, downhill, uphill, uphill backwards, on thin surfaces, dragging something, and my favorite: crawling backwards uphill.
BUT, we can do other things as well. We can get into closed chain positions and perform tasks. For example, the plank row. This is your plank but way more interesting. Try it. The other thing you can do is create a stable base in a quadraped (or three point) position and move external objects. This requires the shoulder and to a lesser extent the hip complexes to stabilize enough to be a strong base for you to move the external object around. These drills will make a ‘strong’ person feel very weak very quickly.
The other thing that may happen, and I can’t say this for sure, is we might see people get into a more centrated position when we ask them to perform external load moving tasks. I believe this may be because our structures and not perfectly functioning muscular systems are ‘strong’ enough for us to get into positions where the joints are in ‘poor’ positions (crappy scapular position, crappy hip/rib tilting) and perform crappy looking crawls/planks. But throw an external load such as the sandbag in the video below onto the demands of the plank, and the body MUST get into a better position in order to accomplish the task. I’m fully aware that it may not always happen in this fashion, but I’ve seen it work out more often than not. I only came to this because of attending Charlie Weingroff lectures where he demonstrates how to ‘fix’ a crappy scap position by putting some real load ontop of it! Also, if someone is scared that loading someone who may initially not have optimal position in these crawl drills, don’t be. These are basically self limiting exercises and it would be hard to hurt oneself. They would simply get to tired to keep going, as I basically did at the end of this video.
Check it out.
Crawl sand bag push: notice how awesome this is, you have to lower yourself into a quasi one arm pushup, maintain core integrity and push over head. If one didn’t have the upper body strength on the support arm, they would lower to knees, or forearm. Or realistically not get this rx’d.
Plank row to back crawl: this is just too good. There is ‘magic’ in going from forearms up to the hand.
Horizontal snatch: yep, look at it…it’s basically a one arm snatch horizontal to the ground. You can emphasize near full hip extension as swell.
Side pulls: Josh Henkin would be mad that I’m doing these fast, and in fact slowing them down makes them much more challenging. I do those also.