Every year we see something new in the fitness world, or at least something old that’s been re-stylized and given a new name. One of those things is the “crawling” trend. Could crawling replace the plank?

The current take on crawling for exercise is credited to Tim Anderson’s 2011 book Becoming Bulletproof and his fitness company, Original Strength. Anderson and others suggest that the first type of movement we do as babies helps us develop equal strength in all four limbs and sets us up for a healthy gait once we start to walk. As adults, our alignment and movement becomes imbalanced as we spend hours sitting hunched over desks and tend to work certain muscle groups more heavily (or in isolation) at the fitness center. By returning to this simple, instinctual movement, Anderson claims we can “reset” our movement patterns and improve our functional fitness.

Crawling for core strength

Crawling is just starting to trend in fitness centers and boutiques, but it’s been a long-term mainstay of functional military training (the bear crawl) and the physical therapy world. The crawling motion helps people build core strength in a way that’s connected to the rest of the body (like planks do). PTs also say it works the shoulder girdle and the hips – key areas that tend to be weak and prone to injury.

The “movement” trend

Crawling may be the most noticeable trend, but it’s part of a bigger focus on movement versus exercise. Many professionals believe it’s better for us to focus on movement throughout the day — using our range of motion and gaining fluidity in various patterns — than to limit ourselves to an hour of designated exercise at a fitness gym. Keeping things in motion makes a greater difference in having healthy bodies that move well and resist injury.

How to fit crawling into your workout

Crawling is instinctual, but it might feel strange since most of us haven’t crawled much since we were infants. The most basic crawl position involves aligning your knees and hands and moving forward, but a variation is to raise the toes (which lifts the knees) into a hovering position. This engages the core even more for support.

Crawling is a good movement to fit into another recent fitness trend – high intensity interval training (HIIT). Fitting the crawl into a circuit with other bodyweight moves in rapid succession will burn more calories while helping you improve your core strength, balance, and alignment.

Crawling is relatively safe, but those with knee injuries should avoid crawling on hard surfaces, and people with neck or wrist injuries should also be cautious.

Crawling: The New Plank?

Plank enthusiasts don’t have much to worry about – both crawling and planking are great core workouts that are here to stay. Balanced training is key.  Fitting a few minutes of crawling into your fitness center routine along with cardiovascular work, strength training, and stretching is the best strategy to make the most of this trend. Regardless of how long it sticks around in the fitness world, you can enjoy its long-term benefits.