The next time you’re around a crawling baby, watch them closely. Babies develop core muscle strength before learning how to manage their arms and legs (ie, they can sit up erect before they learn to crawl or walk). When crawling, they use their abdominal muscles to pull up one side of their pelvis (you can see this by the wrinkles they get on the sides of their trunk. These wrinkles develop over muscle groups that are in use). This causes their leg to advance forward and move their knee ahead of the other. The muscles of their hips and shoulders engage primarily to stabilize the joint, not move their appendages forward through space. Therefore, a baby’s crawling pattern is almost exclusively a core activity.
As we age, we lose core control for many reasons. If needed we can still crawl, but we use the muscles of our shoulders and the front of our hips to move our appendages forward. This effectively makes our appendages our primary movers which carries our core along for the ride - a pattern opposite that of a baby.
Crawling is becoming more popular in rehabilitation and fitness settings to strengthen the core. PRI emphasizes this movement in order to activate the transverse abdominis and internal obliques on one side of the body. At the same time we must manage an opposite arm and leg moving forward, while the other two continue to support our body weight. This is essentially what happens during gait - the abdominals and leg muscles must be active as our right leg and left arm move forward through space. In addition, we have to do the exact opposite during our next step!
Although this may seem like a simple task, it’s quite complicated and difficult to perform correctly. When we are not able to manage our bodies the way a baby would, we develop compensation patterns and pain.
If you try crawling and cannot feel your core activating, your body is at risk for copmensation, pain, and/or injury. Call us today at 314-733-5000 and let us teach you how to appropriately use your core and avoid dysfunction!
Written by Lesley Callaham, MPT, PRC on April 3, 2018