As infants, we were well acquainted with the ground.
In fact, along with our parents, the ground could be said to have been one of our earliest support systems. After all, without it, taking a first step on our own wouldn’t have been possible.
Interestingly, we didn’t just stand up and start walking when we were first set on the ground – we crawled. And we spent a lot of time doing it!
Why is this relevant?
Because it’s the basis of why ground-based movement (also referred to as primal or animal movement) is so beneficial.
What Is Ground-Based Movement?
Ground-based movement is exactly as it sounds: movement that takes place on the ground. Specifically, there are several styles of primal ground movements that mimic the moves that first strengthened our muscles and skeletal systems for walking. It helps to think of it as a cross between yoga, gymnastics, and breakdancing (although don’t worry, no extreme flipping required!). These movements utilize certain patterns that hold benefits we have long forgotten, since we rarely spend much time moving on the ground.
In short: ground-based movement is magic when it comes to holistic-body training. When we move like an animal, everything gets worked! This is because nearly every muscle is activated when we’re on all fours: our core is working like mad to keep us balanced and lift our legs and arms backward, forward, and through torso rotations, while our back is engaged to hold our head up, our arms are partly supporting our body, and our hips and legs are engaged for additional balance.
Benefits Of Ground-Based, Primal Movement
In terms of functional movement, there is almost nothing better than moves done on the ground. This is because you’re not only engaging your entire body through one movement, but also through transitions.
Take, for instance, if you were to move from a forward crawl on all fours, to a side plank without touching the ground. The transition to swap positions is engaging all types of muscles that would receive virtually no attention if you were moving in only one plane, like during a squat.
After all, no movement in life and sports is ever isolated: there is always a transitional movement, whether it’s a rotation, forward step, etc … and strengthening the muscles and joints that support these transitions is key to not only having more power in movements in general, but also in mitigating injuries.
This is why we crawl at the beginning of life in the first place: to prepare our bodies for bigger movements and to develop the key muscles and tendons that support them. When we become adults and stop moving on the ground, these supportive muscles become weaker and weaker, which leads to injuries and pain.
Not to mention, when we stop crawling and doing other movements on the ground, we also lose a ton of flexibility and mobility throughout our entire body. On the ground, we are stretching as we move in different angles and rotations that we miss when we’re upright – even simply sitting in a squat position close to the ground will open your hips (and likely be challenging if you haven’t done it since you were a child!). When we begin to crawl and bend and squat in between, we strengthen and stretch our connective muscles simultaneously, leading to the ultimate mobility.
Also, the benefits of primal movements don’t stop at our muscles and joints. There is so much communication and learning happening when you spend time on the ground. The ground provides a feedback loop to your nervous system giving it real-time inputs about joint positioning, muscle activation and strength in different postures, which ultimately leads to improved movement patterns.
How To Get Started On The Ground
Now, this may sound simple … but it definitely doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging! If you’re just starting off with ground-based movement, our advice is to simply: start crawling.
Crawling is one of my favorite series to challenge athletes and clients with. It requires so much coordination from the brain and periphery that is very unique especially when relative to most sports and day-to-day lifestyles. Check out this example:
Trust us: you’ll feel it, and it won’t be as easy as it looks. For more ground-based movements to graduate to after you master the crawl, check out the Durable Athlete App (your first 14 days are FREE!).