Vestibular training is buzzy right now, but will crawling like a baby really get you in better shape?
Seen the videos spinning around the internet of grown, athletic adults rolling around or crawling like babies? They might be practicing a new mobility trend. Most consider Steve Maxwell the founder of this movement (har), which has athletes moving through exercises that bring them back to their infancy.
The idea is to strengthen your vestibular system—which is, according to a Maxwell follower, “composed of highly sensitive organs called the utricle, saccule, and semicircular canals. Without getting too scientific, they are like having your own internal gyroscopes inside your head. The organs are filled with tiny hairs and a gel-like substance. When your head moves, the liquid substance moves the tiny hairs and sends information to your brain. Basically, they work to give you equilibrium and balance.”
And you do this through baby games—rolling, crawling, and more (the workout is below, so keep reading).
Maxwell told Outside Online: “I carried chronic tension and pain in my mid-back for years,” he says. “Mobility and breath tension-release exercises never got rid of it. After a couple weeks of ‘baby training,’ my back has never been this tension-free. The exercises are as simple or complicated as you want to make them.”
We may not be trying to revert to baby status, but if these exercises will give us better movement, we might as well use the tools to make ourselves more body aware and turn on the right mechanisms for movement.
Here’s the workout—just pick whatever you feel like doing, and do it for about ten minutes, a few times a week.
Roll from side to side (back to stomach and back). Do each roll eight times on both sides (16 total reps).
- Roll over with arm, leg, and head.
- Roll over with arm and head only.
- Roll over with leg only.
- Roll over with head only (don’t use your legs or arms to help).
- Roll across the room without touching the floor with your arms, legs, or head!
- The “hard roll”: Roll left and right from the back without pushing off or assisting with your hands or feet and keeping your elbow in contact with the opposite knee. There should be no separation. Very challenging.
- Roll across the room on your stomach and holding your ankles (how pose position).
Crawl for three minutes total, alternating forward and backwards.
- Crawl forward using your forearms and thighs in a cross-crawl pattern. Keep the hips down and the head and chest high.
- Crawl backwards using the cross-crawl pattern of forearm and opposite knee.
On hands and knees, crawl in each direction for one minute.
- Crawl forward, making sure that the opposite hand and knee touch simultaneously.
- Crawl backwards, making sure that your opposite knee and hand touch at the same time.
- Crawl laterally to the left, and then to the right.
- Crawl in a tight square. Four “steps” forward, four right, four backwards, four left. Repeat in the reverse direction.
- Leopard crawl: This is almost identical to baby crawling, but keep your knees off the floor and hips even with the shoulders. Your head stays up with the chest pushed forward. Take small steps at first—this uses every muscle in your body. Crawl forward for one minute, and then crawl backwards for one minute. Take care to keep the opposite limbs moving simultaneously.
- Sideways crawl: Start with knees together and hands apart, then move the knees apart and bring the hands together. The opposite hand and knee work together. Many find this pattern very challenging, but that’s what the reset patterning is all about. It stimulates the brain in a positive way. Crawl on each side for one minute.
- Spider-Man crawl: This is the ultimate, because it demands strength, balance, and constant attention to form. Unlike a bear crawl, which can get sloppy and allow your spine to sag, the Spider-Man Crawl requires you to keep your hips stay below the shoulders while your head and chest remain upright. Prepare to fall over a few times, but stick with it: “Your resulting fitness will be amazing,” Maxwell promises. Start with just one minute and build from there. Add a few seconds each day. Your goal is five minutes nonstop.
An easy break from sitting at your desk—and surprisingly cardio. Emphasize standing tall and lifting the opposite leg and arm. The rear hand reaches back to the thigh at waist height, as if reaching for your back pocket. Notice how the forefoot contacts the floor first, and then the heel. This is an excellent drill for teaching barefoot running. Do this at least 100 times.
Standing knee-to-elbows drill: Hold your hands behind your head. Try to touch your elbow to the opposite knee. It’s okay if you can’t touch—come as close as you can.