Quadruped: The Forgotten Position

The Forgotten Position: 

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
-Primitive developmental movement foundations such as the quadruped position will enhance our ability to utilize our musculature and neural system to keep us not only functioning at our highest level, but healthy in the process.
-The quadruped position is versatile and can be utilized within dynamic warm ups, within specific neuromuscular activations, and for an absolute metabolic thrashing in conditioning work.
-Crawling is the most primal locomotive movement once practiced by the human race.  It simultaneously loads every single joint in the body, challenges dynamic stability and mobility globally, and will have your heart pumping out of your chest and the sweat pouring down your face.
- Programming out of the quadruped position will do more than brush burn your knees.  It will give your body the stimulus that it has been seeking for optimal motor performances ever since you decided to stand and walk!


BASIC NEUROMUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT
As human beings we are all alike, at least from a developmental standpoint.  However, after basic foundational development we tend to differentiate.  We all head in different directions according to physical, mental, environmental and social influences.   The primitive patterns developed early on to get us up on two feet and walking, were hard wired into all of our brains.  Though we have lost our abilities to utilize these movement patterns, the data is still present and waiting to be released.
Some of us have lost the ability to use that software through years of disuse and dysfunction.  Others have flourished through the years physically and have reaped the benefits of athletic achievement and a bill of clean orthopedic health.  No matter what group you fall into, with a few simple movements we will be able to get back to our movement basics that we were all born to utilize.  We will all regain our authentic primitive movements.
CORRECT PRIMITIVE MOVEMENT PATTERNING
Between the age of 6-8 months, we are able to assume a quadruped position (up on all fours).  From this motor milestone, upper and lower extremity reaching, along with reciprocal patterning of the trunk and extremities are improved.  Once patterning becomes more efficient, the end result is locomotion.  This ability to move our bodies from one place to another is demonstrated through CRAWLING.
Lets take a page our of our own books and revert back to the basics.  Primitive developmental movement foundations will enhance our ability to utilize our musculature and neural system to keep us not only functioning at our highest level, but healthy in the process.
WHEN TO PROGRAM
As with any great position or exercise the programming options are limitless.  The quadruped position is versatile and can be utilized within dynamic warm ups, within specific neuromuscular activations, and for an absolute metabolic thrashing in conditioning work.
An important point to remember is that the position does not dictate the movement or activity.  Just as you would properly warm up, activate and condition based upon foundational principles of exercise science, you must also use these guiding principles when in the quadruped position.  Quadruped is not an excuse to go rouge with your programming, it is a way to enhance your training methods to yield advanced results!
DYNAMIC WARM-UP
One of the most advantageous times to program exercises out of the quadruped position is the dynamic warm up.  If implemented properly, a dynamic warm up will not only increase global tissue temperature and tissue extensibility, but also address and activate core stabilizing musculature through the pillar (shoulders, core, hips).  For more on dynamic warm ups check out When to Program CORRECTIVE EXERCISES.
Loading of the upper quadrant (shoulder/arm) along with the lower quadrant (hip/leg) will enhance positioning of these large joints.  This increase in JOINT CENTRATION will  fire up stabilizing musculature through the shoulders and hips, in preparation for heavier loads and increased speed of movements being challenged through training.
Moving from a 4 point stance to a 3 point stance (shown below) will unilaterally load the spine and extremities, activating deep spinal stabilizers in the process.  As the extremity moves further away from it’s base of support, the stabilizing muscles are further challenged.
QUADRUPED REACH TO ARM CIRCLE
QUADRUPED HIP EXTENSION TO CIRCLE
NEUROMUSCULAR ACTIVATION
As we touched on before, a properly programmed dynamic warm up should involve neuromuscular activation to a certain degree.  Depending on the emphasis of a specific training session, various primitive movement patterns and active musculature must be the focus.  For more on glute activation techniques check out Top 5 GLUTE ACTIVATION Techniques.
For a general activation of the CNS (central nervous system) full body reciprocal patterning is a powerful tool.  A majority of humans have lost their ability to move in a properly sequenced reciprocal pattern between their upper and lower extremities while stabilizing the core.  The reintegration of REFLEX STABILIZATION will show up with repetition of these movements.  The activation techniques below will also address corrective patterning for the dysfunctional clients, and maintain satisfactory patterns in others.
QUADRUPED RECIPROCAL REACHING
QUADRUPED RECIPROCAL STEPPING
PROGRAM FOR CONDITIONING
One of my favorite ways to program out of the quadruped position is through the use of metabolic conditioning and FINISHERS.  For clients that have shown functional ability to both reciprocally step and reach from the quadruped position, it’s time to kick it up a notch.
Crawling is the most primal locomotive movement once practiced by the human race.  It simultaneously loads every single joint in the body, challenges dynamic stability and mobility globally, and will have your heart pumping out of your chest and the sweat pouring down your face.
Just because we are using crawling for conditioning doesn’t mean we can slack off on our form and technique.  Deliberate, stabilized reciprocal motion is a necessity to both challenge your cardio-respiratory system, but also not to trash your joints and non-contractile tissues in the process.  Here are a few keys to enhance your crawling form:
  • Assume neutral position in your upper extremities (hands, elbows, shoulders all in alignment), lower extremities (knees under hips) and core (spine parallel with ground)
  • Limit deviation of the spine from neutral while reaching and stepping
  • Short, controlled steps will maximize your joint angulation and positioning (keeping you healthy)
  • Only go as fast as you can control your body position.  The more time under tension (TUT), the more challenging it is, so slow down!
  • Do not limit your crawl to just forward.  Try backwards and side stepping!
QUADRUPED CRAWLING FORWARD & BACKWARD
HIT ALL FOURS
It’s time to get back to the basics.  Programming out of the quadruped position will do more than brush burn your knees.  It will give your body the stimulus that it has been seeking for optimal motor performances ever since you decided to stand and walk!  With endless possibilities of movement and exercise options out of this position, there is no excuse not to work these movements into a warm up, activation technique or conditioning session.  Quit being a baby, and get crawling!
Contributed by Dr. John RusinPT, DPT, CSCS, FMS1/2, SFMA, ART who moves like a baby.

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