Beginner Lizard Crawl Exercise Variations

Ido Portal

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The goal of this article is to present several of my homemade lizard crawl regressions to get a newbie acclimated.  Most of these drills were designed to help myself better understand the mechanics of the lizard crawl, and I’d like to share them with you…  

The Lizard Crawl exercise, from my point of view, is the king of the ground-based locomotion drills.  It’s a monster of an exercise, best broken down into digestible segments if you’re a beginner to such training.

Lizard crawling is jam-packed with physical benefits that spill over into all other areas of one’s physical practice.  The lizard crawl will test joint range of motion and stability, muscular endurance and strength, core strength/stability/endurance and motor control all in one shot.  

Another positive side effect of lizard crawling is conditioning.  It’s pure work when you’re inefficient and learning.  Expect to be winded with heart rate will be soaring after several yards.  

Although a successful lizard crawl is a total body effort, the upper body is tested to a great degree.  The lizard crawl elicits a similar training effect to more common crawling variations (bear, crab, etc) and progresses it a step further.  

Remaining in the low position for the duration of the crawl is what does most people in.  

A full blown lizard crawl is deceptively difficult.  Watching someone like Ido Portal lizard crawl (a world class movement practitioner), it’s easy to think, “Doesn’t look too bad, it’s just crawling, I could do that”.  And maybe you can.  If so, good on you.

But for most people, the mechanics are complex.  As mentioned earlier, joint position and range of motion, the timing of the hands and feet, core activation in difficult positions may completely foreign.  

Foreign = struggle bus.     

I do suggest you watch several of these videos and test abilities to give yourself a baseline for improvement.  

Even if you’re able to crawl several feet on both sides, the next challenge is to add some distance to the movement.  

Without further ado, here are few more lizard crawl variations to slip into your workouts demonstrated by yours truly…

Lizard Crawl Variation #1 – 2 Hands + 1 Foot

In this variation, keep two hands in contact with the floor while practicing hip range of motion and foot placement.  Softly move the knee up beyond waist height and place the ball of the foot on the floor.  Lower into the bottom of the push-up, chest hovering roughly 2 inches above the floor. Pause, looking forward, return to the start position.

Lizard Crawl Variation #2 – Soft Arm Reach

Introduction to reaching with the lead arm.  We will remain stationary for the time being.  Expect the complexity to ramped up significantly once movement is introduced.  This variation involves a soft slide of the lead arm, straight out and back in.  This also provides some sensation of what it will feel like supporting the body on one arm, another challenging aspect of the lizard crawl.  

Same exercise cues as the previous variation, lower step with the leg, plant with the ball of the foot, lower down with control, but now slide the hand out softly.  Breathe. 

Lizard Crawl Variation #3 – “Alligator” Arms and Legs

To give you a taste of some dynamic movement, here is the short-arm variation of the lizard crawl.  

I refer to it as an “alligator” progression.  The idea is to reach with a limited range of motion, keeping the elbows flexed and close to the rib cage.  This elbow position is far more manageable versus reaching out into full extension.  

Also, notice the limited range of motion on the foot placement.  Plant with the ball of the foot, stabilize and gain control, breathe, now move the hands and support.  Slowly move forward, don’t rush it.  

This variation is a humbling introductory training stimulus to the full lizard crawl.  Many will begin to understand the sheer complexity of the lizard crawl pattern after trying this.  

The path to improvement is practice.  Don’t be discouraged by your initial attempts.  It may be a frustrating experience, even if you consider yourself to well conditioned.  

It’s common to find joint mobility, stability, core strength and endurance to be lacking, all of which can be practiced using the three progressions I’ve shared.  

Practice the progression that allows for technique achievement.  

Each will lead you to the next and continual progress will be made.    

If you’re interested in learning more about the Ido Portal Method training philosophy, check out this popular article I wrote several years ago…

 

Cheers…

Kyle 

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Animal Flow: Movement Training for Fans of Ido Portal Method

Animal Flow

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“Animal Flow is an innovative fitness program that combines quadrupedal and ground-based movement with element from various bodyweight-training disciplines to create a fun, challenging workout emphasizing multi-planar, fluid movement.”  

If you’ve been hunting for a movement system to deepen your understanding of Ido Portal’s locomotion exercises, Animal Flow is the system to follow.  

Animal Flow’s training methodology embodies the evolution my own fitness practice has experienced over the last several years.  

The “your body is a barbell” is cliché statement, but a true statement about bodyweight training.  Everywhere you go, no matter what the circumstance, bodyweight training is a tool to be leveraged.  

Don’t stop at isolation…

A lot of people stop the bus at basic bodyweight training:  push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, etc.  I have nothing against basic bodyweight training because it’s brutally effective for improving performance, it’s free and it’s arguably the most functional form of resistance training.  

You can live a great life by hammering away on basic bodyweight movements.

However, as I mentioned in my post “Basics of the Ido Portal Method”, a lot of people have an innate desire to explore what’s beyond isolation movements.  

After a while, it’s common to feel like your workouts are being reduced down to numbers (quantified progress):  more reps, more sets, more time, etc. 

There’s nothing wrong with quantified progress.  Quantifying your workouts practice is a great way to measure improvement or stagnation.  Scanning your numbers can help you evaluate if your current training plan working the way it should.  

It’s not much different than following a recipe in the kitchen.

But there is another realm, one where you’re moving without being restricted to reps and sets and time.  

This realm explores your body’s movement capacity through space.  

Twisting, turning, reaching, pulling, pushing, shifting, transitioning, flowing.

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Some of these body positions are common and familiar, some are not.  Training uncomfortable positions is important to prepare the body for unpredictable scenarios.

Movement capacity development.  

 

Ground-based movement training benefits ANYONE and EVERYONE.  Why?  Because it is life played out through the movement lens.  Everywhere you go, your body is right there with you.  

Enter: Animal Flow…

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  • Anything in BLACK is information from the Animal Flow website.  
  • Comments in RED are my interpretation and elaboration on those points.  

What comprises the Animal Flow program?

“Animal Flow includes a wide range of exercises and movement combinations that are grouped into six components, each designed to elicit specific results. The six components can be mixed and matched in many ways, and you can incorporate one, some, or all of them in your workouts! The six components include:

Wrist Mobilizations

Wrist Mobilizations include a range of simple exercises designed to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrists, which is particularly important for any practice where you are spending a lot of time on your hands.”

– Although most of human life is spent either sitting or standing, training the hands/wrists/arms to tolerate a more robust range of motion and loading stress in various positions is important.  

Our wrists and arms aren’t designed to hang at our sides or flexed up on a keyboard for all day every day.  Hanging, brachiation, crawling, climbing are all activities humans should be able to do.  

More specific to the Animal Flow program, wrist preparation ensures your body is prepared to handle the load stress.

Activations

Activations are static holds we perform to connect the body before we start our practice. Examples include Static Beast Hold, Static Crab Hold, and Limb Lifts.”

– Activating dormant muscles is helps protect our bodies against acute injury and chronic aches and pains.  It boosts our ability to accomplish common daily tasks efficiently.

This is sometimes referred to as “pre-hab”.  Again, cliché, but important.

It’s not necessary to suffer an injury to begin paying attention to muscle activation.  Basic maintenance can keep a person functioning on a high level without pain or risk of injury. 

Imagine how much better a squat would be if your glute muscles knew they were supposed to participate in the exercise.

Isolated activation exercises remind these muscles they’ve got an active role in the exercise to come.

Form Specific Stretches

Form Specific Stretches are full body stretches that start in an animal form and then move through a wide range of motion. This increases your mobility and flexibility throughout the entire body. Examples include the Ape Reach, Beast Reach, Crab Reach and Scorpion Reach.”

Stretching is not dead, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Mis-directed, poorly performed stretches are dead.  Stretching areas that don’t need to be stretched is dead.  

Smart, intelligent stretching in combination with passive and active mobilization techniques are a smarter way to achieve a more functional range of motion.  Hello, KinStretch.

Traveling Forms

Traveling Forms are exercises that mimic the movements of animals. You’ll start with the “ABCs” – Ape, Beast, and Crab – to get you going on these full body conditioning moves. The traveling forms are essentially how we move like animals to improve the function of the human animal.”

 

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The human body is designed to navigate many different forms movement.

The ability to handle your body while performing uncommon movement tasks (example: crawling) beyond standing and walking will serve you well across life.  It gives quality to your years.    

Crawling (and the many variations of crawling) is a major component of Traveling Forms.  Yes, this is a similar crawling we do as infants.  Funny how we regress back to our earliest forms of movement as a reset later in life.

Crawling is an under-estimated, challenging form of movement that trains the body to handle unique body positions, transitions, upper extremity loading and core activation.  

The other, a less scientific reason to crawl, is it’s fun.  Plain and simple.  Crawling is an uncommon activity that is fun.  Life’s too short to not have fun.  

Fact:  a person is more apt to stick to training if there is fun involved.  Prove me wrong.

Switches and Transitions

Switches and Transitions are dynamic movements that we perform one after the other, creating the “flow” of Animal Flow. You can transfer from one form to another, or repeat the same one as a drill. Examples include the many variations for Underswitches, Side Kickthroughs, Front Kickthroughs, and Scorpions.”

– Combining 2-3 exercises is a great way to create a training effect beyond what’s possible by practicing only one drill in isolation.

Transitioning from crawling, to kick throughs into hollow-body rocks will challenge your body to adapt to several different patterns and planes of movement and muscular stress.

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Here’s an example:  Animal Flow Workout – Long Cycle Ground Based Movement 

These sequences can be practiced for extended periods of time to increase the demand on endurance and cardio.

A workout becomes an experience at this stage.  Switches and transitions is where people begin noticing they’re having fun. 

Flow

Flow: Your Flow is where the real magic happens. You’ll combine the Animal Flow moves by linking them together in a fluid sequence, seamlessly transferring energy from one move to the next. Flows may be a choreographed sequence practiced over multiple sessions, or may be created freestyle!”

No secrets here, it will take dedicated practice and patience to arrive at the “flow” stage.  Those who stick to the plan will make the gains needed to begin moving freely, improvising each movement as you go.  

Like words making a sentence, exercises stitch themselves together, “flowing”. 

In sync, the mind and body connection is extremely powerful.  Flow a physical demonstration of a mind that is free.

Bringing it home…

A balanced approach of traditional resistance training, gymnastics, and ground-based exercises can make a person dangerous.  Each philosophy improves the others.

If you’re a fan of Ido Portal’s methodology, Animal Flow is a logical training system to look into.  

Ido hasn’t produced a product for the masses yet, and I suspect he will never release a product.  

The current options to train under the Ido Portal Method are private online training or attendance of a seminar.  Not ideal and both cost a small fortune. Ido is in high demand right now.  

You could always cherry-pick drills from YouTube videos (as I have done), but you’ll never progress as quickly as if you were following a system.  

Training systems are designed with an end goal:  results.

If you’re interested in expanding your movement capacity, check out: Animal Flow 2.0

 

Cheers to discovering your movement capacity, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

 

 

Ido Portal Method| Lizard Crawl For Beginners

Ido Portal

 

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Progression to the lizard crawl…

 

Arguably, one of the most confusing aspects about the Lizard Crawl, a ground-based locomotion drill brought to fame by Ido Portal, is where the heck is a true beginner supposed to start?  

To be clear, when I say “true beginner”, I am not talking about a person previously a competitive gymnast, high-level athlete or even a person who’s just completed the Gymnastics Bodies 12-week course and moving like a champ.

I’m describing a person who has an average capacity to move (but is motivated to learn) and interested in learning more about these fantastic drills.  Or, maybe a “true beginner” is a person who’s looking to re-establish a workout regimen and hasn’t moved purposefully in a great while.  

Either way, I applaud you for stopping by and learning how to crawl like a lizard.

The goal of this article is to provide several launching points to use as a gradual work up into the full Lizard Crawl.  Each successive Lizard Crawl progression is purposed to provide a gentle introduction to the body position and loading, in order to prevent overwhelming the body (and the mind) with the complexity of the full Lizard Crawl.  

A full-blown Lizard Crawl has a deceptive number of parts moving simultaneously and requires a combination of mental processing and physical capability.  There’s an incredible amount of mind-body connection needed to crawl in this position.  So, rather than rushing into the sexy dynamic variations, tripping over yourself or becoming frustrated, start by breaking up the movement into sections and training each section exclusively.

Personally, I believe it’s best to start by practicing static exercises first.  By training in one place, you’re removing some of the heavy thinking on how to move next in the Lizard Crawl, which believe it or not, is half the battle.  First experiences in this low position can leave a person wondering how they’re supposed to move an inch, much less 15-20 yards.

If you’re addicted to motion, static training can be a boring rinse and repeat activity, but it’s important to pound on the basics before moving on.  Give each of these exercises a shot, even if you think you’re beyond the progression.

[All of the exercise progressions listed below assume you’re able to do 15-20+ traditional body weight push-ups without issue.  If not, certainly continue to read on, but hammer away on upper body resistance training first to establish a base of strength.  

Ido often refers to traditional resistance training as “isolation training”.

 

Lizard Crawl Progression #1:  Push-Up with Alternating Foot Placement

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The goal of this first drill is to practice the feel of the lizard crawl while reducing the amount of strength needed to do so.  Using two arms into the descent accomplishes this.  

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  1.  Step the foot up to the outside of hand and plant.
  2.  Lower down into and out of a push-up.  
  3.  Return to high plank position.

Sets/Reps:  3-4 sets of 6-10 per side

When to progress:  If you’re technically sound with 10 reps per side, move on to progression #3.  

*** Using a pair of carpet slides will assist this simple exercise. Carpet slides are a valuable training tool.  Besides being useful for a wide range of bodyweight exercises (and resistance training), carpet slides help to provide a fundamental understanding of ground-based crawling technique, with relatively low-friction.

Lizard Crawl Progression #2:  Carpet Slide Upper-Body Reach and Press

Carpet Slide Reach and Press

The lizard crawl requires respectable upper body strength.  Lifting the arms with grace, placing them softly on the floor in a low crawl position is an uncommon pattern of movement.  It requires strength through a fuller range of motion.  The strength needed for lizard crawling is very different from the strength needed during an isolation exercise like a push-up.  Push-ups will help you will lizard crawling, but only to point.  

Anticipate the arms feeling heavy in the low crawl position. 

The premise of this next drill is to introduce load the working arm while practicing the arc range of motion using the carpet slide.  Over time, decrease hand pressure on the carpet slide, eventually removing the slide completely.

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Video embed coming soon, but for now, click the icon or here

Sets/Reps:  3-4 sets of 5-8 per arm.

When to progress:  If you’re technically sound with 8 repetitions, move on to progression #3.

Progression of this exercise:  Tempo changes everything.  Slow down the descent to the floor and also the arm moving through the arc.

 

Lizard Crawl Progression #3:  Alternating Lower-Body Step and Reach

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Step, lower down, reach and breathe…

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Video embed coming soon, but for now, click on the icon or here

  1. Starting in a high plank position, step one foot to the outside of the same side hand.  (The side you step to will be opposite of the working arm)
  2. Slowly lower your chest to 1-2 inches above the floor.
  3. With soft pressure, slide the unloaded hand out into full extension. 
  4. Pause for a moment, breathe, feel the position.
  5. Slide the hand back in, return the foot and press up to the high plank.  
  6. That’s one repetition.

Sets/Reps:  3-4 sets of 8-10 reps on each side. 

When to progress:  If you’re technically sound with 10 repetitions on each side, move on to dynamic crawling variations (video).

Progressions for this exercise:  Slow the tempo, add weight to the exercise in the form of a light weight vest or body conforming sand bag or progression to dynamic bear crawling (video).

Bringing it home…

***  One of the best cues in movement training is to move quietly.  Less noise through a robust range of motion implies full control over the movement.  

One last important training tip: all of these drills can be performed with stretch band assistance.  Stretch band assistance allows reduces body weight loading to encourage technique execution.

Some folks have steered away from using stretch bands to assist exercises like chin-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, single leg squats in recent years, but I am a HUGE advocate of using stretch bands for gradual load progression.  Any stretch bands will do, though RubberBanditz bands are spreading like wildfire.  

Give these exercises a shot and be mindful of what’s taking place as you’re inside of the training session.  

The secret sauce to progress is disciplined effort and consistency.  Practice and you will experience results.

Cheers, 

KG

Here are Several Other Ido Portal Push-Up Variations

Ido Portal

The effectiveness of the Ido Portal Method is no longer a secret.  

Ido’s knowledge is quickly becoming the premier system for building body weight dominance.

Before you watch the videos below, remember that the best gains are made when following a system, which is basically a recipe.  

Keep the movement recipe simple:

Find an effective training system and practice it relentlessly.

Everything works… for a little while.  Literally everything.  Some programs are more effective than others, but people who commit themselves to any one system are going to see results from their effort.  If you’re not getting results, it’s time for a self-audit to identify what’s missing.  Chances are high the audit will reveal it’s something you’re not doing, or in some instances, not doing, that’s holding you back.

Allow me to rant on the value of practice…

Practice until you are sick of practicing.  Then practice some more.  Had a bad training session?  Come back tomorrow and do it again.  Build

There is no substitute for hard work.  You’ve got to tear up your hands, sweat and have a willingness to be sore and humbled by the difficulty of the movements.  

Practice increases understanding, awareness and insight, motor control, strength/stability/endurance/power/mobility.

The “elite” become “elite” because they practice.  A lot of athletes who are household names across the world, practice 10x more than people think.  When you’re watching them on television, you’re seeing the finished product.  Thousands of hours of behind the scenes blood, sweat and tears prepared that athlete to execute on the main stage.

Exercise #1: QDR: Beginner Rotational Push-Ups

Now, while doing something is generally better than doing nothing, it is possible to practice incorrectly, which is why receiving feedback from a mentor or a teacher so valuable.  A teacher is an advanced practitioner.  The teacher, through experience, has acquired understanding, knowledge to share with students.

The best teachers maintain the humble student mentality despite being experts at their craft.

Exercise #2:  NDA Beginner Lateral Push Ups

With movement, more specifically body position, it is very easy and quite common to think that you are practicing technique correctly when you are not.

Improper body alignment or stopping short of a full range of motion are two extremely predictable situations that a teacher has the eye and understanding to verbally cue or re-position.  

Exercise #3: Beginner Hybrid Push-Ups


A person could slip any (or all) of these exercises into their current workouts and get the full benefit.  Remember, each of these exercises is a puzzle piece that makes up an entire program.  Progress will always be faster when working inside of a system, which is a well drawn out plan.

Exercise #4:  Dive Planks

Another problem the distanced onlooker has with Ido Portal’s current portfolio of work is there isn’t a clear and defined starting point for a beginner.  Beginner in my world means someone who’s unfamiliar with all of this stuff.  Not someone who’s banging out unsupported handstands, looking to move on to an iron cross.

 
Exercise #5: Push-Ups with Toe Touch

One option a beginner has is a tedious scavenger hunt through old information on Ido’s previous blog.  Before I started to assemble the puzzle pieces, this is what I did.  It sucked.

If sifting through hundreds of blog posts seems a bit tedious, there are other fantastic training programs similar to the Ido Portal Method approach. These books serve as a logical stepping stone into the Ido Portal Method movement philosophy.

Are they identical?  No.  Are they extremely similar?  Hell yes.  Will you get results?  Hell yes.  

Here are those alternative training systems, should you decide to investigate further…

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Animal Flow (Mike Fitch)

Overcoming Gravity (Steven Low)

Ultimate Athleticism (Max Shank)

Complete Calisthenics (Ashley Kalym)

A quick word about equipment…

Whether you’re a novice or advanced trainee, a simple equipment set up can catapult your progress and increase your enjoyment.  Actually wanting to workout because you enjoy the process is just as important as training intelligently.

For the beginner, gymnastics rings and parallettes are the best starting point and will provide big bang for your buck.  There are endless exercise progressions and variations using rings and parallettes.

L-Sit progressions, tuck and push-up variations, vertical and horizontal pulling exercises, hanging challenges just to name a few.

Nayoya Gymnastics Rings

The Nagoya Gymnastics Rings (Amazon, $30) currently have a 5-star rating and over 1,007 customer reviews.  You’re welcome to shop around, but for the price and quality, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal with similar quality.

Best-selling author and movement enthusiast Tim Ferriss has raved about these gymnastics rings after testing them himself in past newsletters and blog posts.  

Gymnastics rings are an unbeatable buy in my opinion.

For parallettes, I constructed mine from PVC using these exact instructions.  It was inexpensive, simple and fast to assemble.  They work fantastic.

If you aren’t in the mood to DIY, I recommend these parallettes.

Cheers to you.

Kyle