The Crab Reach is a simple ground-based exercise a lot of benefits.
Benefits of the Animal Flow Crab Reach
The benefits of the Crab Reach are many, but here are some notables…
- Posterior chain activation and hip extension
- Active Thoracic Mobility
- Anterior body stretch (hip flexors, quads, torso)
- Shoulder stability/endurance emphasis in loaded shoulder
- Trunk rotation
- Right and Left Side
A Way to Combat Sitting Posture
The Crab Reach is a great exercise to battle/off-set the negative effect long duration sitting.
It’s not the only tool or the “best” tool, but a good one to implement on a regular basis.
Reversing aches and pains caused by primarily long duration sitting requires dedication, discipline and volume. There is no quick fix.
A quick hip flexor stretch, thoracic mobilization and glute bridge is not going to cancel out 8+ hours of sitting in the same turtle-like, wound up position.
Body restoration takes time, effort, consistency and volume. Lots of repetitions, likely lots of time and an aggressive mindset. Assuming you’re doing everything right, expect improvements over time.
Most people slump like a turtle while sitting. Sitting like a slouchy turtle for 8-10 hours per day, 5 days per week isn’t good for our bodies.
We become the positions we use most.
The Fight Against Turtle-ism
Actively working the Crab Reach exercise is the opposite of sitting.
Benefits of the Crab Reach:
- Recruits the posterior chain to drive the hips up into extension.
- Tilts the pelvis to a neutral position.
- Opens up the hip flexors.
- Actively extends the low and mid back.
- Demands torso muscles engage in rotation.
- Requires the supporting shoulder to stabilize the body.
- Provides a diagonal stretch from one ship through the free reaching arm.
- Delivers a nice stretch to the hip flexors/quads.
The end range motion (the high position with arm reaching over the top) of the Crab Reach is an active position.
You have to drive your feet into the ground, arch, reach and rotate to move into the high position of the crab reach.
The active aspect of this drill makes it special.
Many popular mobility and flexibility drills are passive.
Static stretching is passive. The muscle is lengthened (stretched), but the control over the new range of motion is not addressed. We need to establish strength and stability at tend range to make it useable.
The Crab Reach is active the entire way.
Uncommon Movement Training
Traditional exercises need to be supplemented with multi-planar movements like the crab reach.
Including an exercise into your program simply because it’s “uncommon” may not seem like a strong enough reason to practice a new exercise pattern, but ongoing exposure to progressive movement patterns and positions is an effective strategy for training the Central Nervous System, improving movement IQ, capacity and confidence.
The concept here is simple: if we do what we always did, we will get what we always got.
To make yourself a better mover means exploring movement.
So, when you’re body is craving an unrestricted, multi-planar approach to your next workout, feed it with some ground based conditioning.
Practicing postures and movement patterns that are less common to daily life improves physical and mental confidence.
Improving strength, mobility and stability in uncommon movements makes everyday exercises feel easy. Performing basic tasks around the house or at work becomes more of a game.
When we look at the average person’s “workout of the day”, it’s generally packed with linear resistance training and cardio.
The objective for those who find themselves stuck in a linear dominant training program, should consider adding some multi-planar movement into the mix.
The crab reach is a multi-planar exercise.
Each rep moves the body through the Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse Planes all in one shot. Multi-planar.
Most workouts are lack rotation.
People love squats, upper body pressing, jumping, pulling, deadlifting.
These are linear exercises that do not involve rotation.
Take a quick audit of your own training regimen.
Are you twisting, turning, rotating on a regular basis?
If not, integrating simple movements like the crab reach can fulfill the gap with rotation, effectively opening new doors to your movement training.
Being a multi-planar exercise, every repetition activates the posterior chain and stretches the anterior body while reinforcing thoracic rotation, shoulder stability and breath.
Option for Use
Ground-based bodyweight movement is extremely versatile.
In the spirit of keeping it simple, there are several ways to start practicing the crab reach:
- In the warm up
- Filler exercise during a lifting session
- As part of a flow sequence
Crab reach can be practiced in isolation or as a combination.
I recommend practicing new movements in isolation to increase focus on technique.
I believe isolating an exercise to better understand the mechanics and demands is best.
It gives you an opportunity to “feel all of the feels”, paying attention to breath, tightness, weakness, stiffness, etc.
Warming Up with the Crab Reach
Movement flow exercises are perfect for pre-workout warm ups.
These movements are generally dynamic, full range of motion exercises that require movement into and out unique body positions, angles and tempo.
As part of a warm up the Crab Reach is an effective, low impact and full range of motion exercise.
Crab reach can serve as a valuable movement prep before exercises like deadlifts or kettlebell swings.
Crab Reach as Part of the Workout
Positioning the Crab Reach as part of a Tri-Set is a great way to isolate and practice the exercise while staying active/productive during a strength training session.
Here’s an example a simple Tri-Set:
Exercise A) Front Squats
Exercise B) Chin-Ups
Exercise C) Crab Reach
Crab reach won’t take away from the energy needed to crush the front squats or chin ups.
Create a simple bodyweight flow circuit, emphasizing the Crab Reach periodically throughout the flow.
Structure several exercises in a row.
Start with two main exercises separated by a switch to keep it simple.
The video above, “Side Kick Through + Underswitch + Crab Reach” is an example of a simple movement sequence.
For an added challenge, increase the number of exercises to 4, 5 or maybe 6. Of course, doing this will make it more of a challenge to remember the sequence, but it will also challenge the body move through many different patterns.
Adding more exercises to create longer flows is great for the mind-body connection.
Whether you pre-program the sequence or improvise the flow, will likely depend on your movement IQ and knowledge of basic options (exercises, transitions between patterns, etc).
The ultimate goal of movement training is improvisation. This idea was plucked right out of the Ido Portal Method. Ido Portal Method teaches movement using the following hierarchy:
Isolation —> Integration —> Improvisation
Following this operating system will give your workouts a new purpose.
In the beginning, keep the reps low.
6-8 reps per side is a good place to start.
Focus on a slow and controlled tempo through the fullest range of motion you can make happen.
After you are feeling good about the mechanics, increase the volume.
Don’t be shy about bumping up the reps to 15-20 reps per side. Setting a timer can be a nice option. Alternating right and left for 2-5 minutes can free your mind from having to count reps.
Crab Reach Exercise Variations and Combinations
Isolated Crab Reach
Side Kick Through + UnderSwitch + Crab Reach
Crab Reach + Spider Man Stretch (aka: Elbow to Instep)
Slow and Controlled Improvised Movement Flow Workout
- Bodyweight ground-based movements are effective for building strength, mobility, endurance and movement IQ
- Crab reach is a versatile exercise that can be performed anywhere and anytime.
- Benefits of the Crab reach include posterior chain activation, anterior body lengthening, thoracic mobility, body awareness in space.
- The Crab reach is great include in warm ups, during the workout or as flow training.
- The Crab reach is an effective exercise to help mitigate aches/pains from sitting, restore function.
Recently, I made the decision to partner up with Eero Westerberg of Vahva Fitness to begin promoting his new movement program, Movement20XX.
Movement20XX is an incredible compliment to traditional resistance training, and ideal for training at home.
The movement curriculum is really similar to my own practice, which is why I recommend my readers see if it’s a good fit. Exercises are progressive, challenging, unique, and scalable for the beginner all the way up to folks who are seeking movement mastery.
Movement20XX is one of a small number of hand-picked online fitness programs I support.