Learning to crawl can help people with dyslexia & other learning difficulties, stuttering, ADHD, PSD, coordination issues, clumsiness (& more) & at the same time promote healing, reduce stress, increase energy, increase focus & prevent (& even reverse) brain ageing. How could all of this possibly be true? Is it because movement is...

...the Real Reason for Brains?

So there you have it, we have brains so that we can move. All brain function is ultimately tied to movement. Looking at infant development we can see how closely brain development & movement development are.

Movement & Early Brain Development

The phases of a child's brain development are directly linked to the learning / coordination of particular physical skills. A new born's uncoordinated flailing are repeated reflex actions, basic movements being practised, extending, flexing & gripping. These movements are associated with rapid spinal chord growth. Skipping forward to that crucial area that has been studied so well... learning to crawl. We all know that the left & right hemispheres of our brains control the actions of the opposite side of the body. When a baby learns to crawl, contra-lateral co-ordination is required ('crossing the mid-line', left leg moves with the right arm & visa-versa). The brain needs to lay down new pathways of communication between the 2 hemispheres. It is at this time pons (the bridge between the hemispheres) develops. A babies development milestones are all crucial as the senses, mind & movement all develop & integrate. It cannot be emphasised enough... you must learn to crawl before you learn to walk, before you learn to...

"We all seem to start with the same movement platform. Once we master the fundamental general platform, we create the foundation for more specific and individualized pursuits of movement that helps define us in a more personal way. If we skip a step or lose part of our movement foundation, we are obliged to regain it before expecting more advanced skill acquisition, because the movement foundation is part of the learning software. Natural law requires a foundation under basic function and basic function under specialized function. This law is broken everyday in gyms and fitness centers... but babies never break the law and make bigger daily gains than the best strength coaches on the planet could hope to produce!" - Gray Cook (emphasis is mine)

Research is showing that the brain remains plastic (able to mould to new functions / patterns) even into old age, although it will never be as plastic as when we are young. Even the elderly can improve cognitive function through correct movement.

Primal Movement Patterns

Paul Chek developed the primal movement model. In essence there are 7 base movement patterns from which all other complex movements are composed.

  1. squat
  2. lunge
  3. bend
  4. twist
  5. push
  6. pull
  7. gait - crawl, walk, run, sprint

By testing, correcting & strengthening the underlying, fundamental human movement patterns we are able to develop gross / general athleticism. This is the base onto which specific skills (specialised movements used in an endeavour) can be develop. Gray Cook again:

"General movement standards should be satisfied and maintained before specific standards are pursued exclusively. For example, soccer, baseball and rock climbing should have the same general movement base: fundamental mobility, stability, motor control and movement patterns, and also require more specialized and unique attributes on top of the general base."

Movement & Performance - Getting Specific

Some of the greatest fighters (Ali, Frazier, Bruce Lee & many more) refused to do any weight training. Not to say they did not do any strength / power / resistance training, rather they recognised that body building methods did not suit their goals. Where they were less interested in muscle mass & appearance, they were focused on function. Building muscle requires that the muscle is isolated & stressed while function requires that movements are reinforced. Complex movement patterns require integration (integration warrants a post of it's own, coming soon...) rather than isolation of the muscles. Have you ever heard?

"Weight-room hero, game day disappointment"

"Trains like Tarzan, plays like Jane"

Even a 25% increase in strength may not translate into improved performance, if the movement pattern isn't strengthened (ISSA). Strengthen movements, not muscles is the mantra of the modern strength & conditioning coach. Training with an emphasis on movement patterns (general & specific) tend to show improved performance immediately. In fact as a general principle strength & conditioning training should be secondary to movement training as posture, leverage & timing alone can produce great power. By applying strength & conditioning principles to movement training it is possible to kill 2 birds with 1 stone (more on this in a future post).

Once the base of gross athleticism is developed, sport specific skills can easily be added. General movement competency translates to specific skills, but specific skills seldom translate to other specific skills. In fact it has been shown that the neuromuscular differences between performing the same skill at different speeds are large enough that there is no translation. Similarly breaking complex movements up & training portions individually also does not translate into performance gains. It is however useful to break complex movements up, or focus on different aspects, in order to learn them. As a general rule specific movements should be trained as they will be used i.e. at the same speed & intensity.

Further Reading

- mec