Basic animals exercises: 7 locomotion videos
Animal movements make excellent exercises for coordination, strength, mobility and physics. It is suitable as a basis for many games for children (chase games, relay races, etc.), but also as supplementary exercises for Aikidists without age restriction: they strengthen your core, improve mobility (feet, toes, wrists, hamstrings, etc.) and improve coordination. You can do them wherever you have at least three meters of space. They can serve as a warm-up for other exercise or as a break from work to revive the body. We will have fun with them, whether alone or with a group of children.
Pavel, Adam and Eliška, who regularly train these exercise with children and young people, will show you seven basic animal movements. In this article, you will also find tips for each specific motion and its use for games and personal exercise routines.
Try to stay as close to the ground as possible and work with your hands and feet. Move with diagonally opposing limbs: the right hand with the left leg and vice versa. Your hands should cross the central axis of the body so that you step to the right with your left hand and vice versa. As a mind-bending movement game, you can also try creeping backwards.
Crawling is also a basic stage of development for children. Our exercise is closer to an army crawl. This exercise will strengthen your spine and strengthen your limbs.
DOG – Crawling on all fours
Begin on all fours with your knees raised just above the ground. Again, move forward with diagonally opposing limbs: the right hand and left foot together and vice versa. Try to keep your knees and the elbows in and on the same line–do not turn them out to the sides. Keep your pelvis level and steady (do not twist) and your head slightly raised. There is a lot to it – so don’t forget to breathe!
This type of crawl is another movement that children do naturally. In our “dog” version, we protect the knees by keeping them off ground, and by keeping them low, we also work harder with our core, hands and feet. At the same time, the pelvis stays level and the arms and legs stay in. If this is physically demanding for you, this is precisely because your core is fully engaged. Such movement is both economical and gentle on your joints. As a dog, you can easily go forwards and backwards (make sure that in both cases you move “crosswise”). You can also try turning on the spot and going sideways (also crosswise) as another coordination challenge.
Beginners can walk on their knees on a soft surface. Alternatively, it is possible to lift your knees (and therefore also your buttocks) higher above the ground – in this variant, which we sometimes call the bear, you can experiment with the back of your legs for a change. However, focus on economy of movement and connection of your elbows to your knees. It’s not about speed or stride length.
The lizard begins similar to the dog (above), but this time, make your steps longer, so that your body turns toward the side where your knee and elbow are close together. This should extend your limbs more fully on the side where your arm and leg are farther apart. Unlike the dog exercise, where the pelvis was level, your whole body moves up and down and tilts from side to side when moving. Your limbs also swing out to one side and your steps are longer. The lizard can also go backwards, but remember to move “crosswise,” with your right arm and left leg together.
The lizard, also known as the spiderman, is another type of crawl. However, it is more demanding for the lower and especially the upper limbs and also takes more coordination. In the video you see the basic version. If you are strong enough and want to be stronger, you can try moving as low as possible and making your steps as long as your can. Or you can emphasize the vertical movement (which would actually be a one-handed push-up: we recommend keeping your elbow close to your body, your shoulders will thank you).
The crab also crawls on all fours and “crosswise,” but with its belly up. Try to keep your fingers pointing forward – it’s safer for your hands. For greater stability and better stretching, we also step with a rolling motion that uses the whole foot (not only on the heel).
Compared with the previous animals, a crab (or is it a crab?) demands more mobility of the wrists, ankles and shoulders than strength. As you move, try to notice what is limiting your flexibility: perhaps you are falling to heavily on one arm or having more difficulty stepping with one of your feet – unnecessary muscle tension may be to blame, which you can easily remove. See if it’s easier to go forward or backward (most crabs agree). If it’s a piece of cake in both directions, don’t forget to walk sideways (again “crosswise”). As another coordination challenge, which also trains the vestibular apparatus that controls balance and orientation in space, you can switch between the crab and dog as smoothly as possible. (Hint: your diagonally opposing limbs stay in place while the rest of the body turns.) If you want to strengthen your core, you can raise your hips to knee level and engage your abdomen while crawling like a crab.
We will start with the first variant of the duck in the video, with the hips at knee level. If it that is too hard, you can lift our hips a little. If, on the other hand, you can squat with your heels on the ground, you can try the second variant in the video and go as low as possible. Always try to move your legs straight forward and be aware of your feet and toes.
The duck is guaranteed to stretch and strengthen your entire lower limbs. If you are not very flexible, do not despair: the duck can be adapted to anyone – you will see that your hips will lower even just slightly after a few steps. If you want to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the joints of your lower limbs, then adjust your hips to knee height and walk on your toes – this is the third option in the video.
The monkey jumps sideways, alternately shifting both arms and both legs. When your weight is on your hands, your head and body tilt upside down and your legs stretch. When you lean on your legs, on the other hand, relax and let your heels fall to the ground as far as you can.
When leaning on your hands, try to emphasize turning your head and body upside down and stretching your legs: this strengthens your arms and shoulders, stretches your hamstrings (the muscles of the back of your legs) and engages your core. Alternating between a normal and inverted body position stimulates the vestibular apparatus and the cardiovascular system. This video shows the basic variation. At first, you may move less smoothly; later you can try to turn your body more. If you want to focus on hand and core strength, you can slow down steps with your hands, or even bend your elbows and rotate your arms inwards so that your fingers face each other.
Variation one: start in dog position, transfer your weight to your hands and jump towards them with your feet. The second variant in the video is the classic frog, which hops with the legs, flies briefly through the air and lands on its hands (and jumps up to them with its feet as in the first variant).
The frog (or the “hare”) resembles a monkey in many ways, but you move forward and jumping is emphasized: this time all limbs leave the ground at the same time and you fly through the air for a while. Jumping causes sharper shocks which are very beneficial for our bones, both to strengthen them during childhood development and to maintain their mass as we age. Compared with the monkey, we also put a greater strain on the leg muscles during the rebound. Pay close attention to whether you bounce from with the right and left limbs at the same time and with the same force. The training variant (the first in the video, without bouncing) is also suitable with limited space, and if you do it slowly, it is very good strength training.
Bonus version: the robo-frog does not jump so much, but it stretches your hamstrings beautifully. It’s not in the video, so you’ll have to use your imagination a bit: spread your legs more to the sides and keep your legs and arms outstretched throughout the movement: the movement is still done by placing your hands forward, shifting weight and pulling your legs. It is also possible to move backwards.
GAMES AND TRAINING WITH ANIMALS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS
For training with children, we recommend using the basic variations in games: for multiple players, tag or freeze tag are easiest, but you can definitely think of others. For example, elimination tag: animals can hunt people and turn them into animals until there are no people left. If the children are comfortable with the movements you could allow two types of locomotion (for example, crab and dog), which also practices an interesting transition between different animals, or elements of Aikido (ukemi, shikko). If the movement technique itself is well mastered and you want to focus more on speed, you can hold races or relay races. It is good to switch movements – this will keep the movement conscious, so the technical side and safety will not completely give way to speed.
A good game for two players is imitating animals (shown below). Another possibility is that one leads, shows which animal to do and watching: the partners can also face each other and the one follows the leader, maintaining distance and orientation, as we do in Aikido training. Or you can synchronize movements.
Adults can also try all these games—the last few are especially suitable for older children and adult Aikidists. If you train by yourself and want to thoroughly strengthen your core and physique, we recommend choosing a suitable animal, mastering it first technically, and then try to do it for at least 5 minutes. But there is no reason to make it a boring drill: allow yourself to try two or three animals. This can balance demanding movement and relation, while also training improvisation. Do not forget to move smoothly and breathe!
Have fun and be happy animals!
Napsal: Adam Nohejl