When you hear the words, “crab walk” you may immediately think of middle school gym class. And honestly, that’s exactly what should come to mind... maybe just a slightly more controlled and polished version of the exercise. If you did the crab walk as a kid, revisiting this move might give you major nostalgia, a few laughs, and some very real gains.
It’s a great move for all levels, and the small details make the biggest difference. “Despite its simplicity, this is a surprisingly demanding exercise when completed for one to two minutes,” explains Kristina Earnest, CPT. “Because of this, it’s suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced exercisers. Crab walks are not a typical or traditional exercise, but they are effective and beneficial. They’re also a lot harder than they look.” (Those shelled critters are surprisingly fit!)
She adds that the crab walk exercise incorporates compound movements since it works your arms, shoulders, core, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. She describes it as “efficiency at its finest!” ICYDK, compound movements are when two or more muscle groups are targeted at the same time. So, you’re basically getting double the benefits wrapped up into one move. (Score!)
You also don’t need any gym equipment—it can be done wherever you prefer to work out. As long as you have a few body lengths of space to move around, you can give the crustacean cruise a go.
Ready to get your bod crab walking? Read on for a comprehensive guide to crab walks, including step-by-step form tips, modifications, how to work it into your routine, and more from a trainer.
Crab Walk Benefits
Love to run or bike? The crab walk is for you. It’s especially beneficial for runners and cyclists, who need to keep their bod all lined up during their workout. “Walking like a crab will test your body in new ways,” says Earnest. “After a few crab walks, notice how your posture changes afterward when walking upright.”
Plus, developing strength, balance, and flexibility can decrease your chances of an injury by reducing stress on your ligaments and muscles, Earnest says. “This atypical exercise is good for balance and coordination, which can help you move better.”
In addition to engaging muscles from head to toe by doing the crab walk, you’re also increasing your body awareness and tuning into your posture. “Over time, this can improve your posture in everyday life, whether it be walking, in your daily exercise routine, or even seated at your desk while working,” Earnest says.
How To Do The Crab Walk With Perfect Form
Back in middle school gym class, you probably didn’t get (or need) a crab walk primer. It was all just for fun back then, after all. Now, you’ll want to set yourself up for success with proper crab walk form. Here are step-by-step crab walk tips from Earnest to make sure the move doesn’t make you crabby:
- Begin in a seated position on the ground. Keep your knees bent and your hands two inches behind you with your fingers pointing toward your hips.
- Lift your hips a few inches off the ground. Keep your arms straight and your knees bent.
- Coordinate your hand and foot movements. Step your right foot forward as you simultaneously move your left hand forward. Repeat with your left foot and right hand. This completes one rep. Focus on controlling your contralateral movement (a fancy term for moving opposite body parts at the same time).
- Maintain a neutral posture. Throughout the move, you don’t want to arch your back or tuck your pelvis. “Your lumbar spine should be neutral and your shoulder blades should be drawn down and back gently with your chin tucked lightly and your gaze directed towards the floor,” says Earnest.
- Continue walking forward. Aim for a total of 10 reps and traveling about 15 feet ahead of you. You can add in backward motion to advance this movement, walk forward for 10 reps and then walk backward for 10 reps, for extra burn in your triceps.
Common Crab Walk Mistakes To Avoid
Crab walks can be as straightforward, and fun, as you remember. Still, there are a few common missteps you want to watch out for. Here’s what Earnest says can trip you up mid-move and how to fix it.
- Bent elbows. This can make the move uncomfortable. Keep your straight arms as straight as possible throughout your walk to avoid discomfort.
- Flat feet. To maximize hip stability and engagement in your glutes, let your toes lift slightly and maintain weight in your heels.
- Rushed reps. Faster isn’t better for crab walks. Focus on a slow pace and concentrate on each step.
- Uneven weight distribution. You want to support your bodyweight evenly between your hands and feet. If it starts to feel like too much pressure on the hands, you can pause for a few wrist stretches before continuing.
Crab Walk Modifications And Variations
If you need crab walk variations, Earnest has plenty of tips. The easiest way to make the movement more challenging? Raise your hips higher. And, if you want a relaxed variation, lower them. The closer your butt is to the floor, the easier it will be.
Whether you’re looking to add on extra difficulty or ease up on the intensity, here are a few more modifications to get you started:
1. Add resistance bands.
How to: Add tension to the band by pushing the knees out. Raise your hips up and keep tension on the band while you take steps forward and backward. This variation will increase the demands on your hip stabilizer muscles.
2. Change directions.
How to: Instead of moving forward, shift your hand and foot to the side. Adding side-to-side crab walks will challenge your hips and shoulders in a new plane of motion for some well-rounded strength and agility benefits.
3. Try toe touches.
How to: Want to crush your core? Sit on the mat with your knees bent, feet hip-width, and place your hands behind you with your fingertips towards your glutes. Lift your hips off the mat, kick your right leg up and touch your right foot with your left hand. Bring your right foot back to the mat, and repeat on the opposite side.
Pro Tip: Bear crawls can be a great alternative move if crab walks aren’t your thing.
How To Work The Crab Walk Into Your Routine
It’s well worth working through any awkward feels in your crab walk. The move is an all-star warmup. Completing 10 reps is great way to warm up your body before strength or cardio workouts, per Earnest. “As this move primarily focuses on your shoulders, core, and glute muscles, it is a great movement before a hip-hinged focused session (think deadlifts) or a cardio workout (like a tempo pace, interval run),” she adds.
Whenever you get your crab walk on, be sure to keep these quick tips from Earnest in mind: control your breathing, time your steps, and maintain a neutral, relaxed posture.
The bottom line: Balance is key to mastering this animal-style movement. Practice, practice, practice—you’ll notice that the exercise becomes more natural with time.
Sabrina is an editorial assistant for Women’s Health. When she’s not writing, you can find her running, training in mixed martial arts, or reading.