Why it’s important to expand your movement comfort zone!

Clark (1995) theorizes that there is a positive correlation between one’s motor skillfulness and daily activity level. This is important because of the rising obesity- and inactivity-related diseases in our society and the decreases in activity among everyone from children to adults. Low self-efficacy toward movement abilities and diminishing movement comfort zones play a role in these decreasing activity levels, and I believe it is our job as coaches and trainers to increase clients’ self-efficacy and movement comfort zones.

Self-efficacy is a person’s perception of his or her ability to successfully complete a certain task, and individuals tend to avoid tasks where their self-efficacy is low (Jongen et al., 2016). Based on this, Clark’s theory correlating motor skillfulness and one’s activity level isn’t too much of a stretch. People who don’t believe they can do activities are less likely to do them, but why don’t people believe they can do activities?

I think one reason people have low self-efficacy toward movement is that with less and less movement over time, movement comfort zones get smaller and smaller. Many adults spend a majority of their lives moving from chair to chair, and other movements aren’t practiced so they become less comfortable. Getting down to the floor and back up, for example, is something that rarely happens for many. This movement becomes out of their comfort zone, avoided, and soon enough, they can’t get down to the floor (or up from it).  As the old adage goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” and this applies to movement skill as well.

Dan John is a well-known strength coach who strongly advocates that everyone get down to the floor and back up 25 times a day to increase comfort on the floor and movement ability and as prevention for falls or fall-related injuries. He mentions research that showed people who had difficulty getting down to the floor and back up were five times more likely to die in the next six years than the participants who did the task with ease (Barwick, 2012; Barreto de Brito et al., 2012). Using these patterns on a regular basis is the best way to increase one’s comfort with them.

I also observe limited movement comfort zones in many kids, especially those who don’t regularly participate in sports or other exercise-based activities. Their movement comfort zones aren’t challenged, they don’t expand, and through their lives, these kids avoid more and more activities because they lack the self-efficacy to participate. One thing I do with the kids I coach is push the boundaries of their movement comfort zones. We crawl, roll, and tumble, practice handstands, climb cargo nets, and traverse monkey bars. I integrate this idealogy with adult clients and in my own life as well. I think the best way to increase movement self-efficacy and comfort zones is through repetitive practice of activities out of one’s comfort zone. This expands one’s comfort zone and provides experience-based evidence about how skillfulness in many movements can be easily obtained with practice.


Barreto de Brito, L. B., Ricardo, D. R., Soares de Araujo, D. S. M., Ramos, P. S., Myers, J., Soares de Araujo, C. G. (2012). Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 0(00), 1-7.

Barwick, T. (2012). Can you do this? Simple sitting test predicts longevity. NBC News. Retrieved from: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/13/15870881-can-you-do-this-simple-sitting-test-predicts-longevity

Clark, J. E. (1995). On becoming skillful: Patterns and constraints. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66(3), 173-183.

Jongen, P. J., Heerings, M., Ruimschotel, R., Hussaarts, A., Duyverman, L., van der Zande, A., & … Visser, L. H. (2016). Intensive social cognitive treatment (can do treatment) with participation of support partners in persons with relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis: Observation of improved self-efficacy, quality of life, anxiety and depression 1 year later. BMC Research Notes, 91-8. doi:10.1186/s13104-016-2173-5


A Case For Crawling…In Your Workout!

When was the last time you crawled?

On your hands and knees or hands and toes?
Forward, backward, sideways, clockwise, counterclockwise?oksanakuzmina7

Many haven’t crawled since they learned to walk as babies.

Go crawl right now. On your hands and toes, down and back in the nearest hallway. I DARE YOU!

I bet it’s harder than you thought it’d be!

Crawling is called a primitive movement (along with rolling, pushup, and quadruped). It’s a basic, yet critical, pattern we learn during our physical and neurological maturation as it develops the strength, coordination, and stability that translate into higher level activities such as running and climbing.

Crawling is similar to many things in life; if you don’t use, it you lose it! Your body forgets how to crawl, how to recruit muscles in those fundamental patterns, how to stabilize your body in dynamic positions, and how to coordinate arm and leg movements. Your ability to move (pain and injury free) deteriorates from there because the foundation is gone!

I’ll show you how to start rebuilding your foundation. The most fundamental of the many styles of crawling is the bear crawl (or table top crawl).


In this crawl, the opposite arm and leg move together. The left leg and right arm “step” forward, then the right leg and left arm “step” forward. The challenge is keeping your back straight and hips level through the movement. With clients, I’ll place a foam roller or light, plate-like object on their lower backs while they crawl, forcing them to stay level during movement to prevent the object from falling.

From Eric Cressey’s High Performance Handbook I learned a variation of this crawl where you inhale as you take each “step” then hold the position in place as you exhale,”crunching” your ribs down toward your pelvis.

Once you master forward crawling, then comes backward crawling, sideways crawling, and circular crawling….next add resistance!

Resistance can be added as a weight plate on top of your hips, resistance bands around your hips or shoulders, towing a kettle bell behind you, etc. Just don’t venture there until mastering the basic technique!

I like this video of some other crawling variations:

Here’s your challenge: 

  • Add 3 sets of 20 steps of bear crawls into 2 of your workouts this week, in your warm up or as a superset to another exercise.
  • Post a video and tag or hashtag K8IrelandActive bear crawling!
  • Comment below with your thoughts on crawling after giving it a try.

For more reading about crawling check out:

Functional Movement

Marks Daily Apple