Intra-Abdominal Pressure Development for Crawling

In the Original Strength forums, a user asked for my prescription of training for crawling and avoiding aching wrists. When I see symptoms like aching wrists, it is likely the result of insufficient generation of intra-abdominal pressure during crawling. The wrists (and other body parts) will start to compensate for poor stabilization, causing inevitable aches and pains unless addressed.

Here is what I posted:

First it’s important to distinguish between quiet breathing and tension breathing. I believe it’s best to first establish good d-breathing via quiet breathing, which is to make sure you are using the diaphragm to breathe under unloaded conditions: lying supine, crocodile breathing prone, sitting, standing. I wrote a post about the sequence I like to use here: How to Train for Abdominal Breathing and Generating Intra-Abdominal Pressure.

The last video starts to get into tension breathing, which is how to use d-breathing to build intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). Not only should you just see movement in the front with your belly, but you should feel movement in the sides and back under the ribs. This ensures you are fully generating IAP in all directions (also called 3D breathing).

The next step is to start challenging your IAP generation. A simple one is to be in supine 90-90 position: Beginning to Integrate Intra-Abdominal Pressure Generation into Movement.

Once you’ve gotten supine positions, move to quadraped. Start by tension breathing on hands and knees. It is a bit hard to put your fingers into spaces under the ribs at the sides and back when in quadraped. You can try a new product which helps with this is the Core360 belt. It basically has knobbies that push into the sides and back under the ribs and give you feedback that you doing proper tension breathing.

Hopefully by this point, you are also building your own sensitivity in your body to sense when pressure is being built to the sides and rear. Otherwise, do your best to feel pressure building in all sides under the rib cage whenever you take a breath in, and as your diaphragm descends to create proper pressure.

You can also start rocking. I would start slowly rocking. Practice taking a tension breath inhale on the rock back for a set. Then practice taking tension breath inhale on the rock forward.

Now we’re getting close to crawling.

For baby crawling, take a tension breath inhale and feel IAP all around the area below the ribs for each step. Take the inhale, feel pressure, then take the step and exhale. Pause to finish exhale, then inhale with IAP, and take another step. Continue. This is syncing the breath to each step.

Note that taking full exhalations means that IAP is essentially gone and you’ll be relying on the primary movers of the core to stabilize which is ok for a short time but they will quickly wipe out. So after the previous feels good, you can start trying to crawl without syncing the breath to each step. This means you will need to learn to breathe without full exhalations, retaining some air and thus diaphragmatic pressure as you exhale.

Figure out how much air you will need to retain, and balance that with a likely rising heart rate due to shallower breaths. It takes some practice to figure out how much you can exhale and retain enough IAP to move properly. In the beginning it can feel very uncomfortable. Keep practicing until it settles down.

For knees up crawling, I like to start with isometric holds on hands and balls of feet. Start with hands and knees position, with balls of feet down dorsiflexed. Take a d-breath in with good 3D IAP, then lift up off knees and hold. Hold for time. Start with 5-10 seconds, work up to 30 seconds. If you feel it in the knees, it’s likely because of insufficient IAP generation. Back off and keep practicing.

Next challenge the static position by lifting up off knees, and then go into a minimal bird dog position by lifting off a hand and opposite foot. You can start by just lifting up a few inches – it will be hard enough. You can always move to fully extended bird dog after. Maintain balance and IAP. Sometimes it is good to lift off after a period of isometric hold, so hold 20 seconds with both knees off, then hold for 10 seconds with hand and opposite foot lifted off. You can lengthen the time to hold hand/opposite foot up as well. Back off if you feel pain like in the knee. Always work on IAP generation and proper breathing.

You can see how we’re moving to knees up crawling now.

Now let’s employ d-breathing with IAP into knees up crawling. You can do one of two things.

One is an excellent suggestion by Dr. Justin Michael Klein which is to start in hands and knees, then rise up with knees off and take a step, then go back down to hands and knees and rest. To add this exercise, before you rise up, take a tension breath in and then rise up and take the step. Do this with each step, taking a breath before the rise up.

The second is to go into knees up crawling directly. Rise up with inhale, and maintain some air. Take an inhale on each step (like we did with baby crawling). Exhale when you land, then inhale before the next step. Continue.

Once you get this, then you can try syncing the inhale to only steps on one side. You can do this for a while, then alternate to the other side. This starts lengthening the time between breaths and should help calm your system down if you find that your HR is rising.

That’s a lot of training! Give it a try and see how it goes. Note that the sequence above could take months to develop your capabilities so be patient with yourself, be consistent, and you will get there sooner than later.