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The Importance of Cross Crawl Movements in Pilates

in Southfield, MI

If you’ve never heard the term cross crawl movements, you’re not alone. Yet if you practice Pilates or yoga, swim, walk, run, or any number of other forms of exercise, you’re doing them frequently.

And that’s a good thing. Because when we perform cross crawl movements, it builds a bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain so they can communicate more easily. So what are they?


Cross crawl movements are those that require us to coordinate the use of opposite sides of the body at the same time. For example, the right leg and the left arm.

Benefits of Cross Crawl Movements

For most of us, the very first cross crawl movement we engage in is crawling. Hence the name cross “crawl.” Crawling contributes to brain development in very young children. It’s one of the earliest forms of body and mind integration. 

Into adulthood, cross crawl movements continue to provide that integration as well as a means for rebooting the nervous system after periods of stress. In terms of exercise, cross crawl movements provide the following: 

1. Enhanced Brain Function and Coordination

As mentioned above, cross crawls enable the interaction of both hemispheres of the brain. This leads to better cognitive function, focus, and memory. Furthermore, simultaneously moving opposite sides of the body in different ways promotes improved balance and coordination which can become more challenging – especially as we age. 

2. Strengthened Core, Better Posture, and Toned Body

Any time you do cross crawl movements, you’re engaging the core muscles in the abdomen and lower back. A strong core is essential in avoiding both athletic injuries, as well as those that occur from everyday life. Engaging the core while also remaining attentive to proper body alignment helps to improve posture and prevent muscle imbalances.

But cross crawl is also a full-body exercise that leads to more toned muscles in the arms and legs as well. 

3. Improved Body Awareness

Proprioception – a bodily awareness of where you are in space – has tremendous value. It allows you to move more freely and with confidence. Since cross crawl movements require synchronization between the opposite limbs, they naturally enhance proprioception.

4. Increased Flexibility

Many cross crawl movements utilize full range of motion in the limbs to increase both flexibility and mobility in the joints and muscles. 

Examples of Cross Crawl Exercises

Curious about trying out some cross crawl movements on your own? We’ve got three here for you to try. The first is in a supine (lying down) position, the second is done from standing, and the third is performed in a chair. 

1. Lying Down

Lie flat on the floor and stretch your legs out long and together. Straighten your arms by your sides. Slide your right arm out to the right while at the same time moving the left leg away from the midline to the left. Bring them both back to center and then do the same thing with the left arm and right leg. 

2. Standing

Standing with your legs hip distance apart and arms by your sides, lean down and touch your right elbow to your left knee while simultaneously placing the palm of your left hand on the back of your head. Lift back to the starting position and then do the opposite side – left elbow to right knee with right hand behind the head.

3. In a Chair

This one’s more challenging than you might think. Sitting in a chair, place your feet flat on the floor. Step the left foot over the right foot onto the floor while taking the right hand and placing it on the left hip AND touching your nose with your left index finger. Return to neutral and then repeat on the other side taking the right foot across the left foot, left hand to right hip, and right index finger to the nose.

Dedicating time and effort to practicing cross crawls will help you achieve a stronger and more coordinated body that will better support you in your everyday activities.

Curious About Pilates?

If you’re looking to enhance brain function and coordination, you can’t go wrong with cross crawl movements. They offer so many benefits for the entire body.

Pilates is an amazing exercise system that incorporates these movements with a wide variety of others that will build your core while emphasizing proper alignment. 

To get a sense of the many benefits this practice offers, contact us today to consult with one of our highly skilled Pilates instructors or physical therapists. We look forward to hearing from you!