I was fortunate enough to have met and learned a good amount of information in the short period of time I spent with Dr. David Walther many years ago while attending an Applied Kinesiology seminar. Dr. Walther was a very knowledgeable and respected doctor and was, in many ways, like many of the Applied Kinesiology pioneers, ahead of his time.
Always having an interest in biomechanics and working out, I quickly developed a fond appreciation of Dr. Walther’s take on Cross Crawl patterning. This topic really piqued my interest! I distinctly recall one conversation I had with him when he discussed Tonic Labyrinthine Reflexes (TLR) (an expanded understanding of such) and the association with Cross Crawl patterning.
So, what the heck is a TLR? By strict definition, the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) is a primitive one and it is usually paired with following pattern: a newborn, while on its back, will have arching of the back when it tilts its head back, will also have straightening of the legs, adduction of the lower extremity, pointing toes, an arm bend at at the elbows and wrists, and clenched hands. This reflex is considered pathological when found as one gets older. We can see from this reflex that even at a very early age, our body is patterned, and as we age, we are always learning new patterns.
So, how does this relate to the Cross Crawl? The Cross Crawl pattern is a developmental milestone. Once an infant begins to slither across the floor (and even much earlier than this), the right hand/left leg (and vice versa) pattern begins to develop. Proper development of this pattern is necessary for coordination of activity. This pattern eventually develops and tunes our gait. Individuals with neurological disorganization (learned and disease state) may not exhibit this patterning.
The merging of the primitive TLR and the developmental Cross Crawl is quite evident when we are in the gym. When you are in the gym, look around and see the body positions of people as they work out. When they are doing a one armed biceps curl, which foot is forward? When they do a triceps kickback, which leg is forward? When doing a standing leg exercise of any form, which arm is forward? Does it really matter how we stand when we work out? You bet it does! I’ve taught it this way for years!
All one has to do is muscle test a particular muscle while in a gait stance to see how Cross Crawl patterning works. For example, when our right leg swings forward when we walk, the left arm is going forward. The left leg is obviously going backward and the right arm is going backward as well. Ever see anyone walk differently than this? If so, they have serious neurological impairment. Even slight deviations from this indicate neurological confusion.
When we pick up a weight or do any activity, we have to keep in mind how the brain is processing the information. Do we want to create neurological confusion, or do we want to enhance brain processes? Working out with Cross Crawl patterning in mind will enhance our functioning whereas working in a homolateral pattern (there are a few exceptions to this but not many) will create neurological disorganization.
Let’s take for example an elliptical machine that is commonly found in the gym. Do you notice that most of them are built so that the right arm goes forward as the left leg goes forward? Have you seen a machine where the right leg and arm are tied in together, thus creating a homolateral pattern? If you can find such an improper machine, try getting on it and moving very quickly for 5-10 minutes. Hop off and see how ‘out of sync’ you feel. For the time you are on that machine, you are literally confusing your brain as you are not wired for a homolateral pattern but for a Cross Crawl pattern. Do you think that if we train without thought of proper patterning that over time, we can create not only musculoskeletal issues, but also neurological issues?
The answer is an emphatic ‘YES’!! Why confuse the brain?
So, where do we go from here? Each of us could learn the entire musculoskeletal system and how each muscle works with the Cross Crawl pattern. That, however, can take a lot of time and should not be necessary if we work with fitness professionals. Your trainer should have a functional knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology, etc… to go along with a strong understanding of Cross Crawl patterning as it is vital to the proper positioning of clients. If you have a trainer who is not well-versed in this area, you might want to consider finding one who does as training against these principles will do more harm than good.
So, does anyone have any experiences with the material presented in this blog? Please share your thoughts on this interesting and important topic.
Allen Manison, DC, DACBSP, CCEP, CSCS