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5 Essential Exercises for Peak Agility

5 Essential Movements for Peak Agility

Written by
April 18, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018

Longevity is directly connected to movement, and lots of it. Humans are designed to move. From the moment we are born it’s a fight against gravity for stability (control of movement). Gravity pushes down on your body 24/7 and it’s a constant battle to maintain mobility.

There are foundational movements you can and should do not matter your age to build a powerhouse of support and durability. Fundamental human movements are not about strength, but maximizing body control and efficient movement. Dysfunctional movement patterns develop over the course of your life causing compensations. The body locks down joints and tightens up soft tissue for self protection. It craves safety and stability above all else and takes the path of least resistance to get them. Getting from point A to point B is done any way your body can do it, regardless if it’s the right or wrong. These compensations negatively impact quality of movement leading to a decreased quality of life. The exercises below are designed to be completed in order. Move to the next one only when you can proficiently execute the prior exercise. As in all exercises, you should feel no pain when doing these movements.

Basic Human Movement #1: Rolling


The ground is the great equalizer. Rolling takes away your big powerhouse mover muscles and relies on deep stabilizer muscle strength. You can’t cheat and power your way through this movement. Muscles must contract and relax at precise moments to get you from one side to the other. This is the core foundation for learning to rotate. We all started off rolling on the ground as babies. How do you think your core developed? Getting back to that foundation flicks the switch in your brain to remember proper movement patterning. You will feel an immediate change in your body from just one session.

Why Roll? Rolling builds proximal stability for optimal distal mobility. Meaning, you move more everywhere when you are stable in the center. Do 3 rolls per side (right and left) (front and back).

Basic Human Movement #2: Crabbing


Poor posture today consists of a rounded upper back, forward and internally rotated shoulders and the head too far out in front of the body. An increase in the curve of your upper back leads to compensations increases in the neck and lower back leading to pain. To reverse the flexion (forward) pattern the crab gets you into an extension (backwards) pattern taking pressure of overused soft tissue and joints. The position maximizes use of the latissimus dorsi (back) muscles, mid-back shoulder blade, and core because your buttock is lifted off the ground. It can be more challenging than it appears, so be prepared.

Why Crab? Crabbing engages your core as soon as you lift your buttock off the floor. The position itself forces you to use important postural muscles in a safer environment closer to the ground. Alternate opposite hands and legs into a walking and moving pattern for more difficulty.

Basic Human Movement #3: Crossing


Crossing midline of the body with the arms and legs stimulates your brain and nervous system for optimal control. Cross body patterns mimic crawling and skipping motions increasing coordination and timing for injury prevention and efficient movement. For the athlete, that means increased durability and maximum performance. Elderly people are less likely to fall when they have good coordination and youth develop increased skills on a firm foundation of stability. It’s a simple move that delivers powerful results. You will often feel a rush of energy after each session. In the beginning it can be difficult to get the timing down until your brain remembers the pattern.

Why Cross? Touching your hand to opposite heel behind the body stimulates an extension (backwards pattern) engaging muscles of the posterior muscle chain of the body. This chain is weak on most individuals because of too much sitting during the day or training exercise in the pushing motion. After completing the rear pattern, cross in the front of the body with opposite hand to opposite knee. Perform 50 total repetitions to the back (25 to each side) then 50 repetitions to the front.

Basic Human Movement #4: Side Sitting


This is a transition zone between lying down and sitting up, thus stressing a common area of weakness. Gravity has a much higher impact and load on the structures of your body during this maneuver. The side bending and rotational portion of movement are the key player here. Loaded pressure on the elbow requires joint stability, core muscles in the obliques, and mobility in the hips. Added challenge of contraction to the glute (buttock) structure and rotational motion for the thoracic spine encompasses primal movement. Remember to breathe on each repetition.

Why Side Sit? As an athlete you must be able to generate force and put the brakes on movement. Controlling rotational patterns is critical for injury prevention and skill development. Most injuries to the lower back occur in a rotational motion. Train your body to feel comfortable rotating.

Basic Human Movement #5: Crawling


Getting on all fours (hands and knees) while maintaining a neutral spine and level neck is not easy. Keeping the hands directly below the shoulders and knees below hips is the key. Once in this position you lift opposite hand and knee off the floor one inch and maintain position for 10 seconds while breathing. Then alternate to the other side for the same amount of time. Did you feel a difference from one side to the other? You may notice an immediate difficulty in stabilization on one side. This tells reveals your imbalance. Now practice crawling one arm and opposite leg move forward then alternate sides while moving. Go ten paces forward and then 10 paces back. Maintain neutral neck and spine. Hands and knees strike the ground at the same time.

Why Crawl? Crawling builds the core. You will feel contraction in your abdominals while loading the shoulders and hips with compression. Crawling is fun. It brings back the inherent nature of play into our exercise program. When was the last time you got down on the ground to move?

Final Thoughts

Whether you are 16 or 65 you should perform these movements to enhance life. Performing movements that you normally don’t do delivers powerful and fast acting changes to the body. The movements above are ones you have probably never done before (or so you think) and that’s the idea. Exercise and movement are a magical continuum that starts with a child learning how to crawl and winds up with an elite athlete going for a personal best. Everything involved requires establishing better input, better motion pathways and better control of movement patterns. Always remember that more is not better. Better is better. Move smarter. Move better. Feel great!


Perry Nickelston, DC, NKT, FMS, SFMA, is a Chiropractic Physician with primary focus on Performance Enhancement, Corrective Exercise, and Metabolic Fitness Nutrition and trained from The American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders. He is an expert in myofascial, orthopedic, medical and trigger point soft tissue therapy.A member of the Board of Directors and Medical Staff Advisor for AIMLA (American Institute of Medical Laser Application). Dr. Perry teaches healthcare professionals all over the world how to successfully use Class IV Deep Tissue Laser Therapy in alleviating pain. Director of clinical protocols and training for LiteCure Medical Lasers specializing in Myofascial Laser treatments.
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