Ground Based Movement – Why Should I Bother?

The importance of efficiency in strength and conditioning cannot be understated. Whether we’re looking from the point of view of the coach or the athlete, the resources we have at our disposal are limited. With everything we do in our training we must seek to attain as much return as we can from our investments, squeezing every last drop out of the programming. This is where ground based movement comes to the fore.

Enter Ground Based Movement

If you’ve heard the term ground based movement then you’re probably thinking along the lines of crawling, animal flow, gymnastics, etc. However, I define ground as with the arm on the floor. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, there are a hell of a lot of ground based movement exercises beyond a bear crawl and an L-sit.

Why Should I Care?

For me, there are three big components I can get at with ground based movement:

  • Whole body mobility
  • Shoulder stability
  • Trunk stability

Let’s tackle each in turn.


As mobility should proceed stability, that’s where we’ll kick off. Not only can you tinker with ground based movement patterns to attack any joint you fancy but pick the right exercises and you can hit four or five in one go. Now that’s efficiency for you! As I outlined in my Warm-Up – A Systems Approach article, the ankle, hip and T-spine are often the culprits requiring the most attention – a simple mountain climber with a reach can tick them all off nicely.

Shoulder Stability

There’s something almost magic about ground based movement for the shoulders. When applied in a smart and sensible manner, ground based movement can play an important role in dealing with shoulder problems. More importantly, the show the potential to reduce the likelihood of injuries occurring in the first place.

First off, when you have your hands in contact with the floor gravity is helping you centrate the head of humerus inside the glenoid cavity. Proper centration of the joint is required not just for stability, but for effective proprioception and force transmission too.

Secondly, ground based movement challenges the ability to maintain this centrated position in the presence of movement and perturbation. All the muscles around the shoulder are force to co-contract to stabilise the joint reflexively. This is the true function of rotator cuff and is an integral part of how we need to train it! Call it rhythmic stabilisation, upper body proprioception, quasi-isometrics or whatever fancy term you like, just get down and do it!

Trunk Stability

GBM Push Up Arm HoldAgain, we’re forcing muscles to co-contract in order to resist unwanted movement around the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex by locking everything in place. During the majority of ground based exercises gravity is acting down on the lower back and trying to push us into lumbar extension. By resisting this extension moment we’re using the musculature around the trunk and emphasising the anterior musculature (abs) in particular.]

To increase the demands on the trunk there’s a few things we can do:

  • Move – moving forces the trunk musculature to act in a more reflexive and ‘real-world’ fashion than static holds
  • Stretch – the further you can get your hands or feet away from your belly button, the harder the exercise
  • Get off centre – making the load asymmetric by taking a hand off the floor, for example, turns things up a notch
  • Tuck under – by posteriorly tilting the pelvis we can increase the demand on the anterior musculature


I’ll be back in another article to show you some of my go-to ground based movements. In the meantime, here a few of the flashier forms of ground based movement that have influence what I do.

Dewey Nielsen, MovNat, Global Bodyweight Training

Coaching, Exercises, Performance, Prehab & Rehab, Recovery , , , , , , ,

Facebook comments:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *