Forget ab exercises, shoulder presses or push-ups just for one moment, because the crab walk exercise could torch your torso without them. It also fits neatly into our catalog of bizarrely named exercise challenges at Tom’s Guide, and like moths to a flame, the TG fitness team gravitates toward the weird and the wonderful.
I chose to dedicate seven minutes a day to the crab walk, for seven days, to see what, if anything, would happen to my body. Early spoiler — I didn’t crab walk my way to noticeably chiseled abs and shoulders, but I did learn a few tips to share, and you don’t need the best adjustable dumbbells or kettlebells to do the move.
If you’re unfamiliar with this full-body walking exercise, simply rest your body weight on your hands and feet, chest facing upwards and knees bent, lift your hips, and walk forward, backward or sideways. Benefits include a stronger upper body and core muscles and improved balance and coordination.
I cleared some space in my snug city apartment and got to work with the crab walk. Here are my results.
How to do the crab walk exercise
Crab walks take some getting used to. I don’t know about you, but I rarely walk around on my hands and feet. The easiest way to describe the crab is a bear crawl exercise flipped upside down (so many animal exercises!)
Here’s how to do it:
- Start sitting on the floor and position your feet hip-width apart
- Place your hands behind your hips with fingers pointed toward your heels
- Engage your core muscles, then lift your hips toward the ceiling
- Keeping your hips lifted, walk your right hand and left foot forward, then your left hand and right foot
- Continue moving forward. You could also travel backward or sideways.
Some people find it harder to walk forwards, and others prefer backward, so choose the best option for you (we recommend the harder one to make it the most effective). But if the move niggles your shoulders, stop.
Crab walks torch the upper body muscles without weights, including your core and shoulder muscles, and targets the triceps, back, hips and legs.
I did the Crab Walk exercise every day for a week — here are my results
Here's how I got on.
It torched my triceps and shoulders
I quickly noticed my triceps and shoulders burning during this full-body exercise, but I didn’t get much feedback from my quads or glutes. Truthfully, I got a lot more from attempting the 5-minute alligator drag ab exercise every day for a week in another core workout challenge, but my arms were still pretty tired after day one.
I didn't have enough space
You can do upper-body exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, or burpees anywhere, but the crab walk is most effective with space. My teeny apartment just didn’t cut it.
I had started the week with 7 sets of 60-second efforts, moving forward and backward down the length of my living room, but I couldn’t accumulate much distance or speed. I decided to take the crab walk outdoors and risk looking bananas in the park near my home.
That way, I could walk forward for 60 seconds, rest, then reverse back for 60 seconds, which hit my quads, core, shoulders and triceps harder and helped me speed up.
My hips kept dropping
The key to nailing the crab walk is to keep your abs braced — imagine tensing your stomach as if someone is about to punch you there — hips lifted to create a straight line from knees to shoulders and chin tucked toward the chest.
I noticed my hips dropping as I got tired and had to keep re-engaging my midsection and adjusting my form. Some people experience wrist pain, so if this sounds like you, try turning your hands slightly outward as if tightening a jar (lefty loosey, righty tighty, and all that), which should relieve some pressure.
It tested my coordination skills
I found it much harder to crab walk forward than backward and could move faster and with better coordination in reverse. As I attempted to travel forward, my hands and feet refused to move together, forcing me to lead with my feet.
The bodyweight exercise requires coordination and balance, moving opposite arms and legs together and evenly transferring your weight as you move. Regularly training the mind-body connection helps improve your balance and coordination, which translates when lifting heavy weights or running, for example.
I didn't feel any different
After seven days of this bodyweight exercise, I didn’t notice changes in strength, muscle definition or fitness. That’s no surprise. Besides, I didn’t dive into this crab walk challenge expecting miraculous results.
Body recomposition and building strength are processes — it takes a combo of progressive overload, which means adapting training variables like load or overall volume to challenge muscles into growing, a balanced diet, ample protein intake and regular resistance training. Plus, your genetics and metabolism play a role, so that’s a lot to consider.
I did the 7-minute Crab Walk exercise every day for a week — here's my verdict
The crab walk could increase coordination and balance and help build a stronger core and upper body. Did I notice any of the above after one week? No.
I wouldn’t program this exercise for my clients, but it’s good fun to try, and works the upper body muscles, increases your heart rate and fires up the shoulders and triceps.
You could make the exercise harder by increasing speed or distance or wearing one of the best resistance bands above your knees to engage your legs and glutes.
Unless you have a gym or outdoor space, bookmark the crab walk for future use. But there are other bodyweight exercises I’d include in upper body strength programs first if your goal is to strengthen your arms and shoulders.
if the goal is to develop a strong and sculpted midsection, you can do the best ab exercises like crunches, planks or leg raises. But consider how to work your abs in various ways, including a mix of isolation and compound exercises to strengthen your whole body and hit your abs hard.
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Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.