Exercises You Should Be Doing: Alligator Walk

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Lets play a simple game today.  Lets pretend you’re me, and someone came up to you and asked the following question:

Tony, why don’t you like crunches?


WWTS (What Would Tony Say)?

  • I want to roll my eyes right now, but my doctor said that if I keep doing it my ocular muscles may spasm and eject my eyeballs.


  • I can’t think of anything more I want to do right now than suplex you onto the pavement.

While conventional wisdom could make a case for either one (they’re both phenomenal answers), the professional in me would have to go with the third option:

Well, if you look at the anatomy of the “core,” you’ll see that it represents more of a cross-hatched web, which would indicate that it’s main role, or job, is as a stabilizer.

If it were meant just for flexion (the action of a crunch) then it would be a hamstring – and that’s jus looney talk.

What’s more, since we’re on the topic of flexion – Dr. Stuart McGill has shown convincingly in his research that repeated spinal flexion is the exact mechanism for disc herniation.  Quite literally, you only have so many crunches in your spine before something bad happens.   Think of a credit card and what happens to it when you bend it back and forth.  Eventually, it breaks.

And, lastly, each crunch (or sit-up) places roughly 760 lbs of compressive load on the vertebral discs in the lumbar spine – does that sound remotely healthy?

Double smoke bomb, flash, flash, and I’m out!

I’ve gone out of my way to convince people that there are far superior options than boring ol’ crunches to train your abdominals – type in Pallof Press, Half Kneeling Lift/Chop, or Bodysaw in the search function and you’ll see what I mean.

Today, however, I want to share another great core exercise that gets the TG seal of approval.

What Is It:  Alligator Walk

What Does It Do:  Outside of doing a superb job at training the anterior core (preventing extension), this is also a great exercise for serratus anterior activation (shoulder health), as well as helps to synchronize stabilization in the entire lumbo-pelvic-hip area.  In essence, this is a huge bang-for-your-training-buck exercise!

Key Coaching Cues:  First and foremost, it’s important to brace the abdominals and squeeze the glutes throughout – doing so will help keep the body in more of a neutral posture.  Secondly, for those who have access to a slideboard, that will make things easier.  Simply place both feet on top of the “boot,” and walk back and forth with your hands.  For those that don’t have a slideboard, though, the variaton shown in the video is spot on.  All you’ll need to do is grab a towel, or paper plate, or Val Slide and perform the same movement as shown in the video.

There are a couple of options here:

1.  You can walk back and forth – performing a set number of “strikes” per hand. Say, five strikes per hand forward, then five strikes per hand backwards which would equte to one repetition (shoot for 5-8 total).

2.  Go for a pre-determined distance – 25 yards, for instance.

3.  Also, for those of you who are little more G6, place a 25 lb plate underneath your feet and drag it that way.   It’s masochistic!

I have no real preference, both are equally effective.  Try it out today and let me know what you think!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Dean Somerset

    Suplexed on the pavement. Just liek this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-QF7BOCqUE

    March 16, 2011 at 7:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Gray

    "Double smoke bomb"-haha. Nice T. Love alligator walks!

    March 16, 2011 at 8:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Henock aka Nock

    "Double smoke bomb and I'm out"...........Tony, if you don't mind I'm going to use this after my presentation today to the interns.....LOL.

    March 16, 2011 at 8:18 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kevin Neeld

    Great exercise Dr. Gentilcore. We do something similar with feet on a slideboard (which may be a viable option for people that can't afford paper plates #sarcasm). @Dean-just saw that video for the first time yesterday. Awesome.

    March 16, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kevin Neeld

    Apparently the correct answer to the anti-spam question of "Are rocks heavy or light?" is not "If I had arms like Tony, light." What kind of system is this?

    March 16, 2011 at 8:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Smitty

    So weird, I was listening to the podcast with Robertson and Boyle and he is talking about the credit card!

    March 16, 2011 at 8:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jeff

    I am not the biggest fan of flexion at all. I prefer the rollouts, bodysaws, chops, etc. But I don't understand how any bodyweight exercise like a sit up or even a crunch can place roughly 760 lbs of compressive load on the vertebral discs in the lumbar spine? Do you do ANY type of flexion work with your athletes? If this is true and I know stuart mcgill is the guru of the low back and core there is no way we should be doing flexion with our athletes is there? Just wanted to know what you think? Great site, great content

    March 16, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Dean: saw that like two days ago. I think I saw it on Mark Young's facebook page. Kid had it comin. Hate to say it, but it's true. @ Kevin: CP intern class of 08 - welcome! I like the slideboard option, personally. But, as I noted in the post, the paper plate/towel option is cool too. @ Smitty: You know, I probably got the credit card analogy from Boyle. I'm sure I've given him credit in the past. As he always says, "I'll give credit the first time. After that, it's mine!" @ Jeff: I'm not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Flexion IS a normal movement pattern, I just don't like to load it if I can avoid it (think rounded during deadlifts). That said, as McGill notes: repeated flexion isn't all that great either. I know McGill actually advocates a modified crunch as part of his "Big Three" - the side and prone plank are the others. I think, in the grand scheme of things, it just comes down to execution.

    March 16, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    @Dean, you beat me to it! He has a facebook fanpage here http://www.facebook.com/CaseyThaPunisher.

    March 16, 2011 at 9:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mark Young

    @ Tony - Great post! @ Jeff - A large amount of the compressive force on the spine is not just because of the body weight per se, but because of the actions of the compressive actions of the muscles used to produce the movement.

    March 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Lisa V

    I can attest to the fact that Dr. T likes these as they were in my program last month. I thought they were hard but could definately feel that core working! Great exercise. And while I'll bet that kid broke something, I hate bullies and he had it coming.

    March 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Tony, I don't know how, but I figured that exercise was gonna come up here sooner rather than later. @dean: Thanks for sharing the video. Reminds me of what happened to my older brother when he "learned" that having a 6-5 little brother doesn't work out so well when you're 5-9. Yeah...ouch! RS

    March 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kujo

    The timing of that suplex to the Lil Wayne lyrics is classic. That kid may have a future as a power lifter or in the WWE. :)

    March 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jez

    Hi Tony, First time commenter. I get my clients doing these regularly. I also use a slightly more advanced version where they perform the movement low down in a tricep push up like position. Has a slightly different effect on the 'core' but challenges the shoulders, chest and triceps a bit more. Thanks for your continued efforts on your blog. Jez

    March 18, 2011 at 5:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    I think everyone is missing out on the most important questions....who is in the picture on the top of the page???? Wowza!!!

    March 18, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • Laurent

    Man, I just had one of those moments where you burst into laughter staring at your computer screen. Thank you. Will try the exercice, too!

    March 19, 2011 at 12:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • allie

    i love this exercise. i thought i "made it up". my kids and i do it racing (only going forward) on the kitchen floor. i've called it the walking plank... good stuff! feel it!

    March 19, 2011 at 9:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • caters

    Is the alligator walk called that because the person that invented this exercise was inspired by how alligators walk?

    August 6, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Reply to this comment

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