Animal flow: Welcome to the fitness phenomenon Quadrobics

The latest global fitness phonomenon is quadrobics, where you walk and run on all fours. This is the science behind the move

Pulasta Dhar
First Published22 Jun 2024, 06:00 PM IST
Quadrobics workout includes popular exercises like mountain climbers.
Quadrobics workout includes popular exercises like mountain climbers.(Istockphoto)

Humans have an inherent need to test how fast they can travel: whether that is in a race car, on sailboats, or while running. The current world record for a 100m sprint is 9.58 seconds, set by Usain Bolt in 2009. These are usually set and happen in controlled environments, like a sporting event, or an F1 race which is based as much on human manoeuvring as it is on design engineering.

But what if you’re using all four limbs? When James McAvoy starts galloping in the movie Glass, or Steve Carrell during the famous ‘parkour’ episode of The Office, it feels odd to watch because humans are naturally inclined to run on two legs rather than all fours. But the mind wanders and wonders what one would do if they got into a chase — do you choose to run on a rainy night on feet or use the hands as well, in order to not slip and cover more distance. Or climb over hurdles. The answer might lie in evolution.

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“Video analysis revealed that in quadrupedal running, humans employed a transverse gallop with a small angular excursion. These results suggest that in the future, the fastest human on the planet might be a quadrupedal runner at the 2048 Olympics. This may be achieved by shifting up to the rotary gallop and taking longer strides with wide sagittal trunk motion,” states a paper titled How Fast Can A Human Run? − Bipedal vs. Quadrupedal Running, published in the journal Frontiers In Bioengineering And biotechnology. It adds that running 100m on all fours could take as little as 9.276 seconds compared to 9.383 seconds running on legs.

We know that the ancestors of humans used to run on all four limbs at some point in the evolutionary cycle. We also know that fitness trends in the last two decades have focused on challenging the body to do what it once used to with ease.

One example is to practise crawling, which I wrote about in detail in a Lounge article titled Why You Need To Learn How To Crawl Like A Baby. Animal flow is another instance, and the latest one which is catching up quickly is quadrobics. Quadrobics.com defines this as the “movement of a person on four limbs imitating the ground locomotion of animals (walking, running, jumping and other movements), their gait and characteristic gaits.”

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Exploding Topics, which follows trends around the world, showed a more-than-1000-percent increase in the search term ‘quadrobics’ over the past year, which is quite stunning in terms of a fitness search term. So how do you start off with something that sounds simple (but isn’t?).

The first progressive steps are easy to figure: crawling, bear crawls, bird dogs, and dead bugs. Then come the mountain climbers and renegade rows where you get into a push-up position with dumbbells and row. All these indicate that quadrobics is a unilateral exercise because the arms and legs are not always synchronised. “Unilateral training can also help address muscular weaknesses or imbalances, which can lead to bigger numbers on your squat, deadlift, and bench press,” states a garagegymreviews.com article called What Is Quadrobics? The Science Behind This Four-Limbed Fitness Movement.

The idea is to not suddenly start trotting and cantering on all fours but make sure that you have built up enough core strength so that your spine is not taking the brunt of the move. Another tip is to make sure your head is not lower than the heart, because that might result in dizziness. People with long legs and short arms will not be able to avoid this. There are two more drawbacks as detailed in a berbend.com article titled Quadrobics Is Trending: Here’s What It Is, Plus Opinions From Expert Trainers.

“Quadraped movements put repeated ballistic stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. [They] are usually not structured or progressive, hallmarks of a well-designed, evidence-based exercise routine.” But the abs, shoulders, triceps and legs will work hard and you can do this going from room to room at home rather than buy a gym membership.

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There is of course the added social judgement of being seen moving on all fours in an exercise routine which is mostly popularised by the therian (people who adopt animal identities) community. Which explains why the beginner videos on this practice will involve people wearing masks of animals who move a certain way. The most popular YouTube channel in this community seems to be Amber. If you can look past the mask and furry tail attachments, then the channel has some really detailed tutorials on quadrobics, like in the video above. 

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.

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First Published:22 Jun 2024, 06:00 PM IST
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