Body Mechanics – Hand and arm position

WOW… so I’ve had a comment from a real live actual reader, which included a request for elaboration on my ideas about body mechanics for quadrupedal motion. So here goes, this will actually be a series of posts on different parts as I think of them and as I have time.

In my experience to date, hand position does not seem to affect the efficiency of quadrupedal motion a great deal.

Some options I like to use are:

Vertical fist


Palm, fingers extended

Middle Knuckles

Basically it is good to have a variety of hand positions to use as due to the fact that we do not generally use our hands for load bearing most of the the time, our tendons and ligaments tend to be quite weak in our hands, wrist and fingers.  It takes time to build up this strength, so having a variety of hand positions lets you keep on training while your connective tissue strength builds up.

Of these hand positions I prefer fingertips for speed, and use all the others for variation.

Arm position on the other hand is very important.  One thing that has occured to me as I have worked on this stuff is that chimpanzees and gorillas, while similar humans in many ways, because of that very similarity don’t make the best examples to copy for quadrupedal body mechanics. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you might remember a post awhile ago where I found some research suggesting that quadrupedal motion can in fact be as energy efficient as bipedalism see here.  A key fact in this was the energy efficient quadrupedal motion research was done on monkeys other than the great apes, the research showing inefficiency was done on chimps.

I think a big part of this is to do with how we adapt to use tools not only with our hands but with our entire arms and shoulders.  Chimpanzees and Gorillas have a tendency to turn their elbows out to the sides.  This rotates the shoulder which is great and useful in tool manipulation but for locomotion it means that the triceps, back and chest muscles do not engage in a way that efficiently assists forward motion.

So a big key in body mechanics for efficient quadrupedal motion is to have the elbows facing down and back at all times.  Think more along the lines of the forelimb alignment of a cat or a dog than of a great ape.


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Timetrial 3

I did another time trial today. 44.26 seconds for 100 metres. Knocking off another 9 seconds in two weeks isn’t too bad. I figure I could probably outrun a biped toddler now 🙂

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Walking Gorilla

Well if this gorilla can learn to walk upright, it give me hope that I can learn to walk (and run) on all fours.

Notice that stiff awkward looking back as he walks around? Remind you of any humans much?

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My wrist gave way today for the first time in… I can’t remember how long. It was while I was doing kongs. I thought my wrists were pretty strong from my kung fu training, but I guess not strong enough for this… I was leaping into a landing on my knuckles. On the bright side, I was able to keep going afterwards, and this will make my wrists a LOT stronger.

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Leaps and bounds

I had another training session today which included some ‘kongs’. On my last set I built up to stretching out and getting airborne before my hands touched and then bringing my feet up again. They weren’t huge reaches – maybe a metre and a half or so, but it felt good to be off the ground. The limiting factor really does seem to be my mobility and strength through my lower back, my shoulder girdle is already quite strong and comfortable with the movement from all the kung fu that I’ve done. My back is getting there little by little though and I’m looking forward to a breakthrough anyday now when it will become completely free and mobile 🙂

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Timetrial 2

I did another time trial today. 53.69 seconds for 100 metres. Ok so it wasn’t hard to beat my last one, but cutting my time in half in just over a week is a pretty impressive improvement. Now I just need to go about 5 times as fast to keep up with the fastest human bipeds 😀

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I had a really good training session this morning. When I say training session, these sessions aren’t long, the idea is to gradually adjust my body mechanics and habituate myself to the new mechanics. I have found too much work with poor body mechanics to be counterproductive in the past.

I had two day completely off training over the weekend. Various parts of my body had been feeling stiff and tired at the end of last week. Interestingly I don’t think this was from my quadrupedal training, I don’t think I have ever had stiffness from this (apart from in my fingers which aren’t used to the loads they sometimes take) tiredness yes, stiffness no. I think the stiffness was from some kung fu training where I didn’t cool down properly.

Anyway, I was fresh and feeling good this morning. I did some ‘walking’ which was challenging as usual but felt good. My breathing is starting to feel like less and less of an effort, which is a good sign. I am also getting more movement in my back, which is fantastic. With this movement in my back I decided to try what is popularly referred to as a ‘kong’ in recent times by people doing parkour, as it looks a bit like a gorilla movement. You place both hands, then hop both legs up together and repeat. The lengthening in my spine with this movement felt great. I can see the movement patterns developed from the kongs being helpful for developing my stride for ‘walking’ and ‘running’ as well.

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Drifting along above the earth…

I started to bring my legs a little more under my body today and found that I naturally broke out into a gentle canter. It felt quite amazing, as if I was floating above the earth, my fingertips and balls and toes of my feet would touch for just the briefest moment before lifting off again. I did five repeats of a 50 metre canter, and it felt really good. I actually felt like it was easier and much more refreshing than ‘walking’ the same sort of distance.

I feel very much encouraged by this. My progress has been such hard work every step of the way so far, but this felt like it came all by itself and I just had to let it happen. I feel like I might begin to make more rapid and easier progress from here on in.

On another note… is anyone out there reading this? If you are, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I guess I am mainly writing this as sort of a personal record for me to look back on, but it would be cool if other people also found something of interest in what I’m doing. Until recently I was getting spammed like crazy through this site (recently cleared out 4,500 pending messages :s ) but I figured out how to put in a captcha for comments and registrations, so that has dried up the spam pretty well. It is possible that with all that spam there were some genuine comments that I missed, I hope not.

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Time trial

Ok, so I did a time trial today. The distance was 100 metres, actually I think it is probably more like 105 or 110 metres, but close enough to 100 metres for now.

My time was 2minutes 2.10seconds.

Blistering fast huh? I only have to go about 12 times as fast to keep up with the fastest human bipeds. I knew it would be slow, in fact it was a real effort to do it at all, but I thought I would time it anyway to give me something measured to look back at and compare with in the future. I had actually built up to ‘running’ with my quadrupedal motion previously, but as I’ve mentioned previously it proved to be unsustainable. I am taking things much slower now and really want to get my body mechanics right each step of the way as I progress – and I feel like I’m doing that. I think I have to put my current time into perspective – how fast would an infant who has barely starting taking steps do 100metres? I think this is quite a relevant comparison as my whole mechanics and neurology has to change and adapt for this kind of motion in order for it to be sustainable. In some ways it really is like being born again – or going back to infancy at least. I think part of my troubles in previous efforts at quadrupedal movement was that I was a biped pretending or trying to be a quadruped, rather than actually being a quadruped. Significant difference.

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White meat

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day about why chicken breast meast is white and the leg meat is brown. He said it is because most chickens don’t fly the breast meat is used very little and that is why it is white, the legs on the other hand are used a lot and this makes the meat brown.

Makes me wonder… are humans destined to become a white meat species?

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