Left Arm, Right Leg… Re-set”: The Importance of Interlimb Coordination

Mar 05, 2013
Tagged with: Left Arm, Right Leg… Re-set”: The Importance of Interlimb Coordination

It is 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning.  I am on my hands and knees in a crawl stance at the beginning of several mats which have been put down ahead of me.  I am waiting for my Movement Specialist, James House, III, to deliver the instructions for me to crawl.  The directions come, “First your left arm, and then your right leg.”  I know that crawling is key to developing motor skills.

Every Physical Therapist and Fitness Professional I have worked with over the last 15 to 20 years has had me perform the crawl drill at some point.  My Movement Specialist continues the cues, “Right arm, left leg.”  I try to perform the sequence.  My body locks up.  My legs feel weighted.  It feels like my legs are being restrained or tied down as I work to lift my leg and the opposite arm.  I am reminded again of the motor planning difficulties I have as a result of Spastic Cerebral Palsy.  In theory, I know what I should do with my body to carry out the task, but I have difficulty performing the movement.  The third set of instructions comes, “Re-set and repeat.”  That specific prompt means go back and try the sequence again.

I assume the crawl stance again.  I am frustrated and my Movement Specialist knows it.  “Why do I have so much trouble with that sequence?”  I ask.  He replies, “You have trouble with motor control.”  Motor Control is a “broad term that describes the general ability to initiate and direct muscle function and voluntary movements.”[i]  I know that complex sequences of movement and motor skills are under rapid development by the time a baby reaches one year old.  My diagnosis of Spastic Cerebral Palsy warped the development of these skills to various degrees (e.g. from crawling to walking) and now I have difficulty performing the movements.

James has moved from the head of the mats to be next to me on his hands and knees.  “Watch me.  Right Arm, Left Leg”.  He demonstrates the exact sequence of movements.   James also introduced some new technical terms into my walking program vocabulary including “Interlimb Coordination” and “Bimanual Coordination.”  Interlimb Coordination involves “using both sides of the body at the same time.”[ii]  In drills like crawling, James is having me engage in “Bi-manual Coordination,” or sequencing the movement between my arms and legs. [iii]  “We are going to be working more on the crawling sequences,” James warns me.  I work to reset my stance to crawl once more.

For children, skills to coordinate movement between their arms and legs can be encouraged through games like hop scotch and jumping jacks.  I remember trying hop scotch and jumping jacks and not being able to execute the movements well, if at all.  My experience with motor skill development was not a continuous process.  Some professionals who worked with me made it a primary focus and others did not.  I am now laboring at 37 years old to develop, regain, and improve these motor skills.

Following the Saturday workout, I went home and started to re-familiarize myself with the developmental importance of crawling.  Development of Interlimb Coordination is part of the importance.  From the results of my workout, I know that I am displaying inconsistent limb coordination.  In my review of Early Childhood and related literature, there are calls to re-establish movement education and instruction into school and physical education settings for children. I contend this education and instruction needs to expand to both children and adults. I am personally revisiting the need for these skills in adulthood to be able to walk without assistive devices.

Like so many other writers in the Health, Disability, Fitness, and Rehabilitation fields, I affirm that the development and maintenance of motor skills is critically important.  The need for it is well-documented across the age span.  I would encourage professionals to look at and apply movement education and instruction into their work with clients.

I know that I am personally ready to be on my hands and knees executing a crawl sequence every Saturday morning for the next six months or longer, if that is what it takes to develop these critical Interlimb Coordination skills.  My parting words to James that Saturday were,“Crawling leads to Walking– Left Arm, Right Leg… Re-set.”

[i] Motor Control.” World of Sports Science. Macmillan Reference USA. 2007.

[ii] Bobbio, T., Gabbard, C., & Cacola, P. (2009). Interlimb Coordination: An Important Facet of Gross-Motor Skill Ability. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 11(2).

[iii] Bobbio, T., Gabbard, C., & Cacola, P. (2009). Interlimb Coordination: An Important Facet of Gross-Motor Skill Ability. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 11(2).

Author: Kerry

  • RMT

    Love it, Kerry. I remember when my son had to relearn how to crawl after a chemical stroke. We did the same thing….watch me….left hand, right leg etc. He was often frustrated as well, but eventually could do some. The doctors all told us what an important developmental step it was. You are amazing to see this through! RMT

  • http://www.facebook.com/kerry.wiley.9 Kerry Wiley

    Thank you so much for your comments and for taking the time to read the article.
    My work with James R. House, III, my Movement Specialist, has produced some significant and positive results!

    Kerry A. Wiley