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Humans evolved to walk on two legs millions of years ago. But before we became bipedal, we moved more like our apelike ancestors—on four limbs. While most of us don’t spend a ton of time on all fours, it might be just what we need to build total-body strength and better mobility. Enter the lateral gorilla walk exercise.

This exercise, named for the way it imitates an ape’s gait, engages practically every major muscle group, including your shoulders and your core, and stretches areas of your body that tend to be tight (hello, hips and wrists).

Because the gorilla walk involves moving in multiple planes of motion at the same time, it’s super challenging for us two-legged creatures who don’t typically move in this way, says Sarah Pope, a personal trainer at Life Time Westchester. Read: it totally tests our strength, balance, and coordination.

Ready to get your gorilla walk on? Sure, you might feel a little silly at first, but that’s part of the fun.

  • How often should you do the gorilla walk for the best results? You can do the exercise every day as long as it feels good. It works well as a warmup or dynamic stretch routine prior to a strength session since it gets your blood flowing and primes your muscles and joints, Pope says. On its own, the lateral gorilla walk even makes the perfect active recovery day workout, she adds.
  • Who should try the lateral gorilla walk? Anyone who’s looking to level up their balance, mobility, and flexibility. The lateral gorilla walk, like other “animal flow” movement patterns, can increase your overall health and fitness, Pope says. This functional movement is also ideal if you’re training for an obstacle course race (OCR) like Spartan or Tough Mudder, Pope says. OCRs require you to move your body in different ways (think: crawling under a cargo net, climbing a wall, or swinging from monkey rings). “[The gorilla walk] forces the body to learn, adapt, and challenge our normal behaviors, while having fun,” Pope says.
  • Who should stick to walking upright? The gorilla walk exercise isn’t for everyone. “I would not program this movement for someone if they have restrictive injuries in the ankle, knee, and/or hip,” Pope says. “Or if they could not properly sit down in a low squat position, pain free.” If you fall into any of these categories, don’t attempt the exercise. If you can’t perform the movement properly, you can end up hurting yourself (or exacerbating a previous injury).

How to do the gorilla walk exercise

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