Snakes movement confuses a lot of people, and how they also are able to move at fast speeds.

So how is this possible?

Simply, when a snake moves across any surface, they use their belly muscles and scales to alternate back and forth to allow them to go forwards.

The movement of a snake is similar to that of a worm, moving parts of the belly scales forward, gripping and then moving again.

Though other snake species can move in different ways such as the sidewinder snake.

A snake finds it easier to move on rougher grounds and even more so on trees. This is because they can anchor onto the groves in the bark and pull themselves forward with ease.

How Do Snakes Climb Trees

Snakes that live in trees or spend most of their life in trees are called arboreal snakes (semi-arboreal).

The length on the snake will really help in how fast and easy it is for them to climb. Weight is somewhat of a drawback of a snake’s ability to climb.

A snake will create loops hugging onto a tree and move the top half of the body up, creating an anchor at the top half, then moving the lower half of the body up after. Repeating this until they are where they want to be.

Ways Snakes Move

There are 4 sciences of a snake’s ability to move.


Where a snake will find groves in the ground, push off of them and drag the lower half of the body forwards. This method would not work for a snake that would be traveling on smooth surfaces that are completely flat.


This is the method used by the famous sidewinder snake. Snakes that live mostly in sand or desserts will use this method of travel.

As the name suggest the snake will wind the side of the body into the sand, then pushing sideways from the grove created in the sand.

The fastest snake in the world is the sidewinder reaching serious speeds. Read more here.


Snakes will use this to move when they are in tight spaces, while hunting or looking for somewhere to hide.

This is the most worm-like approach to movement. Stretching out and anchoring with the front of their body and pulling the rear with them.

This is less efficient of movement for a snake, therefor it is rarely seen in the wild.


This is usually used by snakes when they are stalking very close to prey.

A snake will use the wide belly snakes to grip and pull forwards, creating little to no vibrations while doing so.

This allows snakes to get very close to prey with staying undetected.

How Their Body Moves Independently 

Snakes muscles are very small, but they have lots of them which contract independently. A snake is not one giant muscle.

Snakes have evolved this way for numerous reasons.

First being movement, snakes need to be able to move different parts and grip with different areas to move across the ground.

Secondly is for the constrictors, snakes when get hold of their prey squeeze with astounding power.

Their smaller muscles down the body allows them to constrict with consistent or more pressure without burning out. Alternating between muscles to avoid fatigue.

The Belly Of A Snake

If you have held a snake before, you will know that the belly scales feel very different to any other part of the body.

They are larger and more of a glossy feel to them, this is the lateral scales.

These are what a snake uses to move contracting these together and releasing moves a snake in the direction they want to go.

Can a Snake Move Backwards

No, a snake is unable to move backwards, but that being said it is often confused.

A snake is able to move back towards the tail, for example when under threat, curling into the famous S shape.

But a snake cannot put itself into reverse, instead they will turn around with the head and change direction 180 degrees without any issues.


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