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January 14, 2022 9 min read

Lifting weights and running are not the only ways you can build up your strength and cardio. If you would like to get your heart rate up, try bear crawls. The bear crawl exercise works the entire body and is often included in boot camp and CrossFit workouts and other high-intensity exercise programs. Also known as the mat bear crawl or simply as the crawl, this intermediate-level exercise specifically targets your core, back, arms, and legs. 

What Are Bear Crawls?

Bear crawls are an important part of a functional fitness program that focuses on the maximum use of ground movement to strengthen your entire body. This exercise engages almost every muscle joint of the human upper body so it is the perfect compound exercise. If you are bored with squats, sprints, curls, or presses, it might be time to try bear crawls. 

Bear crawls benefit anyone who wants to get fitter. Bear crawls are somewhat of an advanced version of a moving plank. Much like the plank, a bear crawl also engages the core muscles, but since it also involves moving, a bear crawl forces you to use your core more intensely to maintain balance. If you want to do bear crawls, they can be done anywhere, even in a small apartment or hotel room. 

Muscle Groups Used in a Bear Crawl

Bear crawls have become a little more popular over the past few years.  

Many knowledgeable trainers and coaches are now recommending the bear crawl for children and adults alike. This is because it is a full-body and functional exercise that can help prepare the human body to manage day-to-day tasks more effectively. Also, doing the bear crawl is a cheap and accessible way for anybody to get a good workout.

The bear crawl is essentially a strength and mobility-enhancing exercise and it effectively uses almost every single muscle group in the body. The core muscles as well as the shoulders, triceps, chest, glutes, and leg muscles are the primary ones used during this exercise. With bear crawls, you will be using all these muscles at the same time. It can also increase your joint mobility in places like your hips, wrists, spine, quads, ankles, and knees. 

A good supplement for you to include with this type of exercise would be the Hyperbolic Stack.

Formulated to help restore electrolytes and increase nitric oxide production, the Hyperbolic Stack can help you train longer and harder than you ever thought you could. This makes it perfect for bear crawl workouts.

Plenty of studies have shown that strength training exercises such as bear crawls can help you manage and sometimes prevent health problems. Doing these types of exercises regularly can help you feel younger, make your day to day tasks more manageable, and improve your overall health.

How to Do a Bear Crawl: A Step-by-Step Guide

 

Doing a bear crawl is not complicated but it can be quite challenging. You need to maintain the right posture to maximize the movement pattern. Taking the wrong position while doing bear crawls can easily lead to injuries. Before you attempt the bear crawl, make sure you warm up your muscles and stretch for up to 10 mins before you start.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to do a bear crawl. 

  1. Start in a crawl position. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be placed under your hips. 
  2. Stabilize your spine and elongate your back. The key idea is to engage the abdominal muscles to their maximum capacity. Do not attempt exercise until your body is stable. 
  3. While maintaining stability, slowly lift your knees off the floor and stay on your toes while you are still in the crawl position. 
  4. Move out your right arm and left leg and just start crawling. Your knees should not be touching the floor at all. 
  5. Cover whatever your distance you can cover comfortably and then take a rest. 
  6. Repeat the process as many times as you can. 

If you would like to make your bear crawls more challenging, try these suggestions.

  • Increase speed faster or distance.
  • Get competitive and race a friend
  • Pull something by securing a backpack to your back or a rope attached to a heavy object
  • Wear a weighted vest

If you think you have perfectly mastered the basic bear crawl, it’s time to move to the next step. Instead of doing a basic bear crawl, make it tougher by simply lifting one hand and the opposite leg off the ground. Be sure to maintain crawl position.

A spiderman crawl is another variation of the standard bear crawl which can be performed by bending your chest closer to the ground while crawling. If you don’t have a lot of time, you’ll find that bear crawls are ideal for  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Just crawl for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for about 20 mins duration no more than two times per week. You can add bear crawls to your circuit training.

For example, you can do them in conjunction with other exercises such as burpees, jumping jacks, or  overhead squats.

Just remember to take a reasonable rest after your first set and then you can repeat the circuit for three or four more times (or you can do as many reps as you feel comfortable with).

Bear Crawl Variations

You can easily modify the bear crawl in a variety of ways to either decrease or increase the level of difficulty. Take a look at these bear crawl variations to get a few more ideas for your next session in the gym.

1. Modified Bear Crawl for Beginners 

     

    If you are not yet ready for the bear crawl full-body exercise, you can do a similar move but without the forward movement. This variation is slightly easier. Because the body is not in an extended push-up position, it isn't as hard to support your body weight. 

    1. Start on your hands and knees with your back flat, your head in line with your spine, and your core engaged. 
    2. Place your left hand and your right hand below your shoulders, with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes tucked underneath. 
    3. While you are maintaining this position, alternate lifting each knee off the floor about one to two inches. 

    2. Backward Bear Crawl 

       

      Once you have mastered the basic actions of the bear crawl moving forward, you might want to add a backward bear crawl to your workout routine. 

      1. Simply crawl forward about ten yards.
      2. Reverse your sequence and travel backward for about ten yards.
      3. Try not to take a break in between. 

      3. Sideways Bear Crawl 

         

        You can also do the bear crawl moving to the side. 

        1. Start in the same position as would for the forward crawl.
        2. Move to the side instead of to the front. 
        3. Make sure you do this move to both the left and right sides in order to work each side of your body evenly. 

        4. Weighted Bear Crawl 

           

          You can make the bear crawl more challenging by increasing the load.

          1. Start on your hands and knees with your back flat, your head in line with your spine, and your core engaged. 
          2. Place your hands beneath your shoulders, with your feet hip-distance apart and toes tucked underneath. 
          3. Maintain this position and alternate lifting each knee off the floor about one to two inches.  
          4. Wear a weighted vest or backpack while you are traveling forward.

          You can also place a weight plate on your back and do bear crawls this way. If you do that, be careful that the plate doesn't fall off when you move. To prevent the weight from sliding off, never rotate your torso much or use a weight plate that is too large in diameter. 

          5. Uneven Bear Crawl 

          Performing any type of bear crawl outside on an uneven surface is another very good way to challenge yourself with this mobility exercise. Wearing weightlifting gloves or something similar is a good way to protect your hands from rough terrain. You could also try adding push-ups to any of your bear crawls to make them even harder.

          Benefits of Bear Crawls

          If you have been looking for some good reasons to include bear crawls in your workout routine, here are a few. Firstly, bear crawls can help you build total body strength. While most exercises focus on a particular group of muscles, the bear crawl is one of those few exercises that use almost all muscle groups. It forces your core to work harder, which makes it an excellent strength-building exercise. 

          As we discussed earlier, bear crawls engage more than one type of joint in your body. The work of these joints is pivotal to ensuring perfect stability while doing a bear crawl. Thus, this exercise also enhances muscle coordination and mobility. Crawling around without the support of your knees on the floor will undoubtedly get your heart rate up. You can even go faster and turn it into a high-intensity workout. When performing the bear crawl, you use almost every muscle in the body.

          This exercise works the shoulders (deltoids), your chest and your back, as well as your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core muscles.

          When you do bear crawls regularly with the proper form, you will be sure to start building total-body strength and endurance. The bear crawl is often part of comprehensive agility workouts. Agility drills can help athletes meet the physical and physiological demands of different phases of training.

          But you don't have to be a professional athlete to benefit from bear crawls.

          Agility training can improve body awareness, movement skills, and burn more calories. It may even boost your visual vigilance, listening skills, and working memory. 

          A Few Common Mistakes 

          We have noticed that a lot of people mention a lack of time as a common reason for avoiding exercise or even for quitting their exercise program altogether.  

          Compound exercises such as the bear crawl can go a long way toward solving this problem by providing more benefits in a shorter amount of time. There are a few common errors to keep in mind if you are trying to make your bear crawl workouts both as safe and effective as possible. 

          Sagging Back 

          The bear crawl is a great core exercise, but not if you let your back sag or droop. Before you start moving, brace your core so the hips and shoulders are in a straight line. The head should not sag forward or droop. Maintain this position as you move.

          Watching yourself in a mirror is helpful.

          You can also have your personal trainer watch you and provide feedback. If you have a hard time maintaining a solid core while moving forward, just take a few steps forward and gradually add steps as you get stronger. 

          Hips Too High 

          Many people let their hips lift as they start the bear crawl. After a few crawling steps forward, the arms get tired and lifting the hips high in the air helps reduce the stress on your core and upper body.

          The problem is that this also reduces the amount of work and the effectiveness of the exercise.

          So, try to keep your back flat (with a neutral spine) as you move forward. To keep from lifting the hips too much, imagine that you are balancing a small bowl of water on your back. 

          Too Much Side-to-Side Movement 

          Try to keep all of the movement underneath your torso as you move. If you notice your legs moving out to the side as you crawl forward, you might be taking steps that are too big. Similarly, if you notice your hips swaying as you move, you may be taking steps that are too big. You might also lack core strength. 

          Safety and Precautions 

          Most people who are comfortable getting onto the floor will be able to try some of the variations of the bear crawl. But there are some people who should exercise caution. Obese people may have a hard time with this exercise because they carry more weight in the middle of their bodies. In addition, hormonal changes may affect some people who try this exercise, and those changes may affect the stability of their joints in their pelvis and lower back.

          People with wrist and shoulder injuries should work with their trainer to see if the exercise can be performed safely and effectively. Start by taking about five steps forward. Take a break and stand up for a moment, then turn around and bear crawl back to the starting location. As you get stronger and have greater endurance, you can do bear crawls for further distances. 

          Bear Crawls in Everyday Life

          Learning how to do things is a very important life skill to know as you get older. Although you will probably never need to do bear crawls in your daily life, it is really satisfying to be aware of your body enough to recognize when you are feeling off balance and be able to correct that type of imbalance as quickly and smoothly as you can. 

          Especially if you are a little older, mastering the technique of bear crawls can really make some of your day to day tasks a little more manageable. Simply crawling underneath your vehicle can be something that feels a lot more comfortable if you are already used to the movement and technique involved in the bear crawl.

          Getting regular exercise should not be quite as daunting of a task if you start to include bear crawls in your workout routine. All you need to do is get on all fours and start crawling like a bear. Intermediate and advanced exercisers can benefit from including this move in their total body workouts.