How to Do the Bear Crawl Exercise to Boost Strength and Coordination (SHAPE)
Posted: Dec 20, 2022 in In the News
This article originally appeared in SHAPE on December 20, 2022.
How to Do the Bear Crawl Exercise to Boost Strength and Coordination
The bear crawl is a staple core exercise — and for good reason. Find out all the benefits the move has to offer and how to add it to your fitness routine.
By Megan Falk
You likely haven't crawled around your house since you were a baby, but as it turns out, there may be some benefits to embracing your inner child, even when you're well past elementary school. In fact, practicing the bear crawl exercise on the reg can help you build up the core strength necessary to move through life pain-free — among other perks.
Ahead, learn what you can score by adding the bear crawl exercise into your fitness routine, plus how to adjust the functional move so it matches your fitness level and needs.
How to Do the Bear Crawl
To successfully perform the bear crawl, you'll start in a table-top position on the floor, then lift your knees an inch or two into the air. From there, you’ll step your hands and feet to walk forward and backward, says Jess Hiestand, an NASM-certified personal trainer, Rumble’s manager of training and experience, and an XPRO with Xponential+. Despite being a bodyweight exercise, the bear crawl can give your strength, coordination, and stability a boost, she says.
Here, Hiestand demonstrates how to do the bear crawl with perfect form.
A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips, and feet hip-width apart. Drive palms into the floor, engage core, and lift knees 2 inches off the ground.
B. Keeping back flat and core engaged, move right arm and left leg forward 2 inches in a controlled manner. Then, move left arm and right leg forward 2 inches, keeping hips parallel with the floor.
C. Take 4 steps forward, then 4 steps backward.
The Key Bear Crawl Benefits
By mixing the bear crawl into your fitness routine, you’ll do your joint health and muscular strength some good. Here, the biggest perks the exercise has to offer.
Improves Shoulder Stability
During the bear crawl exercise, your shoulders will work overtime to keep your upper body stable as you step forward and backward. And that's why the move can help improve shoulder stability, says Hiestand. ICYDK, stability is the ability to control your joint’s movement or position, which involves coordinating its surrounding tissues and your neuromuscular system, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). It may seem like NBD, but being able to move your shoulder joint with greater control plays a key role in injury prevention, says Hiestand. Plus, building your shoulder stability can help prevent movement compensations that can ultimately lead to muscle imbalances, according to ACE.
Builds Core Strength
A bear crawl is a lot like a moving high plank — you'll hold all of your body weight above the floor, with just your palms and toes touching the ground — so it's no surprise the exercise can help strengthen your core. Remember, your core is a group of muscles within your anterior and posterior kinetic chains that all work together to keep you stable and protect your spine. Strengthening your core not only helps you stand upright and with good posture, but it’s also necessary if you want to take your performance with other workouts to the next level. Consider boxing, for example. “In a sport [such as] boxing, we use core strength to help with balance and power,” says Hiestand. “A strong core can help you stay upright with a hit. It can also help you with the transfer of power when finishing a punch or generating rotational forces.”
And if you want to hit a new PR in the weight room, you’ll also need to level up your core strength — and understand how to properly engage your core muscles. “In strength training, we often cue to start bracing the core before a lift so that we can create intra-abdominal pressure [that] protects the spine and keeps the energy flowing in the direction you want during the lift,” says Hiestand. “It is dangerous to lift weights your core can't support, even if your legs would technically be strong enough.”
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