How to master one of the best full-body strengthening exercises: the bear crawl.
Sometimes, the simplest moves are the hardest. With goals like nailing a heavy squat or deadlifting double what you weigh, bodyweight exercises are often neglected. Do so at your own detriment: moves like the bear crawl can challenge you in new ways and lead to huge strength gains.
“There’s a few different variations of the bear crawl, but one of the best is the slow bear crawl,” says Strong Women ambassador Alice Miller. “It’s a movement that requires core stability and control.”
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Alice recommends using this bodyweight exercise both to warm up your muscles before strength training and as a key move in your core workouts. “So many people are hung up on doing sit ups and crunches for their core work, but the best exercises you can do are the ones that focus on that stability,” she says.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DOING A BEAR CRAWL?
The bear crawl will not only mobilise the shoulders, but it engages the thoracic spine (in the middle of your back). This area can often be where back pain stems from, as it gets hunched when we work or can be overloaded in our workouts.
“In this move it’s important to keep your back straight enough to balance a tray of champagne glasses on it,” says Alice. By training your body to pull out of a hunching position, you’ll ease back pain and increase spinal mobility.
Another benefit of the bear crawl is that your core muscles are engaged throughout. Not only are they working by moving you forward, but they’re stabilising your whole body. A strong and stable core will also ease back pain, improve posture and help with overall strength.
This move also works the hip flexors and glutes, warming them up for the rest of your workout. As a population, we spend most of our days sat down which shortens hip flexors and makes glute muscles weak. Switching them on before exercising means they’ll be able to carry load more effectively.
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WHICH MUSCLES DO BEAR CRAWLS WORK?
Most of them! But they main muscles targetted with bear crawls are:
HOW TO DO A PROPER BEAR CRAWL:
- Start on all fours, with your knees underneath your hips, your hands underneath your shoulders.
- Tuck your toes and lift your knees a couple of inches off the floor, maintaining a neutral spine.
- Lift one hand and the opposite foot and move them forward before placing back on the floor.
- Repeat with the other hand and opposite foot so you begin travelling forward. Repeat again with the starting hand.
- Reverse the movement so you are travelling back to the starting position.
- Return your knees back to the floor.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).