Movement Monday: Bear Crawl
Training doesn’t always have to be serious. Bringing play and childlike patterns into training can be fun and entertaining for the clients, but also very purposeful.
The bear crawl, also known as the beast, is a great locomotive pattern that works core stability and rotary stability in movement. There are a couple variations to which trainers use this movement for other purposes.
Live Your Fitness uses it for its intended purpose:
• Core stability
• Rotatory stability
• Hip Stability
• Shoulder Stability
Bear crawls can be performed in many different variations for intended purposes:
• Linear and reverse
• Static and hovering
With the training program and the specific adaptation you are working towards, the type of bear crawl will vary. Using multiple techniques will allow the body to different patterns and loads and increase the overall strength and stability.
Some often used purposes for the bear crawl are:
• Shoulder strength
This can be a conditioning movement if set up properly and used as a stability factor for shoulders and hips. If used as a conditioning exercise in which intention is to improve aerobic capacity, you will lose functions of stability and form will break down prior to reaching your intended purpose of conditioning. This is often seen in the form of a “monkey run”. The bear crawl was never intended to be performed fast. The faster you perform it the quicker form breaks down and the more stress you will put on certain joints (wrist shoulders and elbows primarily).
A secondary variation is when placed in a pike position and walking with legs and arms straight. This will help build shoulder strength but very few people can manage this position properly as they don’t have the requisite hamstring mobility or shoulder mobility to support the movement. This lends them to either sit to far open and have more flexion in the lumbar spine than necessary but to also lose the intended purpose of building shoulder stability, which in turn will help build shoulder strength.
The intended set up is an all four position with knees under the hips and hands under the shoulders. Spine should be neutral with neck neutral. The knees should be elevated of the ground about 1-2”. You will alternate opposite hand and foot together as you move slowly across the floor. This movement is not about speed but about stability. We tell our members to imagine they have a bowl of water on their back and they should not spill that water as they move across the floor.
If done properly, the bear crawl is a very useful core, hip and shoulder stability based movement. This can help build strength and “conditioning” in said areas as they are more stable and efficient under load.
Michael Koenig is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist in Orlando Florida.
He is the owner of Live Your Fitness, a group fitness training facility centered on bringing the individual approach into the group fitness realm. He has been strength training for 8 years now and has worked in multiple fields ranging from CrossFit, professional wakeboarder and corporate wellness.