If you’re tired of planks and sit-ups but still want to fire up your core, you’ll want to give bear crawls a try.
Taking you back to your childhood where crawling on all fours was common, the bear crawl is a full body workout that helps to build up your strength, cardio, and muscular endurance while reminding you to have a little fun.
What’s more, this exercise requires no equipment at all, meaning you can do it anywhere that gives you enough floor space.
This article tells you all you need to know about bear crawls, how to do them, their benefits, and how to add them to your workout routine.
First, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough floor space to perform bear crawls properly — an open gym area or outside will do.
Here’s how to do the bear crawl exercise:
- Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, knees stacked under your hips, core tight, and back flat. Your feet should be hip-distance apart with your toes touching the ground.
- Inhale, then on your exhale, press into both feet and your hands to lift your knees off the ground an inch or two, like in a bear plank.
- Keeping your core engaged, lift your left hand and right foot off the ground and bring them forward a few inches. Avoid letting your knees touch the ground.
- Then, do the same with your right hand and left foot.
- Continue alternating sides so that you’re crawling forward — just like a bear — for 10–20 feet, or as far as you can go.
- Perform 1–3 sets.
If you don’t have much space, you can turn around and go back to your starting position.
Bear crawls are easy to learn and fun to execute. Just make sure you have an open area before performing them.
There are many benefits to bear crawls, such as:
- Builds muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is the length of time your muscles can withstand an exercise. Bear crawls require you to hold and move your body which helps to increase your muscular endurance.
- Increases strength. Don’t be fooled — bear crawls are great for building strength. In particular, they’re great for anyone looking to build strength without heavy loads, such as those returning from an injury.
- Cardio workout. Depending on how long you go for, bear crawls can be a quick way to increase your heart rate and build up your cardio.
- Convenient. Since you can perform bear crawls with no equipment and can easily make modifications for your environment, they’re a great addition to any workout.
- Suitable for everyone. Bear crawls can be modified to make them easier or more challenging, making them a good workout for everyone.
- Improves coordination. Learning to bear crawl takes a bit of practice and requires good coordination. Over time, you’ll notice it becomes easier as your coordination improves.
- It strengthens the core. While there isn’t much research to be found on the bear crawl exercise specifically, there was one study published in 2017 that found the bear crawl to be more effective that the stationary bear plank for developing strength in the external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and rectus femoris (1).
Bear crawls add many benefits such as increasing muscular strength and endurance, improving coordination, and boosting your cardio.
Bear crawls can be added to your workout routine in many ways.
For example, they’re a great warmup exercise prior to a lower or upper body workout. Focus on slow, controlled movements to give your body time to warm up.
You could also perform them at the end of a workout as a finisher. In this case, try to perform them as long as you can go or when you reach failure.
Alternatively, they can be added as part of a larger full-body workout or included in your ab routine.
Ultimately, bear crawls are extremely versatile and can be added at the beginning, middle, or end of your workouts.
Bear crawls are versatile and can be added at the beginning, middle, or end of any workout.
Bear crawls can be considered a full-body workout because they target the lower body, core, and upper body.
In particular, bear crawls are great for strengthening your core. They rely on your abdominal muscles (i.e., rectus abdominis, obliques, and transversus abdominis) and lower back muscles to keep your back and hips stabilized.
Further, you’ll notice your pecs, triceps, and shoulders (i.e., deltoids) working in overdrive during bear crawls since they are needed to hold up and move your upper body forward.
Finally, bear crawls target the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves as your legs propel you forward.
Bear crawls are a great full-body workout. In particular, they’re awesome for strengthening your core.
Depending on your desired level of difficulty, you can make small changes to the bear crawl exercise to make the movement easier or more challenging.
Option 1: Stationary bear plank with leg lift (modification)
If you’re having a hard time crawling forward, you can first focus on the basics of a bear crawl.
For this exercise, you’ll start off on all fours, keep your core engaged and back flat, and slowly raise your left knee off the ground. Hold this for three seconds and return it to the ground. Then, do the same with your right knee.
Eventually, try lifting your left knee and right hand off the ground at the same time. Then, alternate sides. Continue this until you feel ready to progress to regular bear crawls.
Option 2: Reverse bear crawls (advanced progression)
Once you’ve mastered a regular bear crawl, you may be up for an extra challenge.
Reverse bear crawls follow the same movement pattern but this time you’re going backwards. Since this requires extra coordination, it’ll be a new challenge for you.
You can either perform reverse bear crawls alone, or you can go forwards and backwards to challenge yourself in both directions.
Option 3: Sideways bear crawls (advanced progression)
Sideways bear crawls are another challenging move that will work your core even more.
The movement pattern is the same, except you’re moving to the side instead of forward. You’ll want to make sure you go in both directions (left and right) for an even workout.
Option 4: Weighted bear crawls (advanced progression)
To increase your strength even more, you may want to try wearing a weighted vest or backpack while performing bear crawls.
However, only do this if you can maintain proper form.
Option 5: Uneven bear crawls (advanced progression)
If you’re ready for an extra challenge, try performing bear crawls on uneven ground, such as slope or hill.
This will require additional work from your core and other stabilizer muscles to keep your body steady.
Option 6: Bear crawls with push ups (advanced progression)
Adding pushups to your bear crawls can really get your muscles fired up.
You’ll perform regular bear crawls but perform push ups after around 5–10 steps forward.
For example, you may move five bear crawls forward, then perform five pushups, then continue forward another five crawls, then perform another five pushups, and so on.
There are many ways to make bear crawls easier or more challenging. Though, you should always prioritize good form before advancing to new variations.
To ensure you’re doing bear crawls properly and effectively, consider these tips:
- Wrist pain. If bear crawls hurt your wrists, ball your hands into fists and stand on your knuckles, which will reduce pressure on your wrists.
- Keep your hips level. A common mistake is to lift your hips high, which reduces stress on your core and upper body and makes the exercise less effective. Try to keep your hips parallel and square to the ground. A useful cue is to imagine a glass of water on your back that you don’t want to fall.
- Keep your knees off the ground. Bear crawls are challenging because you’re holding your knees above the ground. For best results, keep your core tight and knees hovering over the ground the entire time.
- Limit side to side movement. To target your core, try to avoid swaying your hips from side to side. Additionally, keep your hands and feet around hip-distance apart.
- Avoid large steps. Take steps that are comfortable but don’t have you reaching too far. Focusing on good form will yield the best results.
- Go at your own pace. If you’re struggling to perform bear crawls, go at a pace and distance that works for you. You can also take a break every few steps as needed.
The goal of bear crawls is to keep your core stable and knees elevated as you crawl forward. Be sure to keep your hips level, knees off the ground, and core engaged the entire time.
Though bear crawls are safe for most people, they may not be suitable for some.
If you’re in the later stages of pregnancy, performing bear crawls may be uncomfortable since you’re carrying additional weight in your mid-section. It’s always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before adding in new exercises during pregnancy.
Those with wrist or shoulder injuries should consult their healthcare provider before starting bear crawls as the exercise puts strain on those areas. Though, as your injury heals, this exercise may be a good alternative to lifting heavier loads.
If you have any injuries or are pregnant, consult a healthcare provider before trying bear crawls.
Bear crawls are a fun and challenging exercise that will have your core on fire.
They’re a good option for those looking for a full-body workout with minimal equipment or anyone looking to switch up their normal exercise routine.
You can add bear crawls during any part of your workout and can perform them anywhere that has an open area, making them a very versatile and convenient exercise.
Give bear crawls a shot during your next workout — rawring optional.