The time has come, the final installment of the 3 part series on improving your stability. Like many exercises there are so many possible variations that make Bear Crawls appropriate for beginners and athletes. Before we move on, check out the links below to recap the first two parts to the series. We had a list of three exercises as follows:
1. Prone Kneeling Hip Extension
2. Shoulder Taps
3. Bear Crawls
Bear Crawls are great for warm ups or as part of your workout. You can move in any direction, combine patterns and even add weight to push and/or pull along with you. By activating the entire body, not only will Bear Crawls improve full body strength, stability and mobility but it will increase your coordination as well.
Start in a 4 point kneel on your hands and knees. Wrists should be directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips. Tilt your pelvis accordingly to establish a neutral back. Bring your knees off the ground so that they are a couple of inches in the air. Move opposite arm and leg, so your right arm will move with the left leg and left arm with the right leg. This is where the coordination challenge comes into play. Try and keep your back flat and your hips nice and low. You can place a small weight (2.5lbs plate) on your low back to focus on minimizing any twisting through your torso. The less the plate moves the more control you have. Going backwards will challenge your coordination much more and you’ll likely feel your shoulders working a bit more than on the way forward. Whether you’re moving forwards, backwards, or sideways you will always be moving opposite arm and leg. This distributes your weight a little more evenly and gives you better control over your centre of gravity with some good cross body tension. Focus on keeping the movement as slow and controlled as possible. You want to avoid feeling like your body weight is falling on to one of your limbs as you step or from side to side. For me, the whole point of the bear crawl is to maintain and feel control through the entire body. Smaller steps are your friend. The less spread out your body gets the more control you will have. You don’t necessarily need to try to cover as much ground as possible as quickly as possible.
A. Ideal positioning B. Excessive pelvic til, too spread out
Whenever you perform an exercise that activates the full body you’re going to get a lot of benefit. With the bear crawl you get to work on strengthening your entire body. There is a big focus on hip and core stability while also working on mobility through the hips and thoracic region. The bonus, and what I really like about this exercise, is the strengthening of your neuromuscular connection. Bascially, this challenges your coordination and motor control. A lot. Even though all of us at some point used crawling as our main form of transportation, it’s interesting how the brain can bury that movement pattern when it hasn’t been used in decades. It’s natural it just doesn’t feel like it at first.
STEP IT UP
Once you’re comfortable you can start using the bear crawl in different ways. You can do a loaded crawl (sled, sand bag, plates, vests, etc..) and focus more towards strength. Although the main focus shifts, you are always getting those added bonuses of stability, control, mobility and coordination.
Thanks for keeping up with this series. Give these three exercises a try and see how they can help you. Feel free to ask for demos anytime at the gym!