Bear crawls are an excellent full-body workout that can be done anywhere, anytime, without equipment. As a compound bodyweight exercise, the bear crawl engages multiple muscle groups, including the core, shoulders, chest, and legs. We’ll look closer at the muscles worked during bear crawls, the benefits of this exercise, and how to do it with perfect form.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Perform the Bear Crawl with Proper Form
- 2 Bear Crawl Benefits
- 3 Bear Crawl Muscles Worked
- 4 Bear Crawl FAQs
- 5 Other Exercise Posts
- 5.1 The 8 Best Deadlift Benefits
- 5.2 Seated Cable Row Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 5.3 Side Plank Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 5.4 Lat Pulldown Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.5 Decline Bench Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.6 How to Squat with Perfect Form
- 5.7 Inverted Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.8 Leg Extension Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.9 The Top 10 Pull-up Muscles Worked
- 5.10 Arnold Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.11 How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
- 5.12 Barbell Row Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Form
- 5.13 How to Do a Lat Pulldown with Proper Form
- 5.14 The Top 10 Muscles Worked by Planks
- 5.15 Bulgarian Split Squats Muscles Worked & Benefits
- 5.16 The Top 5 Leg Press Muscles Worked
- 5.17 Romanian Deadlift Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 5.18 Incline Bench Press Muscles Worked and Benefits
How to Perform the Bear Crawl with Proper Form
- Start on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Keep back flat and core engaged.
- Lift knees off ground so body forms straight line from head to heels. Knees should form a 90-degree angle in the hovering tabletop position.
- Begin moving forward by simultaneously moving right hand and left foot forward. Knees should never touch the ground.
- Continue moving forward in this alternating fashion, keeping body in a straight line and core engaged.
- Cover as much distance as desired, then rest and repeat for as many sets as needed.
Check out this helpful video from Scott Herman Fitness for a visual demonstration of the bear crawl.
Bear Crawl Form Tips
- Brace core
- Stay on balls of feet
- Keep hips and shoulders aligned
- Go at controlled pace
- Keep neck neutral
Bracing the core muscles during a bear crawl is crucial for stability, control, and injury prevention. Engaging the core helps maintain a neutral spine, supports the lower back, and enhances overall body coordination. Activating the core creates a solid foundation, allowing for efficient movement and optimal performance during the bear crawl exercise.
Stay on balls of feet
Proper foot placement is essential for balance, agility, and good form. Crawling smoothly with the heels planted or feet up on tiptoes is difficult and uncomfortable. Staying on the balls of the feet distributes weight evenly, allowing for quick transitions and smooth movement.
Keep hips and shoulders aligned
Resist the temptation to pike the hips too far toward the sky. Keep a few inches between the knees and the floor to keep the spine neutral and straight. When the knees lift too high, the exercise is less effective for the core and upper body.
Go at controlled pace
Moving too slowly in a bear crawl reduces the endurance challenge for the target muscle groups and cardiovascular system. Moving too fast will likely disrupt balance and control, reducing how effectively it engages the lower and upper body muscles. Increasing the tempo can add a challenge once the bear crawl feels comfortable and safe.
Keep neck neutral
Keep gazing directly between the hands during a bear crawl to protect the neck and upper spine. Looking forward can feel natural to see direction, but it can cause the neck to crunch and cause pain or injury. Choose a space to bear crawl where you can safely look straight down while avoiding colliding with people or objects.
Bear Crawl Common Mistakes
- Steps are too short
- Hips too high
- Letting shoulders droop
- Dropping belly
- Shifting hips laterally
Steps are too short
The bear crawl works the core primarily by challenging it to stabilize as the legs and arms work on crawling forward. Taking tiny steps reduces the challenge by minimizing the destabilizing effect and making the exercise less effective. Conversely, taking giant steps may make the movement too difficult and unsafe, so find the middle ground that works for your biomechanics and ability.
Hips too high
Keeping the hips in line with the shoulders places greater strain on the abdominals, making the exercise more effective. If the hips keep lifting, try more accessible variations, like a bear plank hold, to build the strength to perform the exercise correctly.
Letting shoulders droop
Keep actively pressing the floor away to avoid slumping in the shoulders. Keeping an active shoulder position helps protect the scapula and avoid impingement in the pec and shoulder region.
Maintaining a strong core and body alignment is crucial in a bear crawl. Avoiding the temptation to drop the belly helps protect the lower back, improves stability, and engages the entire body. Keeping the stomach lifted ensures proper form, maximizes strength development, and reduces the risk of injury during the exercise.
Shifting hips laterally
Hips that shift side-to-side can indicate that the steps taken are too long. Excessively long strides in a bear crawl can also lead to the legs drifting out laterally from under the torso. Shorten the steps to keep the legs in line with the outer edges of your torso, maintain hip stability, and reap the maximum benefits of the bear crawl.
Bear Crawl Benefits
- Builds core strength
- No equipment required
- Improves balance and coordination
- Boosts cardiovascular and muscular endurance
- Increases agility
- Engages multiple muscle groups
Builds core strength
The bear crawl is a dynamic variation of an advanced plank exercise. Keeping the torso stationary with the knees hovering while crawling forward forces the core to work to stabilize, building greater functional core strength.
No equipment required
Unlike other challenging core exercises, the bear crawl can be performed anywhere there is sufficient space to crawl forward. The bear crawl is a great full-body exercise you can do while traveling, at home, or without access to gym equipment.
Improves balance and coordination
During the bear crawl, the opposite arms and legs work together to maintain balance. These contralateral movement patterns improve coordination and balance and build greater mind-to-muscle connection.
Boosts cardiovascular and muscular endurance
Depending on how long each set of bear crawls is, the exercise challenges the muscles’ endurance throughout the body. Bear crawls can also act as a cardiovascular conditioning exercise, with continuous movement elevating the heart rate and promoting cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness.
The bear crawl is a fantastic exercise for enhancing agility. Its quadrupedal movement pattern challenges coordination, balance, and quick reflexes. Practicing bear crawls can improve mobility, agility, and overall body control, crucial skills for various sports and physical activities.
Engages multiple muscle groups
The bear crawl is a fantastic compound exercise that works the shoulders, chest, back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core muscles. Bear crawls are a highly efficient exercise for a quick but challenging full-body workout.
Bear Crawl Muscles Worked
- Rectus abdominus
- Rotator cuff
- Latissimus dorsi
The bear crawl engages the rectus abdominus, the “six-pack” region of the core muscles. Bear crawls force the abs to contract isometrically to prevent unwanted torso movement as the arms and legs crawl forward.
For more exercises to build a stronger six-pack, check out our list of the best ways to strengthen the abs.
Bear crawls engage the obliques on the sides of the torso to control the lateral motion of the arms and legs. During the bear crawl, the twisting motion of the bear crawl activates the obliques as they work to stabilize and support the body. Check out our list of the best ways to grow underdeveloped obliques to strengthen this important muscle group.
During a bear crawl, the quadriceps activate to bend and extend the knees to crawl forward or backward. This action activates the quadriceps, promoting strength, endurance, and stability in the lower body. Read our list of the best ways to strengthen the outer quads for more ideas to strengthen this muscle.
During a bear crawl, the deltoids keep the torso propped up on the hands in the crawl plank position. The deltoids stabilize the upper arms and torso as the humerus (upper arms) moves forward. For more ways to strengthen this muscle group, check out our list of the best ways to grow the front deltoids
The bear crawl engages the gluteal muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, to extend the legs and propel the body forward using the glutes as the primary power source. This activation of the gluteal muscles helps to strengthen and tone the buttocks, improving overall lower body strength and stability. Check out this list of the best cable glute exercises to complement the bear crawl.
The bear crawl engages the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. The movement pattern involves maintaining proper arm extension and supporting the body’s weight on the hands, which activates and strengthens the rotator cuff muscles.
Bear crawls engage the lats through shoulder extension, which involves moving the arms backward from a forward position, pulling them closer to the body’s midline. As you perform the bear crawl, the lats extend the shoulders, stabilize the scapulae, and support arms and upper body movement. Strong lats are essential for many functional activities. Check out our list of the best lat pulldown alternatives for creative ways to strengthen the lats.
Bear Crawl FAQs
Many bear crawl variations diversify a workout routine. The basic bear crawl works the entire body, but specific muscle groups are targeted with a few tweaks.
Sideways Bear Crawl:
The sideways bear crawl is great for lateral stability for the abdominals. The lateral bear crawl uses different muscle groups than the basic bear crawl, which moves forward and back. The lateral bear crawl works the frontal plane, often neglected in popular bilateral exercises like running and walking. Sideways bear crawls use hip abduction, and horizontal shoulder abduction challenges your coordination and balance more than a bear crawl moving forward and back.
Backward Bear Crawl:
The backward bear crawl increases shoulder tension as you push your body backward. The reverse bear crawl challenges your coordination and engages the glutes, hips, and legs while challenging the upper body.
Weighted Bear Crawl:
The weighted bear crawl is ideal for experienced athletes already adept at the standard bear crawl exercise. This bear crawl variation can be performed using a weighted vest or balancing a plate on the back. You need excellent balance, strength, and coordination for this variation, so perfect the bodyweight version before attempting a weighted variation.