I signed one of my first ever emails at MFF as “HarryBooBear” and it’s evolved into somewhat of a nickname. When you think of bears, you likely think of a grizzly bear standing over a stream catching jumping salmon, or of a polar bear playing in the snow with a bottle of Coke. While they can be scary, we think of bears as slow, lumbering creatures.
I’ll have you know that they’re actually skilled athletes.
This capoeira clip shows that bears can demonstrate remarkable coordination and movement skills, and we’re all about that. Bears develop these abilities by practicing a plethora of crawling patterns that allow them to integrate their hips and shoulders to move well wherever they go. In the spirit of your preferred bear, let’s use bear crawls to get better at what we love to do.
Stationary Bear Crawls
Bear Crawls can be awesome for developing stability through the shoulders, trunk, and hips, and everyone can perform appropriate varieties. The simplest version that works for most isn’t even a crawl; it’s a stationary rockback drill that focuses on moving at the hips and shoulders while maintaining a neutral spine.
If you feel comfortable controlling your back throughout that rock, we can begin to move. Let’s focus on rocking forward into a small contralateral step. Pause for a moment, and return. When using these, we can try to do all of our reps on one side at a time, or alternate.
When you have ownership of the stationary bear crawl, we can being to challenge the moment of the movement when we’re actually on two limbs. During a hover, you want to maintain a flat back and be sure to breathe on all four limbs and when balanced on two.
Hovering requires a good deal of coordination, and is perfect to use when space is tight. On a similar note, the 360˚ Bear Crawl allows you to explore personal space without moving very much. Pop into a your bear crawl position, and take time to rotate to your left or right. Breath should stay relaxed throughout the movement, and step size is totally up to what satisfies your comfort/challenge continuum.
Once you’ve nailed your spin or have more room to move in, we can start using locomotive patterns to get from point A to point B. I believe that Bear Crawl routes will be available in the next Google Maps Beta.
Locomotive Bear Crawls
When space and skill allow for it, locomotive bear crawls allow you to integrate your body from your fingertips to your toes. Let’s look at a linear pattern to start us off.
Movement shouldn’t be limited to one direction, and we should have the ability to move backwards, sidways, and whichever combination we please. Crawling in a box patterns allows us to practically practice this.
If you’re not quite ready to crawl on your hands and feet for that long, we can still challenge multi-direction movement from our hands and knees. Here’s a bear crawl box on the knees:
In reality, the combinations of directions and crawling manipulations are endless. They can be implemented as a component of your warm-up, as a reset or active rest between sets of deadlifts, pull-ups, squats, etc., or as a finisher that is sure to elevate your heart rate. There is seldom a bad time to crawl, and it can come in handy if your boat ever runs aground or is stuck in ice:
The Polite Polar Bear is a sweetheart! Remember to practice good manners while crawling; help those who are in trouble, and avoid crashing into fellow crawlers.
While seemingly simple, bear crawls are incredibly effective at coordinating strength between the upper and lower body, and improve your manners. However you use it, the Bear Crawl will make you better. Let’s get stronger.