Bear Crawl

How To Bear Crawl Forward, Backward, Laterally
By Alli McKeeFebruary 11, 2016

Bear Crawl Exercise

The bear crawl is a great exercise to strengthen the musculature of the anterior core and scapula stabilizers. It also strengthens the arms and legs. It is essentially a travelling plank that works the entire body.

Equipment needed:

You do not need any equipment to do this bodyweight exercise.

Ability level:


Beginners might want to perform the bear crawl on its own, and should perfect the movement before they include it with other exercises, perform the movement in multiple directions, or as part of a conditioning circuit. Beginners should master the forward bear crawl variation first.


The bear crawl exercise is a great option for lifters with an intermediate level of experience, who have mastered some of the bear crawl variations for beginners that are listed above. The bear crawl can be used as part of a general workout before compound strength exercises or conditioning circuits are performed. The bear crawl can also be used at the end of the workout as part of a core circuit. You can also make it part of a conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of a 10-25 meter bear crawl.


Women who are comfortable with the bear crawl may choose to perform the bear crawl in different directions. You can perform the lateral bear crawl and backward bear crawl, and can include these variations the same ways as described for intermediate lifters. Women who have gained the requisite levels of strength and stability can perform weighted bear crawls where they place a weight plate or chain on their mid-back, or they can opt for Prowler sled bear crawls where they perform the bear crawl while pulling the Prowler sled. You can also fire up your glutes by placing a resistance band just above your knees and/or around your ankles and performing bear crawls while lightly pressing your knees out against the band.

Benefits of Bear Crawls:

How a woman chooses to use a bear crawl is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, the length of each set, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general bear crawls can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing core strength, particularly in the anterior core
  • increasing scapular stability and the overall health of the shoulders
  • increasing full body muscular endurance
  • improving posture and the stability of the ribs, spine, and pelvis
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)

How to perform a Bear Crawl:

  • Get into a pushup position but place your hands so they are wider than shoulder width, and are slightly turned out.
  • Set your feet so they are wider than shoulder width.
  • Position your body so it's in a straight line from head to hips, and maintain this position for the duration of the exercise.
  • Your spine must remain in neutral alignment.
  • While maintaining this alignment and not allowing any rotation or collapsing to occur in the pelvis, ribs, or spine, walk forwards on your hands and feet.
  • Your steps should be relatively small, and always controlled.
  • Keep your shoulders pinned, and ribs tucked towards your hips (close the space in your midsection).
  • Make sure that you are breathing properly (deep breaths through your nose and into your belly, and exhale through your mouth).
  • Crawl for the desired distance.
  • This is how to do a bear crawl.

Video Transcription: 

There are many variations of the bear crawl but the one I like to use is the one I feel like challenges the core the most, and that’s maintaining a neutral spine while you are flexing your hip.

In order to get into this bear crawl position it’s going to be somewhat a pushup position but your hands are going to be a little bit wider and turn out slightly, and your feet are going to be a little bit wider as well.  You want to maintain a nice neutral spine with your back flat and you don’t want your butt too high in the air.  So hands are a little bit wider than shoulder width apart, feet are wider than shoulder width apart, nice neutral spine.  You’re just going to start by crawling forward,  nice small steps, crawl backwards and you can even do a lateral bear crawl.  

A couple of important things to note here is that my hips stay in line with my shoulders, that stay in line with my head.  So they are not getting too high and they also are not shifting around.  What you don’t want to do is take too big of steps or not be able to control your pelvis, and have your hips shift around   This is what that looks like. Okay, that’s what you don’t want .  You want that to stay in a nice  neutral position the entire time.  You can bear crawl forwards, you can bear crawl backwards , you can go side to side you can do whatever you like.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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