Move of the Week: Forward-Backward Bear Crawl

April showers bring May flowers, right?

THE MOVE: Forward-Backward Bear Crawl

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Core and corrective: core stability.

WHY DO IT: Crawling, like rolling, is one of the first motor abilities that we develop as babies. We have to get around somehow, right? Eventually, we gain the ability to walk and run as we learn and develop.

However, as the years go by, we lose the ability to do those elementary things. This can be assessed by movement screens like the FMS, which is part of our assessment process for all new members here at Halevy Life. It can be surprising how difficult just being in a quadruped position–on your hand and knees–can be.

Let’s take that a step further and get into the bear position on your hands and toes. Now let’s try crawling, or even the Bear Dog, which we featured in a previous MotW. Point is, it doesn’t get any easier.

These elementary patterns actually require a lot of core control and a refined synchronization of opposing body parts. Any time you take a hand or foot off the floor, you must stabilize your core to maintain position. Even more so if you take both a hand and foot off the floor.

This is the basis of crawling. It’s a continuous series in which the opposite arm and leg move together to produce locomotion. In order to keep your torso straight and your hips from hiking up, the core has to work overtime in anti-rotation. It turns out that the majority of us actually do not know how to do this proficiently at all!

Today’s move aims to teach just that. Crawling forward is relatively easy, but many people will find that crawling backwards gives them trouble. The idea is the same though. Opposite limbs still move together, but when you are required to maintain good core control in both directions, this exercise immediately becomes more challenging.

HOW TO DO IT: This exercise is deceptively simple, in that I could easily explain it to you. Execution is a different story. Start in what we like to call the bear position, which is on your hands and knees. In this position, your hands should be under your shoulders, and knees under your hips.

Without shifting at all in your torso, lift your right arm up and your left foot off the floor at the same time. Put both of these down a little higher than where they were previously. Now do the same thing with your left arm and right foot. Repeat this to continue crawling forward.

Crawling backwards is the same idea. Make sure to lift both opposing limbs off the floor first before replacing them a little lower than where they were. Don’t rush through this.

In order to do this right, you should keep a couple of things in mind. Just like you should walk before you run, you should think about lifting your hands and feet off the floor BEFORE moving them forward/backward. Also, think about taking small steps and try to make sure that the opposing limbs move the same distance every time.

To slow things down and prevent rushing, exhale through the mouth with every step. This also engages the core more and helps to maintain the tabletop position of your torso. You almost want to pretend as if there is a glass of wine on your back throughout this exercise. No one likes spilled wine.

Finally, when it comes to crawling backwards, think about pushing yourself away from the floor with every step. I find that this generates the necessary momentum to get into a good rhythm so that your opposing limbs can move together.

Today’s move works great in the beginning of the workout as a warm-up exercise, or paired up as the secondary exercise to a big lift in a superset. Something like a back squat/bear crawl pairing can be a good one, for example. I’d recommend doing the Forward-Backward Bear Crawl for 2-3 sets of 5 reps/side in both directions. 10 steps forward, 10 steps backward. If you’re looking for a fun core challenge, give this a shot! Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and received his Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.