Bear Crawl Benefits: Purpose Explained

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 31, 2022

The bear crawl is an exercise favored by crossfit athletes and weekend gym warriors alike for its lack of equipment requirements and variable training intensity, being capable of acting as either a simple warm-up exercise or an intense full-body fat burning agility challenge depending on the exerciser’s particular goals.

With such a variable level of intensity and wide range of muscles activated, it should be no surprise that the bear crawl imparts quite a few beneficial effects to exercisers or physical rehabilitation patients that choose to incorporate it into their workout regime or recovery program.

These benefits of the bear crawl are numerous and not solely reserved towards the pursuit of athletic endeavors, as such things like a reduction in body fat, a lower chance of spinal injuries and even an improved circulatory system function can all be obtained from performing the bear crawl exercise.

What is the Bear Crawl?

In its most technical definition, the bear crawl exercise is considered a compound type movement of the calisthenic or bodyweight variety, of which by extension is also classified as an open kinetic chain exercise due to its highly mobile nature and limb placement.

bear crawl movement

Being the very definition of a compound exercise, the bear crawl – when performed with proper form – is capable of activating practically every muscle group found in the human body, though there is a particular focus on the abdominal stabilizers, deltoid or shoulder muscles, quadriceps femoris located on the front of the thighs as well as the various muscles located along the back.

As such, the bear crawl is known to be an excellent full body workout that allows an athlete to save time in lieu of performing various isolation exercises, though it may also act perfectly as a simple warm-up movement if performed at a slower speed and lower range of repetitions – thereby reducing its intensity.

For What Purpose is the Bear Crawl Performed?

Considering the fact that the bear crawl is capable of a varying level of training intensity despite its ability to train practically every muscle group in the body, the particular purpose of said exercise may also be quite variable.

This may be seen in the fact that the bear crawl is performed by athletes at an extremely high level in their sport, where the bear crawl can act as both an explosive training exercise as well as an agility builder alongside its capacity as an aerobic endurance drill.

On the other end of the spectrum, the bear crawl is also performed as a therapeutic exercise for individuals with light to moderate soft tissue injuries that require some level of physical therapy be performed in order to facilitate the recovery of said injury.

This is due to the ability of the bear crawl to activate the core to such an extent that it attains the effects of muscular hypertrophy and improved neurological control, stabilizing the patient’s trunk as well as reducing the chance of further injury via both improved flexibility and tissue strength.

Who can Receive the Benefits of the Bear Crawl?

The bear crawl may be performed at practically any intensity a healthy individual would be capable of – though certain cases such as individuals with neurological disorders, a history of connective tissue injuries or even members of the population of elderly or very young age should all necessitate counselling of a physician prior to performing the bear crawl.

However, if one does not belong to these particular groups and is capable of performing the bear crawl with no risk of adverse effects to their person, the succeeded benefits of doing so may emerge quite quickly, with certain positive effects being noticeable within a single workout session.

How Long Should the Bear Crawl be Performed to Achieve its Benefits?

The answer to this particular question lies in the specific purpose that one is performing the bear crawl for – with individuals wishing to improve their physical endurance or athletic capacity needing to perform the exercise for a longer length of time in order to maximize such benefits.

However, other exercisers such as those wishing to simply warm-up prior to a workout or those wishing to burn a moderate number of calories need not perform the bear crawl for very long, with a single set of only fifteen to twenty seconds being sufficient enough to achieve such effects.

For other purposes such as inducing muscular hypertrophy and neurological adaptation in the exerciser’s core muscles, the length of time will be quite variable, and depend largely on said exerciser’s own level of experience in performing such exercises.

What are the Benefits of the Bear Crawl?

The benefits of performing the bear crawl are quite numerous, especially when choosing to count not only those particular effects that are native to the bear crawl exercise but also the sort that may be experienced by performing any sort of resistance exercise.

bear crawl benefits

As such, listing each and every single benefit to the bear crawl would be quite excessive, and we have instead chosen to focus only on the aforementioned effects that are found primarily from performing the bear crawl and exercises similar to it.

Athletic Benefits

Being a bodyweight exercise classified as both aerobic and a resistance exercise, the bear crawl is prime among many other exercises that impart a distinct improvement in an individual’s athletic capacity, with the bear crawl being capable of inducing the sort of training stimuli that aids in excelling at wide variety of sports and other athletic endeavors.

Athletes wishing to improve their ability in a particular sport will find that incorporating the bear crawl into their exercise routine around the end of the workout will both improve their ability to function under highly physically intense stress as well as improve their ability to perform certain physical feats.

Core Benefits

Considering the fact that the bear crawl is primarily performed in a push-up or plank position wherein the abdominal stabilizer muscles and obliques are put under both isometric tension as well as dynamic tension during the movement of the exerciser’s torso, performing the bear crawl for the purposes of training one’s core is a rather advisable decision.

This is best seen in individuals that do not already have some sort of abdominal exercise present in their workout routine, with the bear crawl being able to fulfill the roles of such exercises like the plank or the crunch while also being added on top of its various other benefits as a bonus.

Generally, exercisers choosing to perform the bear crawl for the purposes of training their core should perform slower repetitions with a larger focus on activating their abdominal muscles between each portion of the exercise’s movement, thereby inducing the most training stimuli in the area.

Agility Benefits

Agility in the context of sports and athleticism is primarily characterized by the usage of an exerciser’s total-body strength and capacity for physical endurance, both of which are among the primary benefits accrued by performing the bear crawl in a more intense manner.

As such, even in instances wherein the athlete is not directly choosing to perform the bear crawl exercise for the purposes of agility training, it is still likely that this particular benefit will still occur, improving their general function not only in athletic endeavors but also in daily life.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Due to the sustained level of tension found throughout the body during the performance of the bear crawl for any period of time, the cardiovascular group of bodily systems can experience some level of training stimuli as well, with the muscular tissues of the exerciser requiring a greater level of oxygen than can be readily provided for.

As such, the body will make improvements to the general function of the circulatory and respiratory systems so as to facilitate the exerciser’s capacity to perform the bear crawl and other aerobic exercises that tax said bodily systems.

This can be furthered by performing sets of the bear crawl exercise at shorter intervals of rest, allowing the muscles to recover as lactic acid levels are reduced while the heart rate is still elevated and thereby still under the strain of the training stimuli.

Fat-burning Benefits

Being both a rather intense aerobic exercise as well as the fact that the bear crawl can activate the majority of the muscle groups located throughout the human body, it is no surprise that individuals wishing to burn calories through means of exercise can easily achieve their goals with this particular calisthenics exercise.

Generally, sets of approximately fifteen to twenty seconds each at a moderate to high intensity should burn quite a significant amount of calories in comparison to other bodyweight exercises, though the particular amount will depend on the individual’s bodyweight, metabolism and whether they are utilizing proper form.

The Bear Crawl as a Warm-up Movement

While the bear crawl is more than capable of being a highly beneficial exercise all on its own, it is also capable of acting as a supportive warm-up movement prior to the performance of other exercises in a workout or rehabilitation program.

This is due to the fact that the bear crawl activates practically every muscle group in the body, as well as raises the heart rate by placing tension on the circulatory system of the exerciser, preparing said exerciser for the performance of more intense exercise.

In order to utilize the bear crawl as a warm-up movement without over-taxing the exerciser themselves, one can simply perform the exercise at a rather low intensity, with a short duration of time under tension per set as well as at a slower space as it is being performed so as to not drain too much energy from the body, leaving it primed for other exercises.

References

1. Willardson JM. Core stability training: applications to sports conditioning programs. J Strength Cond Res. Published 2007 August 21 (3):979-85. doi: 10.1519/R-20255.1. PMID: 17685697.

2. Jill Fanslau. (July 7 2014) “You'll Never Believe the Weird Exercise That Sculpts Your Core” Mens Health Magazine. Retrieved via Menshealth.com

3. Cugliari G, Boccia G. Core Muscle Activation in Suspension Training Exercises. J Hum Kinet. 2017 Mar 15;56:61-71. doi: 10. 1515/hukin-2017-0023. PMID: 28469744; PMCID: PMC5384053.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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