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January 2021 Issue
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The bear essentials

The bear crawl. Photo: Graeme Stevens

The bear crawl exercise builds core strength and stability, and it may come in handy in wild weather. 

The bear crawl utilises several muscles at one time and by using muscles together, you can create greater stability, strength and endurance.

My partner and I called on this movement on a Tararua ridgetop recently when we were exposed to fierce winds and couldn’t stand upright. The bear crawl allowed us to move across safely.

This exercise also strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles – the extensor muscle group responsible for keeping us erect when we become fatigued and there’s a temptation to hunch your back and take the load on your shoulders.

Here’s how to do the bear crawl

  1. Begin by activating your lower abdominals – gently draw your navel towards your spine, creating a hollow to tighten the muscles which support your back and initiate other muscles to add support. (You could use a stick, as pictured, to ensure you keep your spine straight and prevent your hips from swaying from side to side as you crawl.)
  2. On all fours, with hands placed under the shoulders, reach forwards with one hand and the opposite leg, and then repeat alternating between right arm/left leg and left arm/right leg. During locomotion, keep the hips from swaying as you move.
  3. Keep knees low to the ground and your back parallel. For an extra challenge, try going in reverse.
  4. Complete three 10m crawls.


The Super Bear
For better balance, try the super bear exercise:

  1. Activate your lower abdominals as with the bear crawl.
  2. Crawl as above, but extend your arms and legs straight in front and behind you as you go.
  3. Try completing a bear crawl for five steps, then extend opposite limbs in a super bear for five reps, then repeat.

– Graeme Stevens is a movement coach