Why The Bear Crawl Exercise Is The Ultimate Full-Body Move

It'll work you from head to toe.

How to do the bear crawl exercise for a full-body burn.
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If you’re in the market for an exercise that targets all your muscles at once, look no further than the bear crawl. This move gets you low to the ground as you lumber forward on all fours (kind of like a bear) for an effective full-body workout.

The bear crawl exercise is bodyweight-based and utilizes all four limbs at once, says Colby Landry, a NASM-certified personal trainer with Tempo. It’s a move you can do at home or in the gym for a head-to-toe burn. It’s also used in physical therapy settings, says Michael Jones, CMT, a certified personal trainer and movement and mobility specialist, because it’s just so darn good for you.

The semi-complicated crawling motion helps improve your coordination while simultaneously strengthening all the major muscle groups, like the shoulders, chest, core, and quads, Jones says. And because you have to hold yourself up as you go, it also challenges your core strength and stability as well as your balance. Bear crawls are also good for shoulder mobility, Landry says, as they help develop strength in the shoulders.

What makes this move even better is that you don’t need equipment to give it a try. Plus, it’s perfect for all levels. The bear crawl can be done at a slow pace, making it suitable for beginners, or you can amp up the speed to strengthen your muscles while adding a cardio element, says Jones. Read on below for more info on how to do the bear crawl exercise.

How To Do A Bear Crawl

Here, Landry explains how to do a bear crawl using good form.

- Start in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

- Tuck your toes under and hover your knees slightly off the ground.

- Keep your back flat.

- Move one hand and the opposite foot to crawl forward.

- Alternate sides, now moving the opposite hand and foot forward.

- Aim to crawl for 30 seconds.

- Repeat 3 to 5 rounds.

- Take a break whenever necessary.

- Add more time to your intervals as the bear crawl becomes easier.

Bear Crawl Exercise Variations


If you’re trying a bear crawl for the first time, Landry recommends starting off with a static hold. Instead of crawling forward, simply lift your knees and hover for a few seconds, then release. You can even keep your knees on the floor to practice the tabletop position, then build up from there.

Jones says beginners can also do partial reps by shaving off some of the time that they’re crawling. “This means you'll only crawl for a certain distance before standing up and resting for a few seconds,” he says. “You'll be able to complete more bear crawls overall by doing partial reps without tiring yourself out too much.”

To make the move more challenging, simply add more time or distance as you crawl forward, Landry says. Jones also recommends picking up your speed. “By increasing the speed, you will not only increase the heart rate but also challenge your coordination and balance,” he says.

It’s also an option to do lateral or side-to-side bear crawls, Landry says. Or, you can really switch things up by bear crawling backwards.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

One of the most common bear crawling mistakes? Lifting the hips. “You want to stay away from lifting the hips too high,” Landry says. “Keep the back as flat as it would be in a plank position.” That way you’ll effectively engage your core and feel the burn.

It’s also important to maintain a straight line with your torso. “When crawling, your hips and shoulders should stay aligned,” Jone says. “If you start to hunch over or let your hips drop, it puts unnecessary strain on your back and makes the exercise less effective.”

To bear crawl with good form, keep your knees as low as possible and your head up. “It is essential to keep your gaze forward to avoid neck strain,” Jones adds. “You should also keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to protect your lower back.” And just like that, you’ll be bear crawling with the best of them.


Colby Landry, NASM-certified personal trainer with Tempo

Michael Jones, CMT, certified personal trainer, movement and mobility specialist