Bear Crawls and You

If I told you about a great training idea that was free and readily available, you might wonder what the catch is to this deal. Let me tell you this: for “conditioning,” whatever that means now, and basic upper body strength training nothing might beat the wrestling and football standard drill, the Bear Crawl.


It’s simple to teach: put your hands on the ground and keeping just your toes and hands in contact with the earth, crawl forward like a bear. If that was all you did, that would be pretty good. It is inefficient for us to move like this, so there is a caloric burn, but breathing is also difficult and you need to aggressively move your spine to simply see where you are going.


I have a few suggestions to turn this simple move into a fun finisher or quick workout when you don’t have time. First, try not to just move forward. Moving sideways is a bit of a challenge, but backing up with any grace and dignity takes a bit of work. With a friend, have them call out “forward, left, right or back” for up to a minute. I do suggest wearing gloves; I usually use the kind for yardwork as you never now what is going to be on the ground. A tiny rock smashed with full force into your palm hurts more than you think.


My favorite combo is “Bear/Bear.” With a partner, find a plate (probably a 45) or a heavy bag (I use a duffle bag filled with salt for water softeners up to 150 pounds) and give it a bear hug. Start walking. Your partner moves beside you doing the bear crawl. Halfway to a target, say 100 yards, exchange. When you get to the target, rest a bit, flip around and finish it off. The hit on your breathing is extraordinary.


For football players, I use a variation that you might find helpful. Football is a game of changing levels, so we mix deadlifts with Bear Crawls. The combination seems simple, but crawling away after the hit of a set of deadlifts is pretty taxing at first. Strive for five reps with a reasonable load in the DL and go away as fast as you can and stop when your speed and technique begin to wane.


Bear Crawling is free and you can do it anywhere. Add a little to your training and see if you can come up with more variations.

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