Bear Walks For Full Body Strength And Mobility

Walking around on all fours like a burly bear 🐻 may seem like an odd exercise at first, but Bear Walks are one of the most athletic movements you could (and should) be doing regularly to achieve more strength, stability, and flexibility.

The Bear is a type of locomotion movement, which has you moving your full body through space. With the Bear, you’re doing your best to mimic how a bear would walk in the woods, all the while strengthening your back, arms, and shoulders.

The Bear is known as an “animal” movement, similar to the other movements we teach, such as the Frogger or Monkey walks.

These movements are often used for strength and conditioning, and sport-specific training for martial arts and gymnastics. When you get good at this movement, you’ll start having fun while building strength and flexibility that makes all other exercise easier.

💡 To learn more about these benefits, check out our locomotion page.

How To Do The Basic Bear

Step 1: Start on all fours with your arms straight and a slight bend in your knees.Step 2: Lift and move your right hand and left foot forward.Step 3: Lift and move your left hand and right foot forward, continuing this pattern to go forward or backward.

Bear Walk Variations for Strong Shoulders and a Healthy Back

Below you’ll see 5 variations of the Bear that we use in our programs.

In the video above you can see 5 main variations on the Bear:

Standard Bear – straight arms and straight legsBent Arm Bear – bent arm, straight legsBent Limbs Bear – bent arm, bent legsBent Leg Bear – straight arm, bent legs (AKA “Sexy Bear”)Bent Elbow Bear – starts with straight arm, straight legs, but the elbow bends to touch the ground after each step

📝 Note that these are variations rather than typical “progressions” you see in most workout programs.

The variation you choose to work on should be based on what your personal needs are.

If you want to build more shoulder strength, working on the bent arm bear would be a good choice. If you wanted to work on core stabilization and balance, you could use the Sexy Bear variation.

As you get familiar with the basic Bear, we encourage you to try out the other variations and play with them to see what you most need and want to work on.

Cross-Step Bear Crawl Variation for Greater Coordination and Stability Challenge

Besides shifting more weight toward either the arms, shoulders, or legs to build strength, you can also explore twisting the center line to challenge your balance and coordination.

By shifting the weight from side-to-side, you get the hips and shoulders working in different ranges of motion and force the core to stabilize cross-body as your torso rotates.

It’s a deceptively simple tweak to the movement that makes a big difference in practice.

What If I Can’t Do the Bear Walk Exactly Like the Videos? 🤔

If the Bear seems difficult at first, we recommend you get familiar with the A-Frame. First, you’ll start in the table top position, and then you’ll move into the A-Frame.

Here’s one of our Lead Trainers, Eduardo, showing how to get into this position:

A good cue we like to use is to push your hips up as far as you can and allow a for a slight bend in the knees. This will help open your shoulders and straighten the spine.

Some people notice their wrists get sore from supporting their bodies with their hands. If you experience this, check out our wrist routine.

Even More Bear Crawl Variations and Their Benefits

Variation Benefits
Standard Bear • Scapular strength through concentric and isometric protraction, eccentric and isometric retraction, and eccentric control of elevation
• Rotator cuff strength to control eccentric internal rotation and concentric, isometric external rotation
• Spinal strength for isometric extension, rotation, and flexion
• Hamstring and calf flexibility
Bent Arm Bear • Elbow strength
• Spinal strength and controlled mobility
• Hamstring and calf flexibility
Bent Limbs Bear • Elbow stability
• Knee stability
• Spinal strength for isometric rotation, extension, and flexion
Bent Leg Bear • Rotator cuff strength
• Knee strength
• Spinal strength and controlled mobility
Bent Elbow Bear • Elbow strength
• Rotator cuff strength
• Spinal strength

The Bear Walk requires a lot of full body strength and coordination due to fact you’re moving on all fours, so you might need to pay attention to moving each hand with the opposite foot. For example, when you pick up your right hand, you’ll also move your left foot.

This animal movement is great for strengthening your spine, upper back, and shoulders, and can help you improve your hamstring and hip flexibility. It’s also great for decompressing the spine because of the inverted position.

As you get comfortable with the Bear, it’ll translate to other movements as well, like the Monkey and Frogger.

Here’s GMB Trainer Eduardo showing us some variations of the Bear we use to build up shoulder strength:

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How To Train The Bear

The Bear is useful for developing strong shoulders, arms, and the ability to support your body weight on your hands. And that prepares you for skills like push-ups, inverted presses, and eventually handstands.

A stronger core, shoulder stability, and better coordination carries over to strength sports and anything that requires dynamic movement like martial arts or even swinging a racket (or tossing your kid in the pool without getting hurt).

Working through Bear Walks for 4-5 minutes can be great for getting your full body warm before a work out, and could replace a traditional warm-up protocol that might consist of general movements that don’t serve any other purpose than getting some blood flow going.

If you want to include The Bear with other locomotion patterns to provide a broad base of fundamental strength, flexibility, and motor control, you could just get Elements.

Be Stronger & More Capable With a Foundation in the Basics

With Elements, you’ll get strong, flexible, and agile using various animal movements, helping you move well without restriction.

GMB Elements Details


Your Foundation for Physical Autonomy

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