Fitness Tips

The Bear Crawl Exercise Works Your Shoulders (and Your Core) Better Than a Push-Up

Rachel Lapidos

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Photo: Getty Images/LumiNola

If you’re doing push-ups in proper form, your upper body—especially your shoulders—will start to burn by, say, your fifth rep, which is why the common instruction to “drop and gimme 20” is such a feat. Push-ups are the kind of upper body exercise that’s always good to turn to for building strength. But according to one trainer, the bear crawl exercise is a more challenging move for your arms and shoulders that also works your entire body.

“In regards to arms and upper body workouts, I would recommend a bear crawl,” says Devon Lévesque, a fitness guru and Performix House partner (who is actually training to do a bear crawl marathon of 26.2 miles to benefit veterans). He points out that your chest can get really tight during push-ups, which can make it hard to maintain mobility as you work through reps. “The bear crawl exercise is great for people that want to develop more strength in their shoulders and their arms. You’re going to be activating your entire body, and your shoulders will be on fire as well as your core.”

Crawling like a bear hits every muscle in your body since the exercise requires you to balance in a hovering position as you move forward and backwards, carrying your bodyweight. It’s essentially a bear plank, which involves being on all fours with your knees underneath your hips slightly raised off of the ground and your hands underneath your shoulders, but with movement added for more of a challenge.

Unlike push-ups, the bear crawl exercise challenges your balance and stability on top of your arm and core strength… which makes them the exercise to try if you’re looking to up the ante in your upper body workouts.

How to do the bear crawl exercise

1. Get into quadruped position with your shoulders over your wrists and your knees at a 90-degree angle under your hips.
2. Lift your knees a few inches off of the floor as you maintain a flat back. Levesque says that you should be able to put something on your back without it falling over throughout the entire exercise.
3. Crawl forward by placing your right arm ahead of you along with your left leg—keeping it bent—followed by your left arm and right leg.
4. As you move, keep your hips as still as possible, your core activated, and your back straight.

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