Crawl like a Bear

First published in Obstacle Race Magazine

Obtacle Race Magazine

Feb 2014

By Michael Cohen

Animal Movements are part of the functional natural movements that we teach at Wild Forest Gym Obstacle Course Racing, which are key skills when obstacle racing.

In this edition of ORM we look at the bear crawl, which is a quadrupedal movement i.e. a movement that uses all four limbs.

Physical Benefits

First of all lets look at the physical benefits:

  • Development of propreception skills i.e. the awareness of how your body parts connect and move.
  • Increase in range of movement to your ankles, hips, wrists and toes.
  • Co-ordination of hands and feet.
  • Development of core abdominal strength.
  • Strengthening of quads, arms and shoulders.
  • Strengthening and dexterity of fingers and hands.

Obstacle Racing Benefits

Done correctly it is effective, efficient fast and safe form of locomotion that is required in obstacle racing. Crawling techniques are a vital skill in many obstacles such as:

  • Cargo and camouflage net crawling.
  • Pipe crawling.
  • Stream crawling
  • Mud trenches.
  • Challenging hill ascents when steep, slippery, muddy, wet or loose stones
  • Claw and gripping slippery ground or surfaces.
  • Or simply when you are too fatigued to climb or walk any more

Powering on

The Bear Crawl will enable you to gain control and power up a slope or under cargo nets. On all 4’s you are a total powerhouse, using all 4 limbs just like a jaguar would. Nothing gets in your way.

We recently undertook a hill scramble test with a team of Spartans. The terrain was steep and it was loose underfoot. First of all we got them to run up normally. Then we got them to combine running and crawling. The key was to only resort to crawling when the terrain required them to. In 100% of the cases each Spartan found the combination of crawling more efficient, more effective and less fatiguing than running.

The key factor when scrambling uphill is that by resorting to all 4’s your general centre of mass (GCM) is lower to the ground, which also reduces air resistance. Plus the Ground Reaction Force i.e. resistance against the ground, is nearly doubled by using all 4 limbs.

Safety Benefits

  • Reduce risk of knee contact injuries. In particular skin cuts and abrasions.

Bear Crawl Technique

Step 1

Practice on a flat soft surface in order to develop correct technique.

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  • Position your left hand underneath your left shoulder and your right hand about 6″ forward of your right shoulder.
  • Position your left knee under your hip and your right knee positioned about 6” behind your right hip.
  • Tuck your toes under.
  • Next engage your core and abdominal muscles to position your spine in a straight, neutral position and stabilize your pelvis. As you engage your core raise your knees approximately 1-2″ off the ground.
  • Now rock forward and back until you find your general centre of mass equally between your hands and feet.

Step 2

Keep your core engaged for the entire exercise.

  • Keep your knees at all times within 2″ of the ground, but not touching it. This will stop your hips from rising. By also having your hips low will enable you to look ahead.
  • Together move your left hand and right foot forward.
  • Then do the same with the right hand and left foot.
  • You now have a forward movement.
  • Make sure that your knees and hips do not turn out to the side.

Advanced Steps

Crawling on uneven ground, muddy, steep and rutted slopes.

Watch the Bear Crawl Instruction Video.

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