For years, various “animal” movements and locomotive patterns have been used in calisthenics, gymnastics, martial arts, and playground games, and their positive effects reach beyond just being fun exercises.
Below are some of the main reasons we incorporate bear walking into our programs:
Strengthens contralateral movement (right leg moving forward with left arm, and right arm moving forward with left leg)
Provides an isometric contraction of the serratus anterior muscle (a key stabiliser of the shoulder blade)
The muscles of the rotator cuff experience unique stimulation from the bear walk compared to traditional strength based rotator cuff exercises
De-emphasis of the often over-worked upper trapezius muscle. The active scapular protraction and shoulder elevation that happens when you take the body upside down encourages upper trapezius contraction under a lessened and distinctly different loading. This unique stimulation gives the upper trapezius a break from the usual pattern, which in turn can alleviate the effects of overwork from repetitive daily strain.
Encourages mobility and control for backward bending and rotation of the thoracic spine, the two primary issues in the upper back for many people.
There is a decreased loading and compression to the low back while practicing the Bear.
While traveling in the Bear, the upper body becomes the stabilising counterforce as the load comes down through the hands and upper body, whereas in standing, sitting, and walking, the low back takes the brunt of that force.
Please see link below for a tutorial of how to perform the bear walk.
Initially the bear walk will feel blocky and segmental, your goal is to bear walk with control. It should feel smooth, flow well and not be forced. To start, target 1 minute of bear walking continuously and build up to 5 minutes over a number of weeks.