Bear Crawls and Animal Movements for Core Development

So you want great core strength and awesome abs? Sorry to break the news, but crunches and the ab machine at the gym aren’t going to get you there.

The abdominals are a large and complex muscle group best developed by movements that force you stabilize your spine. Basic barbell exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and weighted carries are a good start for building strong abs from top to bottom, but for greater development you’ll want to target them more directly. Animal movements are a perfect way of doing just that.

What are animal movements? In a nut shell, they’re exercises where you move your body in ways that mimic different types animals. Bear, alligator, spider, chameleon, inch worm, etc. As silly as it sounds, they make for a great core workout and hit your muscles in positive ways that you can’t replicate with any type of machine.

Why do animal movements work so well? The key to their effectiveness is that you’re down on all fours, so gravity is pulling you in a different direction than you’re used to which recruits muscles that you normally don’t use. More critically, while on all fours, your core forms a bridge between your hands and feet that must stay tight to stabilize your spine and transmit the forces from your arms and legs into movement.

Here’s a rundown of the top animal movements for core/ab development…

Bear Crawl – probably the best known animal movement and my personal favorite. Get down on your hands and feet and crawl across the floor with your knees just a few inches above the ground and your back parallel to the ground. In many ways it’s like doing a moving plank. This one will drill your abs from top to bottom, plus give some extra work to your hip flexors, quads, shoulders, and triceps.

Alligator – similar to the bear crawl except you keep your body lower to the ground and you touch your knee to your elbow at the end of each “step”, both of which add to the difficulty of the exercise! This one is an advanced exercise that requires significant upper body strength.

Inch Worm – start standing up, then bend over at the waist and lean forward to put your hands on the floor. Keeping legs straight, use your hands to walk yourself out until you’re in the plank position and then drop your hips towards the ground. Now raise your hips back up and use your feet to walk your lower body forward while your hands stay on the ground. It’s how an inch work moves – get it? This one is easier than bear crawls and has the benefit of giving you a better stretch in your back and hamstrings.

Chimp walk – get on all fours (hands and feet), shift your weight onto your hands and hop your legs to the side. Then move your hands to the side as you shift your weight back onto your feet. Repeat to move sideways across the room. The more you’re able to shift your weight onto your hands and control the leg hop, the more core work you’ll get.

Some links with video demos and more variations:

Crawling Exercises – 21 Fun Crawls To Include In Your Workouts

How to Move Like a Monkey

Work some animal movements into your weekly routine, and I guarantee you’ll be rewarded with better abs and a stronger core that translates to stronger and safer lifting inside and outside the gym. You might even enjoy yourself mimicking an animal – certainly more than you would slaving away on a boring and inferior ab machine.

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