7 Best Bear Crawl Alternatives (Strong Core Substitutes)

You want the benefits of a bear crawl exercise, but either don't enjoy doing them, or you'd like to target more specific muscles. The bear crawl works your core muscles, as well as your shoulders, chest, back, hip flexors, and quads. If you're looking for the best bear crawl alternative, we've rounded up 7 core-focused substitutes for you to try.

Although the bear crawl is a great core-targeting workout, it also helps strengthen a variety of muscles all over the body. Whatever your reason for avoiding bear crawls, these alternatives will offer you some of the same benefits. This includes helping you to build a strong core, as well as work other muscles like your arms, shoulders, chest, and quads.

1. Mountain Climbers 

Mountain climbers are an excellent alternative to bear crawls if you don't have a lot of space available. The benefit of this alternative is that you’ll achieve a similar workout to bear crawls, including working your core, shoulders, chest, and quads.

Additionally, mountain climbers will offer a better cardio workout, as well as train your hamstrings and hip flexors more than bear crawls will.

How To Do Mountain Climbers:

  • Start in a quadruped position (both hands and knees are on the ground). 
  • Next, move your feet back to enter into a high plank position.  
  • Maintaining a flat back, ensure there is a straight line running from your head to your heels. 
  • Keeping your arms straight and in line with your shoulders, drive one knee up toward your chest. 
  • Bring your knee back again and repeat with the other knee. 
  • Continue this movement, alternating your legs each time. Remember to maintain a slow and steady march. Going too fast will hinder your form, and you won't work your core as efficiently. 
Mountain Climbers

2. Crab walks 

Crab walks offer an unmatched full-body workout that strengthens your joints, improves core stability and strength, and increases your cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, crab walks improve your proprioception (your body awareness) by forcing you to concentrate on your posture, coordination, and balance.

Due to the inverted position of a crab walk, you’re able to target the posterior chain muscles more than bear crawls would. These include your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back muscles.

How To Do Crab Walks:

  • Sitting on the floor, position your feet hip-distance apart in front of you with your feet flat on the ground. Place your arms in line with your shoulders, with your fingers pointing towards your hips. 
  • Next, lift your hips off the ground and engage your core. 
  • Use your arms and legs to scurry backward in a crab-like movement. You can choose to either alternate your arm with the opposite side leg or use the same side arm and leg.  
  • When you reach the end, repeat the movement again but this time, scurry forwards. 
Crab Walks

3. Renegade rows 

Renegade rows are an excellent alternative to power up your core! Like bear crawls, this exercise will target your core, shoulders, triceps, quadriceps, chest, and hip flexors.

Additionally, it improves balance and coordination. Depending on your strength level, you can opt either to do this exercise with just your bodyweight or add dumbbells to make it more challenging. Adding weight will allow you to target your upper back muscles more.

How To Do Renegade Rows:

  • In a high plank position, place both your hands and your feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re using dumbells, place them vertically to match the position of your body. 
  • Brace your core and maintain square hips and shoulders. Be sure not to allow your hips to sway. 
  • Holding the dumbbell, drive your hand up toward your armpit. If you’re not able to go all the way up, opt for a lighter weight. 
  • Bring the dumbbell back to the ground and repeat the movement with the other hand. 
Renegade Rows

4. Spiderman Push-Ups 

Spiderman push-ups are another great variation of the bear crawl that doesn't require a lot of space. With this alternative exercise, the focus is primarily on your core, chest, and triceps. In addition, spiderman push-ups will help to improve your shoulder mobility, as well as your balance and coordination.

How To Do Spiderman Push-Ups:

  • In an upright push-up position, place your feet together with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Lower yourself down into the push-up, simultaneously bringing your knee up toward your elbow. To ensure your arms are at the correct angle, you should be creating a triangle shape when your knee is touching your arm. 
  • Return your leg to its original position and repeat the movement with the other leg. 
  • Continue to alternate each leg as you go. 
Spiderman Push-Ups

5. Walkouts 

If you’re looking to strengthen your core while also improving your balance, coordination, and shoulder mobility - walkouts are the ideal bear crawl alternative! In addition to targeting your core, walkouts help strengthen your shoulders, triceps, chest, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors too.

This compound exercise is also sometimes referred to as “the inchworm” and is often used as a plank variation as well. It hits the abs especially hard and is a fairly advanced exercise.

How To Do Walkouts:

  • Stand in an upright position, with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Hinge at your hips, reaching down to the ground with your hands. If you aren’t flexible enough to keep your legs straight, bend your knees slightly.  
  • Walk your hands out until they’re situated beneath your shoulders in an upright plank position.  
  • Then, walk your hands back toward your toes.  
  • Once you reach your toes again, hinge your hips and stand up straight.  
  • Repeat the movement for your desired amount of repetitions.  

6. Push-Up Shoulder Taps 

Push-up shoulder taps are an excellent bear crawl alternative exercise that will primarily target your triceps and chest, while also strengthening your core. Although this substitute doesn’t target the hip flexors as much, it does help to improve your overall balance and coordination.

The key to this exercise is to remember that the wider your feet are, the easier it will be. To get the most out of the workout, keep your feet positioned as close together as possible to suit your strength level. 

How To Do Push-Up Shoulder Taps:

  • Starting in a high push-up position, shift your weight over to your left side.  
  • Bring your right hand up and tap your left shoulder. 
  • Return your hand, shifting your weight over onto the other side. 
  • Repeat the movement, this time using your left hand to tap your right shoulder. 
  • Continue the maneuver, alternating your left and right hand each time. 

See Also - Push Ups Vs Dips

Push-Up Shoulder Taps

7. Walking Planks 

Put simply, the walking plank involves alternating between a high plank and a low plank position. The main benefit of walking planks as a substitute exercise is that you’ll target your core and shoulders more than you would by doing bear crawls.

Additionally, walking planks help to improve your shoulder mobility, balance, and coordination.

How To Do Walking Planks: 

  • In a forearm plank position, place your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.  
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.  
  • In a slow and controlled movement, shift your weight over to one side. Lift your hand up, placing your palm flat on the ground. Be sure not to allow your hips to sway when doing this movement. 
  • Next, shift your weight over to the other side, lifting your opposite arm up. You should now be in a high plank position. 
  • Reverse the movement and bring one arm back down into the forearm plank position.  
  • Bring the opposite arm down, ensuring that your elbows align with your shoulders. 
Walking Planks

Major & Minor Muscles Worked With Bear Crawl Substitutes

Bear crawl substitute exercises are all predominantly core-focused. When we talk about the core, many people think of it as one large muscle. However, the core is actually made up of many muscles and can be categorized into two groups: major and minor

The rectus abdominis (your abs), transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, multifidus, erector spinae, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles, are all major core muscles. On the other hand, your minor core muscles are made up of your latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and, much to the surprise of many - your gluteus maximus (glutes).  

While all of these muscles have their own individual functions, as a collective group of core muscles, their primary function is to support and stabilize your pelvis and spine. Furthermore, your core muscles are responsible for respiration, continence, joint support, balance, and stability.  

Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Bear Crawls 

There are several reasons why people should consider alternative exercises instead of bear crawls. While bear crawls are a great full-body workout, they do have their drawbacks. These include causing wrist pain, improper form when raising your hips too high (which puts even more weight on your wrists and also reduces your core engagement), and they’re not ideal for people who are overweight.  

Conversely, alternative exercises allow you to target more specific muscles without the above-mentioned problems. In addition to this, bear crawls require space to move around. Many alternative exercises are stationary and allow you to customize your workout to suit the space (or lack thereof) available.  

Frequent Bear Crawl Questions Asked

What is a stationary bear crawl? 

Also sometimes called the "opposite hand-knee lift," the stationary bear crawl involves being in a quadruped position (both hands and knees are on the ground). Next, you'll lift one knee off the ground while simultaneously using your opposite hand to tap your shoulder, alternating sides during the set. It's an excellent core exercise that offers amazing spinal stabilization. 

Do bear crawls build forearms? 

Yes, bear crawls help to strengthen and increase the endurance of your arms (including your forearms). However, if you’re looking to specifically train the forearms alone -  there are better alternative exercises available. 

Do bear crawls burn fat? 

Yes, bear crawls are an anaerobic exercise. While it depends on your body weight, speed, and duration - the average 160lb person will burn around 95-190 calories per 5-10 minutes doing bear crawls.  

Which exercise on our list is the most difficult to perform? 

Walkouts are perhaps the most challenging exercise on our list. If you’re not able to do a standard plank exercise, you will struggle to execute walkouts. Instead, work towards being able to hold a plank position for 1 minute before attempting walkouts.


That wraps up our comprehensive guide to the best bear crawl alternatives. Now that you know the benefits of these alternatives and what muscles are targeted, you’ll be able to achieve your goals and build your strength without having to do a bear crawl. The seven substitutes provided will help you achieve a strong core in no time!


Last Updated on December 17, 2022