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 shoulder muscles, chest, back, hip flexors, and quads. 

If you're looking for the best bear crawl variations, I have 7 core-focused substitutes below for you to try today.

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.

These bear crawl variations will build a strong core, as well as work other muscles like your arms, shoulders, chest, and quads.

1. Mountain Climbers 

Woman Doing Mountain Climbers Exercise Outdoors

Mountain climbers are an excellent bear crawl substitute 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, and other benefits include working your hamstrings and hip flexors more than a bear crawl would.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the entire core.
  • Increases heart rate and provide cardiovascular benefits.
  • Improves mobility. 

How To Do It:

  1. Start in a quadruped position (both hands and knees are on the ground). 
  2. Next, move your feet back to enter into a high plank position. 
  3. Maintaining a flat back, ensure there is a straight line running from your head to your heels. 
  4. Keeping your arms straight and in line with your shoulders, drive one knee up toward your chest. 
  5. Bring your knee back again and repeat with the other knee. 
  6. Continue this movement, alternating your legs each time. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Remember to maintain a slow and steady march. Going too fast will hinder your form, and you won't work your core as efficiently.

2. Crab Walks 

Woman Doing Crab Walks Exercise

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.[1]

This exercise is the same motion as a bear crawl. Due to the inverted position of a crab walk, you’re able to target the posterior chain muscles more than a bear crawl would.

These include your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back muscles.[2]

Benefits:

  • Promotes joint strength.
  • Helps create better posture.
  • Improves coordination and balance.

How To Do It:

  1. Sitting on the floor, position your feet hip-distance apart in front of you with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place your arms in line with your shoulders, with your fingers pointing towards your hips. 
  3. Next, lift your hips off the ground and engage your core. 
  4. 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. 
  5. When you reach the end, repeat the movement again but this time, scurry forwards.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't allow your feet to get too far in front of you by trying to go too quickly. The shoulders are more vulnerable to injury if you move too fast.

3. Renegade Rows 

Man Doing Renegade Rows

Renegade rows are one of my favorite pulling exercises and a great bear crawl substitute to power up your core! Like a bear crawl, 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.

If you are unable to perform renegade rows due to wrist or shoulder issues or lack of equipment, there are renegade row alternative exercises that can effectively target your back muscles.

Benefits:

  • Challenges deep intra-abdonimal stability and control. 
  • Increases muscle activation and movement awareness.
  • Targets the whole muscular system in one exercise.

How To Do It:

  1. 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. 
  2. Brace your core and maintain square hips and shoulders. Be sure not to allow your hips to sway. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Bring the dumbbell back to the ground and repeat the movement on the other side.

Tips From A Trainer!

Get the most out of this exercise by doing this with proper form, don't allow your hips to move upwards on the rowing side to make it easier. Keep your hips and shoulders square and if you can't then drop the weight. 

4. Spiderman Push-Ups 

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.

Benefits:

  • Effectively strengthens the whole upper body. 
  • Improves balance and coordination.
  • Strengthens the hip flexors.

How To Do It:

  1. In an upright push-up position, place your feet together with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Return your leg to its original position and repeat the movement with the other leg. 
  4. Continue to alternate each leg as you go.

Tips From A Trainer!

Proper form is important with any push up variation. Make sure you don't allow your hips to sag, this can cause strain on your lower back. Make sure you engage your core, tuck your pelvis under slightly and draw your belly button towards your spine. 

Related Article - Push Ups Vs Bench Press

5. Walkouts 

Woman Doing Walkouts Exercise In The Gym

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.

Benefits:

  • A great exercise to do as part of an active warm up.
  • Stretches out the hamstrings and calves.
  • Increases flexibility.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in an upright position, with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Walk your hands out until they’re situated beneath your shoulders in an upright plank position. 
  4. Then, walk your hands back toward your toes. 
  5. Once you reach your toes again, hinge your hips and stand up straight. 
  6. Repeat the movement for your desired amount of repetitions.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your back safe by making sure your spine doesn't hyperextend at end range. If it does, don't walk your hands out as far or reduce the number of reps you're doing. 

6. Push-Up Shoulder Taps 

Woman Doing 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. 

Benefits:

  • Improves push up performance and upper body strength.
  • Balancing on one side of the body forces you to activate stabalizer muscles. 
  • Creates a more well-balanced and functional body.

How To Do It:

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't rush through the shoulder taps. Go at a moderate pace and don't allow your form to break whilst your shifting your weight from side to side. 

Related Article - Push Ups Vs Dips

7. Walking Planks 

Man Performing 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 muscles more than you would by doing bear crawls.

Benefits:

  • Improves shoulder mobility.
  • Improves balance and coordination. 
  • Creates more of a dynamic movement than a standard plank position. 

How To Do It:

  1. Assume the starting position in a forearm plank position, place your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Next, shift your weight over to the other side, lifting your opposite arm up. You should now be in a high plank position. 
  5. Reverse the movement and bring one arm back down into the forearm plank position. 
  6. Bring the opposite arm down, ensuring that your elbows align with your shoulders.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure your body stays in a straight line when transitioning from low to high plank. 

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.

Conclusion

That wraps up my 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.

References:

1.https://www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-proprioception

2.https://www.healthline.com/health/posterior-chain

Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website