The best way to get in shape for BJJ and combat sports in general is still yet to be discovered. With the rise of technology and better understanding of the human body, new training methods arise every day. This overflow of information, that is available to everyone, leads to a phenomenon known as paralysis by analysts. namely, the more you look into things, the less you will know. So, applying Occam’s razor here, going back to the simplest answer is usually the best option. In regard to peak physical condition for fighting, there are a few methods that have produced fearsome fighters in history. Bodyweight training, moving heavy objects and running, apart from the combat sport are the tried and tested methods that work. As far as bodyweight training goes, it is best to stick with stuff that give you the most bang for your buck. Enter the bear crawl.
The bear crawl is a seemingly simple exercise that has huge importance for grapplers in particular. It requires coordination, upper body strength, core strength and quite the gas tank to perform. Unlike many of other exercises it can be easily added to a an existing strength and conditioning plan without negative impact. Another important aspect of the exercise is that it can be done as a solo drill, no partner required.
How To Perform The Bear Crawl ?
Think of the bear crawl like a traveling plank. For the position you need to have only your palms and your feet on the ground. The arms should be shoulder width apart with the feet hip width apart. The butt should be the highest point of the body, and the eyes should be directed forward.
In order to bear crawl successfully, you need to propel yourself forward from the basic position. If your right hand goes first, then your left foot should be the next to follow, before your left hand and right foot. While crawling forward, make sure you maintain a rigid and neutral torso. The directions of the bear crawl are unlimited – you can go forward and/or backwards as well as sideways. Hell, you could even give diagonal bear crawls a try if you’re in the mood to experiment.
Benefits Of Crawling
In terms of benefits gained from incorporating the bear crawl (and other crawls, for that matter) into your routine, it would be an understatement to say that there are plenty. Apart from being able to use it anywhere, without any equipment, the bear crawl will make you incredibly strong. Primarily, it works the core through anti-extension. About two dozen muscles in the core resist the motions of rotation and flexion, thus increasing stability as well as strength. Apart from the core, all upper and lower body muscles get a real workout. It includes the chest, triceps, shoulders, traps, glutes, quads, you name it.
As far as conditioning is concerned, going fro a crawl beats going for a run. Just choose a distance to crawl over and get on all fours! You’ll soon discover that moving your bodyweight across the floor in a crawling manner is far more difficult than running about. Your lungs will be screaming for a break after just a few sets.
Crawling benefits the body in more than just conditioning. Bear crawls allow your body to work in a reaching pattern which is far scarcer than you might think. Reaching activates the anterior serratus muscle, allowing for flexion of the thorax. In terms of spinal health, it allows for the strengthening of the spinal musculature while revealing pressure between the vertebrae. Coordination is another huge benefit, especially for combat athletes. Both hand eye coordination and total body coordination are worked, particularly during multi directional crawls. Crawls also make your CNS more efficient, strengthening neural connections and enabling more work to be done with less energy.
Crab Walk For The Win
In order to get a complete workout with just crawls, the bear walk requires a little bit of help. It’s opposite side cousin, the crab walk, is the exercise to provide such assistance. The crab walk is set up by sitting down on the ground and positioning your arms behind you, shoulder width apart. From there, lift up your belly by engaging your core and glutes to reach the crab walk position. From there, it is the same movement pattern (opposite arm – opposite leg) as with the bear walk. Furthermore, the crab walk can also be performed in multiple directions.
This crawling drill works all the opposite muscles of the bear walk, engaging the back and posterior chain along with the core. These two crawling exercises complement each other perfectly, providing a full body functional workout in minimal time and with no equipment needed.
Here is a very practical workout that you can throw in virtually anywhere. It can be used as a warmup before conditioning or class, as a workout on its own, or as a finisher after a hard rolling session. Just make sure to dial the intensity and/or volume up or down depending on when you’re using it.
You can either go for distance or time. The length of a BJJ gym is a good place to start. Start by bear walking the length of the gym forward, and returning backwards. Switch your bear crawl for a crab walk and go straight back across, before returning via a backward crab walk. Now you can rest, or if you’re brave enough, go for another set, crawling sideways with both variations, this time.
It seems like that overly aggressive PT teacher back in elementary school was actually doing you a favor by making you bear crawl or crab walk the length of the gymnasium. If only you’d listened to him, you would’ve been a beast by now. It’s not too late, though. Get crawling!