On the Sonima Elev8d Fitness platform that we launched in January, there are 88 different exercises incorporated into hundreds of different workouts. Among those exercises is the Elev8d Bear Crawl, and Brian Bradley, the Fitness Director for Elev8d, calls it a game-changer. Brian has an exuberant and infectious love of helping people improve their lives through true fitness, and he tosses that phrase “game-changer” around pretty frequently. But in the case of this bear crawl, he’s right. Ours is different, and it will make you feel different.
Before we reveal how our bear crawl differs from others, first, a quick anatomy lesson. The body has eight load-bearing joints—the shoulders, the hips, the knees and the ankles. When those load-bearing joints are in alignment, both vertically and horizontally, the body is symmetrical and functions the way it was designed to. However, when one of those joints gets out of alignment, the body begins to compensate in other areas, leading to postural dysfunction, which can lead to many unwanted consequences, including a limited range of motion in your other joints. Most bodies become out of alignment largely because of our sedentary lifestyles. I won’t claim sitting is the new smoking, but I do see it as a sport that we need to train our bodies for.
One very common, unwanted consequence of a compromised posture is pelvic dysfunction, and that has an unfortunate effect on the psoas muscle. The psoas is a major, complex set of three muscles that extend from the lower middle spine down to the top of the thighs, or femurs, and includes something commonly called the hip flexor. In its original design, the body uses the psoas and hip flexor for a great number of activities, including walking, running, standing up and sitting down. But for many of us, that hip flexor, and the psoas in general, has gone long underused, and the pelvis has grown so accustomed to never having to engage the hip flexor that, in many instances, it simply doesn’t anymore.
That’s amazing, right? I never cease to marvel at how incredible the human body is in its ability to work for us even when it’s not functioning properly. That said, we are healthier when it is fully functional.
Now, back to the bear crawl. When most people do the bear crawl, they do so with the pelvis up higher than the head and in trunk flexion, which means the back is humped up. I will refer to this as the traditional bear crawl, and it looks like this.
If the pelvis is fully functional, the psoas will contract and actively participate in this bear crawl once you start moving. Unfortunately, for most people (regardless of age or fitness level), the pelvis isn’t functional, so the psoas remains unengaged during this bear crawl while other body parts scramble to complete this exercise. You’re getting a semblance of a workout from this, but not near the maximum you could be getting if the total body were functioning.
Our modified version of the bear crawl in Elev8d Fitness anticipates and counteracts pelvic dysfunction. The move starts in the same position as the traditional bear crawl on your hands and feet. Next, focus on keeping your hips on the same plane as your head so that your back resembles a table top—flat and un-arching. Lastly, drag the hips back to your heels, creating a straight line through the shoulders, hips and knees. It looks like this.
In this position, the psoas is engaged, and that has major benefits: It causes the big posture muscles in the front and back of your body to activate the eight load joints throughout this exercise in a range that they’re designed to achieve. Thus, it becomes a total body exercise so that you are getting twice the workout in half the time. You are now maximizing the efficiency of the exercise.
What’s more, our bear crawl, when done correctly, is fatiguing, but in a good way. You emerge from doing it feeling more energized, and that’s neither an illusion nor a fluke. Engaging the entire body, especially parts that have been long dormant like the psoas, facilitates a utilization of glucose through all of your cells, and promotes a huge upsurge in blood oxygen. In other words, the Elev8d bear crawl gives you a natural sugar high and oxygen high.
While most people perform this exercise in only one direction, forward, Elev8d challenges you to move backward and sideways, too, kicking one leg out wide and using the hands to move you to that leg before you bring the other along. Aim to pinch your shoulder blades together throughout the movement to achieve the best form.
By doing Elev8d’s bear crawl correctly in all directions, you are overcoming any inherent postural dysfunction, engaging the psoas and compelling your joints and limbs to have full range of motion as the body was intended to move. The exercise, then, is an unbelievably demanding, total-body activity. As you’ll see in our Elev8d Fitness workouts very soon, it will be incorporated with other exercises in a very specific sequence to help align your body and maximize your effort in minimal time. But don’t wait for our workout moves to arrive in January. Start practicing Elev8d bear crawls now—in your living room or at your gym—and start reaping the rewards of this game-changer.
>>Find a new way to move! Sign-up for a free 14-day trial with Elev8dFitness.com, a whole-body postural approach to fitness and functional wellness.
Photography by Hailey Wist
By Pete Egoscue