Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
In my bootcamp class standard bear crawls provided a challenging bodyweight exercise for my best clients. When I wanted to introduce a new element to the workout, I would add another variation, the lateral bear crawl. The standard version of the move is in the sagittal plane (forward and backward movement) while the lateral bear crawl is in the frontal plane (side-to-side movement). Each one works your core, glutes, hips, shoulders and triceps, but the lateral bear crawl takes more coordination and balance. We don’t move in the frontal plan as much as the sagittal plane in most typical daily activities, so executing this variation flawlessly might be more of a challenge.
To set up for the movement, get down on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly below your shoulders, with your elbows slightly bent. Your knees should be directly underneath your hips. Your back should be in a neutral position (no rounding or excessive curvature) while squeezing your abs and glutes. Last, lift your knees off the ground so your shins and your back are parallel to the floor. This is your starting position, which is the bear plank. Practice holding this position for 20 to 30 seconds before moving on to the lateral bear crawl.
To crawl laterally, extend your left hand to the left and your right foot to the left at the same time, then place them on the floor in their new position. Next, alternate the movement by extending your right hand and left foot to the left and placing them on the floor. Keep you movements controlled to help to stay balanced, especially as you’re just getting started.
There are a few issues to be mindful of when you take on the lateral bear crawl. First, the exercise is tougher if you have foot issues. Also, while you’re alternating hand and foot movements, all off your weight shifts back and forth to each hand, putting extra pressure on your wrists. For some older men holding a plank is easy when your bodyweight is distributed equally on both wrists, but the bear crawl movement can be too much to handle. Lastly, some older men don’t have the quad strength to stay in the position for too long. They fatigue quickly and their butts start to rise toward the sky while crawling. That means it’s time to take a break because you’re losing proper form and increasing the risk of injury.
The lateral bear crawl is an important type of exercise to add to your repertoire because frontal plane movements use different muscles. This exercise promotes hip abduction, and also horizontal abduction, which works and strengthens your shoulder and rotator cuff muscles differently.
To begin, if you have enough room, try the lateral bear crawl with five to ten steps to the right, then five to ten steps back to the left (that’s one set). Repeat three times and remember to keep your core as tight as possible.
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