Home Blog Building Core Control with “The Bear”

Building Core Control with “The Bear”

Written on March 18, 2016 at 6:38 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, who just introduced his new resource, Complete Core Training. It's on sale through the end of the day today, and Mike gives you a little sampling of one of his favorite core stability exercise progressions today. -EC

When I teach seminars with other fitness professionals, I'm often asked questions about the concept of rounding out the lower back. Unfortunately, many of us are so scared of lumbar flexion that we never do it - ever - even if there's potential benefit involved. When it comes to lumbar flexion, here are my rules:

1. I don't do it repeatedly (i.e. sit-ups),
2. I don't do it under load (i.e. round back deadlifts).


However, putting someone in a small degree of lumbar flexion and/or posterior tilt isn't going to cause a spontaneous disc herniation. In fact, I would argue that getting someone better control over the lumbar spine and pelvis is going to get them out of extension, and actually allow their lower back to feel better. It's going to relieve pressure on both the discs and facets, which are getting crushed when you're locked in extension.

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The bottom line is a little bit of work in this position could provide massive benefits going forward. This is one reason why I love to teach "The Bear" as a core stability exercise.

The Bear

With this drill, you get the benefits of reaching (serratus anterior recruitment, better rib positioning), plus a ton of lower ab involvement. Now you may be wondering, why the obsession with lower abs? Well for all my clients and athletes, I'm trying to develop stability and control over the lumbar spine, pelvis and hips. The lower abs (internal obliques and transverse abdominus) are critical for this, as they have a ton of "real estate" on the pelvis. Quite simply, if you want to control the pelvis (and, in turn, the lumbar spine and hips), you need a strong set of lower abs.  With that being said, doing draw-ins all day isn't going to fix the problem. The best way to engage an IO or TVA is to set position via an exhale first.

To do The Bear, set-up in a quadruped position and think about reaching long through the upper back. Round out the spine slightly, and tuck the pelvis underneath you. From this position, pick the knees up 1" off the ground, and then hold for a certain period of time (like you would in a plank).

Knees Extended Bear

Once you've mastered The Bear, you'll want to find something more challenging. Enter the Knees Extended Bear! The set-up here is identical to the first, but once those knees are up, you simply straighten them out. As you can see you'll end up in a pike position, with the hips as the highest point. This exercise is a lot tougher than you might expect, so be sure to start with the standard bear first.

Core training exercises might be a dime-a-dozen, but that doesn't mean all of them are worth their salt. These two variations of The Bears are some of my favorites, and I think you'll love them as well.  Enjoy!

As I mentioned, Mike Robertson's new resource, Complete Core Training, is now on sale with an introductory $50 off discount this week.  I'm reviewing it myself, and it's excellent. If you're looking for some help with your core stability exercise progressions - and the rationale for these approaches - look no further! For more information, click here.

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  • disqus_5T2jXBEN10

    sometimes you eat the bear sometimes the bear eats you

  • Gerard Friedman

    I love these, and especially love adding a crawl to the bear. EC, have you ever consulted with gymnasts or gymnastic coaches for advanced core exercises? They are the kings and queens of stability in the trunk. The bear is basically a regressed planche. Is your average pro athlete able to perform high level core stability exercises or are most of them average to above?

  • Eric Cressey

    Bianca – absolutely! It would just need to be coached and performed correctly.


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