These aren’t just your ordinary pushups. Named for more than just the body’s movements in the exercise, these pushups can shred your upper body and give you the strength of a bear.
What Does That Mean
Also known as anti-crawling pushups, bear pushups are essentially decline pushups on parallel surfaces.
This is accomplished through specific shaping of the body in the bear pose, hence the name. They somewhat look like the athlete is about to start crawling, but never moves the legs.
Modern or Ancient?
Although there is some evidence tracing pushup-style exercises all the way back to the ancient era, most fitness gurus and historians believe that the pushup first came into popularity in the early 1900s.
That’s the time when the term “pushup” was first used and pushups then became much more widely incorporated into exercise regimens from beginners to the military to bodybuilders (although bodybuilding didn’t take off until much later).
The bear pushup provides similar benefits to the incline bench press. That is to say that the primary targeted muscle groups are the pecs and the triceps followed closely by the anterior deltoids (the front of your shoulders).
While the bear pushup doesn’t provide as much benefit to the pecs as an incline press, the benefits to the triceps are increased and other benefits are also spread out among the abs, the forearms, and even to some extent the legs (primarily the calves) since the body relies on them for support in the bear position.
How to Do It
Prepare for this exercise by making sure that your clothes fit tightly enough to wear they will drag or get caught on the ground or hinder your range of motion. You will also want to be on a mat, maybe even an elevated platform that allows you to grip the “curb” or the edge of the platform.
Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your legs supported by your toes firmly planted into the ground. Extend your arms directly out in front of your chest. Your arms should be perpendicular to the ground when fully extended and your chest should be parallel.
Although it can be tempting to straighten your legs, refrain from doing so, as that can risk arching your back, which can lead to a less-efficient workout as well as potential injuries, particularly for people with bad backs or previous back injuries.
You will then lower yourself until your nose in only an inch or so above the ground, push yourself back up, and repeat. Make sure to keep your elbows close to your body. Do not “chicken wing” and push your elbows out to the sides or you won’t have a good time.
Variations on the Bear Pushup
Pushups are one of the most versatile workouts available, in part because they are body-weight exercises that don’t require any additional weights. That said, there are countless styles of pushups from which to choose.
Once you’ve mastered the bear pushup, try increasing the decline more and more until you’re capable of performing standing pushups. Now that’s a feat of body mastery!
Whether pushups have been around for a century or more than a millenium, we don’t know. But we do know that they are a great exercise family that has earned the respect (and fear, in some cases) of plenty of athletes in the weightlifting community as well as the military.