by Joe DiStefano, co-founder of Spartan Coaching
Click here for Part I: Bowler Squat
Because what woman doesn’t want a stronger upper body and tighter core!?
Regardless of your own gender, you may have noticed that when compared to men, women have several distinct differences in the ways their bodies are designed. The largest differences clearly relate to pregnancy and child birth and include a larger percentage of body mass being carried below the midsection and the increased Q-angles and anterior (forward leaning) pelvic tilt discussed in my previous post. Last time, we also discussed a propensity for females to do more things, like wearing high heels, which tend to exacerbate these genetic disadvantages even further. For these reasons, women typically need to focus a lot more on upper body strength and core stabilization and when it comes to training for a Spartan Race, cranking out sit ups and triceps pushdowns are not going to cut it.
Holding a stable, quadruped “Bear” position requires both upper body strength and core stabilization in itself, throw in moving backwards and a need for significantly more dynamic neuromuscular control and strength is added to the exercise. In addition, the Reverse Bear Crawl also works the type of contralataral coordination (moving the opposing leg and arm in a unison) necessary for more efficient running, confidently climbing cargo nets, and effortlessly crawling under barbed wire.
The Reverse Bear Crawl requires alternating “shoulder presses” over an active and reflexively stabilized core. During this exercise, the hips and core are continuously alternating between stabilizing one hip while mobilizing on the other, exactly the way they do in sprinting, hiking, throwing, or most other athletic maneuvers. This type of function and reflex is what we need most in obstacle racing and is something a habitual reliance on traditional standing, or [worse] a seated overhead shoulder press simply does not give you. I should mention that I am by no means saying “Old school” shoulder pressing does not have it’s place or is something we want to eliminate entirely, however, substituting or adding reverse bear crawls into a program that does not currently have them is going to add significant benefit to your “injury-proofing” and overall Spartan Race performance.
Finally, the Reverse Bear Crawl allows you to give your body a break from constant straight bar or dumbbell training, which is going to lower the risk of rotator cuff issues. The Reverse Bear Crawl is going to change the angle of the “press” to a more advantageous one relative to training proper scapular upward rotation, something many of us lack due to our widespread degrees of keyboard crunching postures. For more information on dysfunctional shoulders and assessing their risk for injury, check out my third installment of the “Top 5 Benefits of Alternative Locomotion” found here.