5 Animal Movements for the Upper Body

March 24, 2016 by VAHVA Fitness

5 Animal movement patterns for targeting the upper body and emphasizing the shoulder girdle.

The animal movement exercises demonstrated here are great for developing strength and flexibility in the shoulders. 

The strength and flexibility are the key elements for healthy shoulders. The shoulder girdle (also known as the scapulae) is immensely important for any athletic endeavor and overall physical prowess. 

Check first our previous animal walk series for overall fitness:

More power comes from the shoulder girdle than you can imagine. The balanced shoulder girdle training will produce great results in strength which will benefit almost any exercise and also pack size to your shoulders and upper back muscles.

Because we want to target the shoulder girdle, the correct execution is the key to these animal movements. You really want to feel your shoulders move in the right direction.

These aren't just strengthening exercises, these exercises will also teach the correct shoulder movement.

Animal Movement Exercises


animal movement exercises

The goal of the cheetah is to allow your shoulders to move freely and naturally while you are moving forward.

The cheetah movement is good for teaching shoulder control, active tension and relaxation. Your core also gets a superb workout.

Your opposite leg and opposite arm are supporting your body during the movement and as a result one shoulder stays active while the other shoulder rolls freely forward.

Turtle Walk

turtle walk movement

The point of the turtle walk is to constantly push your shoulders forward (protract the shoulders).

This will train the serratus anterior (the feather-looking muscle below your armpit) and pectoralis minor.

Serratus anterior strength is beneficial in any pushing work, punching and in strength skills such as the planche. It has the nicknames "boxer's muscle" and "capoeira muscle" for a purpose.

Bear Walk

bear walk movement

In this variation of the bear walk you are constantly pushing your shoulders over head (elevating the shoulders). You can move forward or backwards while keeping the tension in your shoulders.

Shoulder elevation will improve the strength of your trapezius muscles and the levator scapulae (side neck muscle). Shoulder elevation is a major factor to strong overhead pressing and perfect handstands.

The harder variation of the bear walk is to move backwards while you are pushing yourself with only one arm. This is technically pressing overhead with just one arm at the time - effective strength work for sure.

Crab Walk

crab walk with shoulder depression

In this crab walk variation you are keeping your body relatively upright while pressing your shoulders downwards (depressing the shoulders).

Then just move forward or backwards while holding the depressed shoulder position.

Shoulder depression will train the latissimus dorsi and the pectoralis minor muscles. This is great if you aren't getting enough pulling work done which often trains the shoulder depression enough.

Table Walk

table walk movement

In the table walk you need to fully extend your hips to get your body into a completely horizontal position. Then, push your shoulder blades behind (shoulder retraction).

Shoulder retraction will train the middle back muscles like the rhomboids and the middle and lower traps.

All of these exercises you can do in one workout for 3 to 5 sets each. Take 10 to 20 steps per side.

Train hard, stay safe.

samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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