I have been very consistent in my training schedule for going on about 8 months now. I have also been very consistent in my training style. Long, steady endurance sessions, occasional functional strength focused strength sessions. That's it, and it's gotten me incredibly fit. I can swim, bike, and run from sun up to sun down at a fairly decent clip.

It's time to mix it up. What's one way to mix it up? Check out The Bear. Here's a video showing some trainees attempting this exercise, and then there's an article by John Davies, who created the training session.

Bear Season
Learn to perform the most brutal exercise ever created!

The Kid

When the kid completed his set, he looked at me, smiled, and promptly collapsed in a sweat-soaked heap. When he finally got up, smiled again, and grabbed the bar for another grueling set, I knew he was a Renegade. The kid had looked the Bear right in the eyes and accepted his challenge. By coming back for another set of what is perhaps the most vicious exercise around, he'd shown me who the real animal was in this gym.

What's the Bear? The Bear is a series of exercises piled into a single "complex" and performed all at once without rest. It's a man-maker of the highest order and most people in your gym don't have the guts to perform it. Do you?

Grin and Bear It

Before I tell you how to perform the Bear, let me tell you why it's one of the most important exercises you can do in the gym.

Weight training has both evolved and devolved over the last few decades. While we know more today about the science of muscle building and sports performance than ever before, we've also lost something amongst all these "technological advancements." Gone is the day of overall strength, just being able to pick something up and toss it aside. This raw, aggressive display of athleticism has been replaced with an over-specialization in a few movements such as the bench press.

Many young coaches and weight trainers continually focus on putting up numbers that may or may not lead them any closer to their goals of improved performance and increased general health. This is part of the problem I see today with many athletes and just regular people trying to get into shape: they all lack functional strength. Enter the Bear.

This movement is reaching legendary status among those who dare to try it. The Bear is a brutal test of courage and a real challenge both physically and mentally. It's also great for showing you exactly where your weak links are. The Bear, probably more than any other single movement, will zero in on those weaknesses and, in many cases, fix them.

Another advantage of this beast is it teaches the body to work in a single harmonious fashion. Your body will become a seamless series of links: fluid, powerful, fast, and with great range of motion.

Training complexes like the Bear will improve power production and lead to hypertrophy. Furthermore, because of the total body approach to this movement, additional physiological benefits are gained with demands on motor skill coordination in an extraordinarily short period of time. Yes, for those in a time crunch, complexes like the Bear get the job done in a hurry.

Anatomy of the Bear

The Bear is basically five lifts in one, but with some subtle differences in how I piece them together. It's comprised of the following:

You'll need to comfortably be able to perform each of these components with satisfactory technique. I like to personally add the "stomp" into the power clean portion of the lift and substitute the push jerk for the push press, but I'd only recommend this for lifters with topflight technique.

In performing this lift, first ensure that good form is maintained throughout with full range of motion. The training load should be based upon the push press maximum. This is important: check the ego. Don’t underestimate this bad boy; use an appropriate weight.

In performing this lift, I follow a basic protocol of varying intensity between 50 and 65% for three to four sets of six reps with roughly two minutes rest between sets.


Enough of the pleasantries; time to bring it. As you stand over the bar, keep the eyes focused straight ahead on a single point (called the focal point). Keep your eyes on this point throughout the lift. Drop eccentrically into the proper neutral position (which is roughly a 45 degree angle) and bring the bar to slightly above the knees. This "hang" position is where you'll begin the complex.

Step 1: The Power Clean

With the bar above the knees, vigorously pull and explode upward performing a power clean. Drive your hips through as the bar ascends and re-bend at the knees as you fully extend the ankles, hips and shoulders upward. Shoot your elbows underneath the bar and catch it on the top of the shoulders, creating a solid "rack" position.

As I noted, I personally prefer exploding (leaping) up and making a hard contact to the ground with a foot stomp, but that isn't imperative and should only be attempted by those with solid technique and experience.

Step 2: The Front Squat

From the "catch" position of the power clean, drop quickly into the full front squat by pushing your buttocks back and going to a rock-bottom floor position. Drop down to the basement if your flexibility allows it!

Step 3: The Push Press

From the bottom of the front squat you're going to come back up, of course, but here's the catch: as you reach the top of the front squat, continue to drive the weight up with your arms to perform a fluid push press. Extend your arms overhead and lock the weight out with total control.

Step 4: The Back Squat

Tired yet? We're just getting started! From the top of the push press, lower the bar behind your head and get into a standard back squat position. Remember though, these aren't jerky, robotic movements. They're fluid and blend together seamlessly as your body never really stops moving. So as the bar touches your upper back, you immediately drop into the back squat — Olympic style, butt to heals.

This is definitely a dramatic difference in how I perform this lift and a crucial element with the Bear. It's done with blazing speed; you'll feel yourself "bending" the bar down and, in fact, exerting pressure on your shoulders. Few people are used to descending with speed, so pay careful attention to technique and ensure that your training loads are light enough.

Step 5: Another Push Press

From the "basement" of the back squat, rebound and explosively drive the weight upwards, performing another push press. Again at the top of the lift, lock out the weight, then lower the bar to the original start position. That's one rep of the six you'll be performing in this set!

Now Go Bring It!

Remember to keep everything moving fluidly; one part of the complex blends into the next. It's poetry in motion really, and after a few sets you'll see why the Bear is an important element in all my athletes' programs. Give it a shot and see if you have what it takes to beat the Bear!

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