“Functional” anything sounds boring—we get it. But in fitness, functional is one of the most exciting adjectives out there. It’s a catchall word to describe the moves and exercises that prep your body for real-life activities. The pandemic forced people away from gyms and led to a surge in outdoor exercise. We quickly realized that our workouts hadn’t exactly prepared us for wild environments. That extra muscle we’d built in the gym only weighed us down on trail runs and hikes. We rolled ankles and injured knees because we’d only trained on perfect gym surfaces and lacked the right combination of mobility and stability. The 72 degree indoor environment hadn’t readied us for temperature swings, the elements, and the general unpredictability of the outdoors. It’s time to make your fitness truly functional again by lifting heavy awkward objects, climbing and crawling and jumping more, redlining your cardio, and engaging in other total-body sweat shenanigans. Nobody knows and appreciates this more than Da Rulk. Master his lessons stability and you’ll have fun getting in the best shape of your life.
If you’re wondering why stability matters, get on all fours, shins off the ground, and start crawling. This exercise, known as a bear crawl, is trainer Joseph Sakoda’s go-to. Better known as Da Rulk, Sakoda, 47, earned a stellar reputation working with elite military units, and his bear crawl is an underrated core move, especially when done outside the gym. Crawling along varied terrain challenges your hips, abs, and other muscles to work together to fully stabilize your torso. Da Rulk himself hasn’t quit crawling.
When the Californian needs a quick workout, he frequently heads to the beach near his house and just starts crawling. In the process, he’s exposing his body and mind to the unique stressors that come from outdoor training. “Crawling also helps build our dexterity,” he says. “You’re building the kind of core strength that helps correct your posture and reduce back pain.”
THE HARDEST CORE-STABILITY CHALLENGE
Take on the Rulk Crawl: Bear-crawl a full mile outdoors. Yes, really. Whether you do this on a track or in a park or you simply do laps up and down your driveway until you’ve hit a full mile, you’ll challenge your core in a new way. Your core muscles are meant to stabilize your spine all day—not just for a quick ab workout—and they tackle that challenge during the Rulk Crawl. If you get tired, rest in child’s pose for 60 seconds, then get back to work. Start with a quarter mile and gradually work up to a mile. Do this once a month and aim to finish the full mile in an hour.
Get an Edge
Dominate the bear crawl with the around- the-clock bear hold. Get into bear-crawl position. Lift your left hand. Return it to the ground, then repeat with your right hand. Repeat with your right leg, then your left leg. Do three 60-second sets. Rest 30 seconds between each.
FOLLOW THESE THREE CUES TO PERFECT YOUR BEAR CRAWL.
1. GENTLE SQUEEZE
Keep light tension in your shoulder blades; imagine squeezing them halfway together. Doing so will allow your shoulders to move freely, no matter the size of the step you need to take.
2. FLAT BACK
Tighten your abs, working to keep your back as flat as possible, as if balancing a glass of water on your lower back. This will force your abs to kick into overdrive and take pressure off your hips and arms to stabilize your body.
3. BUTT DOWN!
Don’t let your hips rise higher than your shoulder blades. As you fatigue, you’ll feel your butt begin to rise. Flex your abs hard and squeeze your glutes to prevent that from happening; this will help relax your lower back.