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Crow Pose VS Crane Pose

The crow and Crane pose are very similar looking bodyweight skills falling into the family of arm balances. The poses may have strong roots in yoga yet are commonly used in calisthenics, handstand and all types of beginner gymnastics training.

Whilst both skills rely on balances paired with upper body pushing strength and full body tension they have 1 significant difference.

Home | Knowledgebase | CALISTHENICS

CROW POSE VS CRANE Pose

The crow and Crane pose are very similar looking bodyweight skills falling into the family of arm balances. The poses may have strong roots in yoga yet are commonly used in calisthenics, handstand and all types of beginner gymnastics training.

Whilst both skills rely on balances paired with upper body pushing strength and full body tension they have 1 significant difference. 

What are the differences between the crow and crane pose?

Whilst both look quite similar they have 1 significant difference that influences difficulty, muscles used and training approach drastically. When you first dive into bodyweight training this difference might not be completely obvious to you but the more you train and the more time spend studying movement and the body in general you will see how very important this “minor” difference is!

Bent arm VS straight arm

The crow is a bent arm skill and the crane is a straight arm skill.

This means when you are performing the crow stand your elbows are slightly bent. This makes things significantly easier as you can use the bend in your elbows to balance, to create a platform to rest your legs on and to adjust your position towards your personal comfort.

In the crane pose on the other hand your elbows have to be locked making this skill significantly harder. The straight arm position places pressure on the joints and tendons in a way that a planche would. This is not a bad thing. On the contrary, depending on what you are working towards this might be exactly what you want. It is important that you are aware, so you can increase training volume accordingly slowly over time. The locked arms will also place you in a more restricted position meaning you will not have as much room for balance and ultimately arrow. Lastly, since your elbows are not bent anymore they do not create a convenient platform for your knees to rest upon forcing you to create tension through your core and back to support the position yourself. 

Handstand Push Up VS Planche

If you are currently working to get your crow pose you are at the beginning of your calisthenics journey and skills like the handstand push up and the planche are far out of your reach and you wouldn’t even allow yourself to dream of them just yet.

Yet, they both are significant when talking about the crow and crane pose. Since in the crow pose we train with bent elbows this pose will have a direct transfer towards your bent arm press to handstand and the handstand push up. Getting overly comfortable in the crow pose will allow you to eventually lift up into a bent arm stand and then to push up to a full handstand.

The locked out arm position in the crane transfers directly towards the planche. Whilst a crane is still significantly easier than the planche it is a logical and in many cases even seen as an essential progression of the tuck planche.

Yet, it is important to keep in mind here that both skills are specific and even if the crow and crane are never mastered the athlete can absolutely still learn the handstand push up and planche.

Difficulty

The crane pose is significantly harder to learn, to control and to maintain than the crow pose. The bent arm position makes it much easier to balance and creates a place for your knees to rest. In the crane pose you have to create the tension to support the body by yourself. Additionally due to the locked out arms and shoulder lean pressure on the elbows and shoulders increases drastically!

Everybody will master the crow pose before moving on to the crane pose. Even if you are trying to learn the crane pose first chances are high you will accidentally just settle for a crow pose first.

How to
do a Crow?

Learning and understanding the differences between the crane and crow pose is great but mastering the two and truly feeling the difference on your bones is the true key!

Set Up

The first step to mastering the crow pose is to truly understand how it works. 

Start on a deep squat and place the spot where your triceps meet your elbow on top of the knees. Being bent both joints create a flat surface which offers an outstanding support surface.

From here lean towards the front and place your hands on the floor about shoulder wide apart. Keep the contact between your triceps and knees. Now continue to lean, bend your elbows a bit more for your face to go closer towards the floor, load your hands with weight and from your tippy toes take your feet off the floor.

The more you bend your elbows the closer your face will be to the floor. Play around with the angle and see what is comfortable for you. Keep in mind that it is essential to lean towards the front as you want your fingertips to be heavy. Just like when standing on your feet as soon as the toes, or fingertips, leave the floor and we are on the heels we lose control and balance with the entire body. In the final position your forearms and shins should create a vertical line.

To protect from injuries and to allow you to stay in control at all times your scapula should be protracted and elevated!

Strength needed

The crow pose is very beginner friendly and due to the stacking of the body the pose does not require too much strength. The main things challenged here are the shoulders as they need to stay protracted and elevated to stabilize the position.

Additionally you will need some triceps and anterior deltoid strength to stop the arms from collapsing and to stop the body from tipping too far towards the front. 

Lastly, you will need some core and compression strength paired with overall body tension to be able to keep your body in the round position we are aiming for.

Common mistakes

Elbows not bent enough
If you are not bending your elbows enough you will not create a platform to support your knees and your legs will simply slide off. Additionally, you would have to learn your shoulders extremely far towards the front in order to get the weight off the feet and into the hands causing tremendous pressure in your wrists

Legs on outside of elbows
Whilst this is an interesting variation of the crow whilst trying to first learn the position it is not recommended to make too many adjustments from the regular form. Placing the elbows on the outside will make it much harder to stack the body and the advantages created by the bent arms disappear.

Not enough weight in hands
I get it. Leaning forward when on your hands is scary as you don’t want to fall on your face but if you do not bring enough weight into your hands you can not balance the position. Stand up! Place your hands overhead. Look at your hands. Gain control of your position. Imagine someone is about to throw something at you that you want to catch or you want to jump. Where is most of your weight right now? Exactly, in your toes. When balancing on the hands it has to be exactly the same thing. You have to bring weight into the fingers to gain control! There is no other option!

Not enough tension
If your body is not tight you will simply slide out of the position. Your legs will slide off the elbows, your arms will collapse or your hips will sink. Engage everything! Tighten up! 

Progressions

Working towards the crow is pretty simple and straightforward. Before you really get into the movement practice make sure to warm up your wrists, shoulders and core well and if you are new to bodyweight fitness like practice prepare your wrists and shoulders to support your weight.

For the crow you can basically take 2 alleys to work toward your goal. Both are equally efficient. I would recommend working on both ways. Like this your body will develop in both directions. You will get stronger and expand your overall coordination. One approach will naturally work better for you and ultimately be the one to lead you to your first crow pose!
 

Crow leans & Take Offs
From the above discussed starting position simply lean towards the front and load your hands with some of your weight and come back. Start with 2 sets of 3-5 loads. Once comfortable you can even keep the weight in front and hold the foot supported crow pose.

The next step is to do the same thing but with elevated feet. Like this you are leaning closer towards the actual crow pose and simulating the actual drill more closely. Slowly over time turn these leans into takeoffs where momentarily you get into the actual crow pose and come back out. Like this slowly get used to the idea of doing an actual arm balance. If you are hesitant to load your fingers with weight and you are scared to fall onto your face you can place a pillow on the floor in front of you or practice very close to a wall to stop you from tipping over.

If you have no experience at all with arm balances this is most likely your preferred method.

Headstand Crows
The second variation is basically to do the exact opposite. Start in a headstand where your head is elevated on yoga blocks. From here place your knees onto your elbows, push your fingertips into the floor and carefully lift into the crow. Hold the crow for a moment and move right past it to your feet. Repeat this. Practice this. Over time get rid of some of the yoga blocks underneath your head and hold the crow in each rep. 

Since this approach requires the headstand it is not as accessible for absolute beginners.

Benefits of crow pose

Beginner friendly arm balance
We all start somewhere and when it comes to inversions, handstands and arm balances the crow pose is pretty much where everyone starts. So get to work and make the first check on the list!

Build confidence
The crow pose is scary at first. No doubt. Mastering it will give you a confidence boost. Working for it and finally balancing and controlling the crow pose will show you that you are the master over your own body but also that if you train for something you will achieve it! 

Increase awareness and balance
Trust me. If you have never done a handstand, planche or really any kind of arm balance, learning the crow pose will change the way you see and feel your arms and entire body for the better!

Build strength
Your arm, your shoulders, your back and core are all at work when you are doing a crow pose. Your hands have to support your entire body weight. This is most likely a new pressure that you haven’t had before and therefore presents a great opportunity for muscle growth and strength gains!

How to
Crane Pose

The crane pose might be beautiful to look at but is also significantly harder to execute than a regular crow pose. Once mastered you will look back to your days training the crow pose and compare those days to child’s play! 

Set Up

Just like with the crow pose you will start in a deep squat just with the difference that this time you will bury your knees as high as possible inside of your armpits. This will allow your knees to slide down on your body slightly whilst transferring weight from your feet into your hands yet to stay high enough to control the position. 
 

Due to the bigger lean and locked out elbows the angle in your wrists becomes significantly more aggressive. I strongly recommend turning the hands out slightly not just to protect your wrists from injuries but also to get used to this new hand position as you will place your hands like this in the future for planche progressions as well.

Make sure to protract your shoulders and lean towards the front. Only by truly committing to the lean can you get the weight off the feet and into the hands. This might feel scary as it becomes harder to balance with locked out elbows but with practice you will adapt. 

In the crane pose, actively straighten your elbows. Build the habit of fully locking them from day one. Even a slight bend in the elbows changes pressure and feeling for balance quite a bit!

The combination of pushing the shoulders open, engagement of the back to engage the hips and compression of the core and hip flexors to push the knees into the arms will make it appear as if you were floating in the air.

As a last secret tip: use chalk on your knees and arms or at least wipe your skin before getting into the position to avoid slipping!

Strength needed

The crane pose still builds on a physical structure and your legs are supported by the knees pushing into the arm so you are not required to support your entire body weight just with pure force but you still need to be strong enough to stabilize the position.

If your setup is ideal the main muscles involved here will be triceps pushing your elbows in a locked out position and the anterior deltoid that will stop you from falling onto your face.

Common mistakes

Lack of lean
The main mistake that I see in athletes who are starting to learn the crane pose is lack of commitment! You have to lean towards the front quite a bit to really get your feet off the floor. Since you are only starting out with straight arm balances this is scary. Give your body time to adapt.

Lack of arm extension
If your arms are slightly bent during the crane pose you are not doing a straight arm drill. You might succeed in balancing without your feet touching the floor but the outcome won’t be what you expect and you are not training towards planches. Yes, you will still get stronger and improve and yes, this can be a temporary stepping stone towards the actual crane pose but progress won’t be as efficient and as targeted as expected.

Lack of protraction.
If you are sinking into your shoulders and your shoulder blades are sticking out in the back we get 2 problems. First of all you will not be able to apply pressure in the way intended and you will simply be weak in the position. Secondly, you are missing a great opportunity to practice protraction. Pushing the shoulders towards the front is not easy. Protraction is essential for planches and the crane pose represents a great opportunity to start to get used to protraction!

Trying to progress too fast
I’ve mentioned it multiple times already: Crane poses are not as easy as crow poses. The crane pose is not something you see once and then simply do it. You will have to train for it. This training will take time! Spend time with each progression and build up the required strength over time. Allow your muscles, joints and tendons to develop!

Progressions

Whilst already a more advanced skill the crane pose is compared to other bodyweight drills pretty straight forward and not too complex. There are 2 main things you need to train when trying to get your first crane pose. You need to build up adequate strength and joint/tendon stability to support the position and you need to work on your balance and confidence to be able to commit to the position and not to fall on your face.

Build the strength
The crane is basically a baby planche so drills that are good for developing planching strength will work here as well! Focus on anterior deltoid strength. Whilst you can use weights to build them up it is preferred to use bodyweight progressions as they will help you develop mind muscle connection and coordination at the same time! Push up leans and pike planche leans are great options here. 

Then of course we need to work on protraction strength. We can stick to push up based exercises here and simply do scapula push ups and leaning scapula push ups where your shoulders are further out towards the front past your hands.

Lastly, we need triceps strength for the arms to resist. You can build this by training push ups or chest to wall handstand drills like for example wall walks.

Build balance and confidence
The best for this will be to simply do the crane pose. You have 2 options here. I would again recommend training both to get the most out of your training and to develop your body in as many varieties as possible. Additionally, one route will usually work better. Finding out which route this is only happens through trial and error. Important to remember is that the time spent on the “not successful” route is not wasted as you are still improving and getting stronger!

Train cranes with your head against the wall. This has two advantages. The obvious one is that you can ot topple over in this direction and your crane will be less scary. The not so obvious advantage is that you can use your neck muscles to push your head into the wall slightly and with this reduce pressure in your shoulders.

The second option is to practice leans and take offs with elevated feet or from the floor like we did with the crow pose! Here again make sure not to fall over on your face. Consider using a mat or training close to the wall to avoid any kinds of accidents. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry!

General training advice for beginner arm balances

Doing something new is never easy. Doing something new with your own body is even harder as it can be overwhelming, scary and humbling but it is important for you to understand that you can do new things! You can learn arm balances, you can increase strength, you can get more flexible. That thing that you dream off?! You can get it. You just need a plan and someone like me to help you a bit. Here is key advice if you want to get started with arm balances, handstands and calisthenics!

Don’t just try, actually train

This is probably the biggest issue that I see whenever anybody is getting started with arm balances or handstands. You want training to be fun, I get that, but if you are just playing around your results will also just be that!

Focus on specific goals and skills. Study those and find the progressions needed. Break those progressions apart and understand which muscles you need to train and get to work. Don’t just roll into the gym and try around with a bunch of random stuff. Understand what you are working for and make it happen.

Get consistent and build a plan

I am not telling you that your training needs to be old school strict but what I am saying is that you need a plan.

Only by creating and especially by following a plan can you monitor progress and increase volume steadily over time. If you don’t know how many reps and sets of which exercises you are doing you can not know if you are having a good or bad day. A plan will help you get towards your goals one step at a time and a plan will help you push through those days when you are not as inspired as you are in the first couple workouts as you can simply go and get things done!

When starting a new plan athletes usually go through 3 stages. At first everything is new and exciting. Due to the new structure and approach it often seems like we can see instant results. Part 1 is awesome. Then often athletes hit a plateau. Workouts get more repetitive due to the plan and whilst the body is growing and making progress these achievements might not be as obvious. This can be discouraging. Here the athlete needs to stay consistent and trust the plan laid out. The athlete should follow the plan for a minimum of 4 weeks before making any kinds of judgments on its efficiency. Lastly you break through this plateau and it is steady grind and gain. 

Focus on high quality

Keep your movements clean and controlled. If your set is a mess you will not make the gains you are hoping for and you can even run into unexpected injuries causing unnecessary setbacks. Whilst it is normal not to have perfect form when you are trying something new, your regular training should consist of skills that you can do fairly well with clean execution. 

Warm up well

I can not stress this enough. Your warm up is possibly the most important part of your training. Each workout should start with a general warm up to increase blood flow. Break a sweat! Follow this by injury prevention and stability exercises for your shoulders and wrists and light stretches to prepare for the workout. If you don’t have time for a warm up and your workout then only do the warm up!

Go easy on your wrists

Welcome to Arm Balances. If you are working on beginner arm balances you have never done an arm balance before meaning your wrists are not used to support your entire or probably even any bodyweight! You have to go very slow with your wrists. Increase training volume slowly over time and take more breaks and extra days off when your wrists get sore. If your wrists get more sore than expected, consider icing your wrists after each workout and train on a slightly declined surface to increase the angle in the wrists and decrease tension.

Crows and cranes are cool and should both have a place in a workout routine. They are a great example of how a small difference in positioning and alignment can have a huge impact on training. Especially beginners should spend time learning both not just to develop strength and coordination but to truly develop an understanding to how important small details are when it comes to bodyweight fitness and gymnastics!

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