Locomotion| The Weighted Lizard Crawl

Motion

The lizard crawl is a total body locomotion pattern, made popular by Ido Portal.  

As great as lizard crawl exercise (bodyweight only) is, there are simple ways to make it harder if you’re interested, and that’s what this post is about.

Crawling exercises can be progressed similarly to a squat, deadlift, bench press or any other traditional resistance exercise. 

The key is increasing the challenge somewhere, somehow.  Make it harder.  

Progressive overload (adding weight) is a key strategy to continue building fitness, especially strength.  It keeps you in progress mode. 

Exposing the body to progressively greater demands (movement complexity, load, etc) is a pathway to build strength and mitigate injury.

Weak bodies seem to be at a higher risk for injury.

If a given stress overloads tissues beyond their capacity, injury often results.

This is an over-detailed article about my experience adding weight to the infamous lizard crawl, the “king” of locomotion training. 

Progressive Overload

Know your options.

Conventional methods of progression include:  

  •  Add resistance
  •  Add repetitions
  •  Increase training frequency
  •  Increase volume (sets x reps x resistance)
  •  Decrease rest periods 

Halts in progress require a quick audit and a few simple decisions. 

Training the same movements with the same weight, time under tension, reps/sets, etc… will yield the exact same results.

And if this seems like common sense, please considered common sense is not always so common.  

Adding more weight to a lift, movement or locomotion pattern is not ALWAYS the answer, but more often than not, it is a solid solution to many of the problems people encounter in their training.

Don’t be afraid to increase the load, incrementally and intelligently.  

As highlighted in the title of this blog post, I chose to add weight to the lizard crawl as the mechanism of progressive overload.

From sloppy to strong…

When I finally decided to attack the lizard crawl pattern, adding weight was the last thing on my mind. 

Early on, even simple crawling patterns exposed my sloppy technique, lack of endurance and heavy-handed/footedness.

Crawling short distances (15-20 yards) wore me out quick.  It was humbling.  I felt weak. My story is similar to others I’ve heard and read about across the internet. A strong guy in traditional lifts who could not move well on the ground without weight.

Strict crawling drills crushed me.  Moving naturally with detailed precision is HARD. 

I experienced a pretty dramatic change in movement quality by practicing basic crawling patterns like Beast Crawls (forward, back, and lateral) and Bear Walks.  

I’d section off 10-15 minutes of EACH workout for crawling practice, and I still do to this day.

Gains with the basic locomotion patterns evolved into disadvantaged crawling in low positions. 

With near daily practice, I became extremely efficient with lizard crawling.  My body acclimated and now understands the demands.  Adaptation is a beautiful thing.   If you want something in the gym, attack the shit out of it.  Be relentless.  

Crawling distances increased, tempo and pattern variations were added along with introducing crawling backward.  

I reached a point where adding more volume became a time suck and borderline ineffective.

Lizard crawling requires a low-to-the-floor body position, aggressive joint angles and a constant on/off body tension from head to toe.  The upper body and core demands are intense.  Plus, it’s easy to get twisted up with hand and foot placement.  

The lizard crawl pattern connects traditional strength work with movements that exist in between.  The transitions, gracefulness, soft interactions with the floor, twisting, turning, propelling the body from point A to point B.  

The Weighted Lizard Crawl


I have to believe people have added weight this pattern before the writing of this blog post.  If not, I am a visionary

Regardless, I was humbled by this movement progression.  

I added a 40lb weight vest and a pair of 10lb ankle weights around each leg. A simple weight vest is a very natural tactic to add weight to movements while keeping the hands free.

The weight vest loaded the upper body/torso, while the ankle weights challenged the lower body.  Adding the ankle weights is a simple way to load the articulating motion of the hips.  

This articulating motion is similar to hip CARs, but a bit less isolated and strict.

When weight increased with any exercise, generally reps/sets, duration, time under tension need some relief.  Usually, it’s just for a short time to give the body an opportunity to execute quality work, avoid unnecessary training injuries and adapt to the stress.

Keeping all training variables the same would be too aggressive and unmanageable. 

Factoring this in, once I added the weight, I immediately decreased the distance of the crawl and increased rest periods.  

Previously, my average bodyweight lizard crawl distance was around 40 yards, broken up into a 10-yard crawl forward/10 yard crawl backward (twice down and back).  

For the weighted lizard crawl, I more than cut that distance in half, crawling roughly 10 yards (5 yards forward and backward).  On this day, I worked a total of 6 sets.  It was enough to leave soreness in the days afterward.

I’d recommend anywhere from 5-8 sets of 10-15 yards of a technique-driven lizard crawling. 

As I mentioned before, adding load commonly means taking longer rest periods in between efforts.  I wasn’t super detailed on the rest periods, but they were long enough to feel damn fresh.  

There is absolutely no need to rush this.  Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Equipment Used

 10 lb Valeo Ankle Weights 

 MIR Short Weight Vest

There are plenty of weight vest brands to choose from, but MIR is a trusted name and I couldn’t be happier with my MIR weight vest.  It’s durable and the short version is awesome.

Arguably, ankle weights are, well, ankle weights.  

Although I did get a nice product referral for the Valeo ankle weights from a great trainer in Philadelphia.  My only advice here is to size up and buy heavier than you’d think. Also, buy a set that has adjustability (ability to remove the weights).  You can always lighten them up if needed, but it’s nice to have heavy ankle weights if needed.  

So, I added weight, should you?

The crappy (but honest) answer is, maybe or maybe not.  It depends on your experience and goals.

Have you played around with increasing distance and tempo using bodyweight only?  

If not, start there.

Initially, leverage basic lizard crawl variations.  Gradually add distance and play around with tempo.

Practice lizard crawl press ups, modified range of motion crawls.  Place emphasis on body position, technique, timing, and mechanics.   

Aim for efficiency.  

People like to knock efficiency in training, but the fact is being inefficient at everything wastes precious energy.  At some point, you want the work being performed to feel natural. 

When it’s natural and fully integrated into your body, it’s useable in the real world.

Adding load to the lizard crawl, in my opinion, increases the challenge exponentially.  Far beyond anything I’d experienced before.

Once you’ve added weight, expect the silky smooth crawling technique disappear.  

You’re fully engaged in a hybrid variation of resistance training now.  Ha.  

Muscles and joints will need some time to fully understand the stimulus and adapt to it. 

Just getting started with crawling?

If you’ve not yet added crawling exercises (even the basics) to your workouts, you must.  Just try it.  There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Don’t make the mistake of marrying any particular tool or method.  Explore everything and integrate what’s useful.   

I talk about crawling patterns often.  Progressive crawling is excellent for building natural movement strength, endurance, and skill.  If you’re an avid lifter, add 5-10 minutes of crawling to your warm up.

Unsure where to start with crawling?  

Animal Flow and my YouTube channel are great resources to get exposure to crawling.  Anyone interested in ground-based movement training of any kind is referred to Animal Flow.  

My YouTube channel is LOADED with videos.  There’s plenty to watch, not a ton of boring commentary and I am always available for questions and conversation.  Simply enter the “crawling” into the search bar. 

Closing Thoughts…

The purpose of this article is to introduce people to one simple strategy of increasing the difficulty of the lizard crawl. 

Start with bodyweight based lizard crawl variations.

Don’t be a dumbass.   

Earn tougher movement progressions by practicing the basics.  

I referenced several good resources above, make sure you check those out.    

Lastly, leave a note on your experience, I love hearing from people.  

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

Basics of The Ido Portal Training Method

Ido Portal

 

Ido Portal

{Photo Credit:  www.idoportal.com}

Ido Portal Method training is taking off like rocket and growing in popularity every single day.  There’s no shortage of Ido Portal movement videos on YouTube and commentary from bloggers and podcasters regarding his views on the health and wellness industry.

[I do not speak for Ido Portal in any way.  Ido is a man with his own original thoughts and ideas.  Anything I write or discuss on this blog is my interpretation of information he’s published on his social media page, his old blog, Youtube interviews and various other sources.]

My background…

I have a deep background in strength and conditioning.  It’s traditional in every sense of the word.  Probably too traditional in fact.  It’s taken years to drop my guard on these traditional ways and open up to other movement training philosophies.  Old habits truly die hard.  

Very quickly, I realized Ido Portal Method was a different approach to “fitness”.

Ido Portal Method wasn’t pigeon-holed to doing things one way.  It was like an open platform of movement, capable of changing shape and direction, always seeking a higher standard.

The information I was taking in was unlike anything I’d seen before. 

Since my initial exposure, I’ve begun the process of digesting and translating Ido’s information.  This article represents some of that digestion and translation. 

The shift in my movement I.Q. has been profound, despite not committing 100% to his programming.  I’ve integrated many of Ido Portal style “beginner” movement drills into my own workouts with great success.  

I’ve also played around with my own variations of locomotion patterns.IMG_4167 

Above is a snapshot of a “feeler” lizard crawl exercise.  The goal of this exercise was to feel out the demands of the lizard crawl, from a strength, mobility and stability perspective.  

It’s been humbling, frustrating and exciting to explore new realms of movement.

Here’s my interpretation of the “movement culture”.

Ido Portal Training Methodology…

If you’re looking to get the summarized view (“movement” is a hard topic to summarize) of what drives Ido Portal’s movement methodology, it’s generally accepted to resemble something like the following:

Isolation—>  Integration—> Improvisation

Step 1:  Isolation

Step 2:  Integration

Step 3: Improvisation

However, of what I currently comprehend about Ido’s training philosophies, the transition from isolation to integration to improvisation serves as the fundamental backbone of the movement system.

It’s a higher standard and a logical progression.  

Here are some details on each phase…

Isolation

In the Ido Portal Method, Isolation based movement is essential to forward progress.  

Strength is a prerequisite.  You must continually work to become stronger.

Ido Portal Method Isolation = movement patterns.

Movement patterns include variations of:  squats, deadlifts, vertical pulling and pressing, horizontal pulling and pressing, glute-ham raises, rotational exercises, core training, olympic lifting, stabilization drills, kettlebells work, etc… all fall into the Isolation column.

Most of you will be familiar with these exercises.  

There’s also a heavy emphasis on high tension bodyweight-based strength training exercises in the Ido Portal exercise catalog.  

Body levers, hanging and climbing, dips, muscle ups, parallette work such as L-Sits, and Tuck Planches, single leg squats, single arm pressing, handstand push-ups and various locomotion patterns (crawling, rolling, etc.)

Gymnastics strength training.

Mixing traditional strength training with body-weight based exercise is a potent combination.  Both are time-tested, proven strength building strategies essential to physical development. 

I do not believe traditional strength training (barbells, kettlebells, etc) is superior to bodyweight based training (gymnastics rings, single arm/leg, etc)

Both can serve a valuable purpose in a training program.

Increasing one’s athletic capacities with Isolation style training is the path to being able to piece together movement sequences, and eventually improvised movement flow. 

Fitness is evolving quickly.  Today’s baseline movement standards and practices are much higher than they were 2 or 3 years ago.  

Taboo training methods such as rope climbing, moving odd-objects, locomotion, spinal waves and bodyweight-based training are now in the spotlight.  

Multi-planar strength and movement freedom.

The lightbulb moment and humbling part for me was realizing that the lowest rung of Ido’s movement classification system is what are commonly viewed as the highest rung of the ladder for most anyone else.  HIGHER STANDARDS! 

There’s a realm of physical training that exists beyond fixating on sets, reps, weight lifted, and racing the clock to set new P.R.’s.  

Handstands, leg-less rope climbing, ground-based movement flow training packed with locomotion patterns and bodyweight movement patterns are here.  Our bodies are designed to move freely.   

 Flow

Ido Portal Method combines the best of many movement disciplines.

Integration

Integration is the point where movement sentences are formed from the words (isolation).  

A squat, is no longer just a squat.  A squat fuses itself into a seamless flow with another movement pattern, no gaps between the two.  Through progression, more and more movement patterns are strung together.  A series of movement patterns formulating a “sentence” of movement.  

  • Sidenote:  Many will notice a heavy Capoeira influence in Ido’s teachings.

Here’s a video example:

The ground conditioning (locomotion patterns, Capoiera, etc) combined with gymnastics/bodyweight/traditional strength training, fused with flexibility and mobility work is NOT NEW, but since it’s being repackaged and people are seeing incredible results, it’s definitely creating a paradigm shift in fitness.  

Baseline movement standards have risen.  “Fitness” less about who can build the best looking body or lift the most weight (both respectable pursuits), it’s about moving and how your body can perform when confronted with the known and unknown.

The shift is on and people are taking notice.

Nike has…

Ido Portal Nike

Instagram is loaded with people who’ve discovered the movement culture.  

Another example of Integration…

Integration builds on the physical preparation from isolation training.  

Pre-planned movement sequences make up part of the Integration phase.  This is similar to a dancer demonstrating a choreographed routine.  Just because the routine has been practiced for months doesn’t make it any easier to execute.  

I’ve watched the “Locomotion Research” video 50+ times.  Watching someone move like water is inspiring.  The movement sequences demonstrated in the video are deceptively difficult.  

Ground-based locomotion is a multi-planar movement requiring a level of body awareness, joint range of motion and on again/off again body tension most people rarely practice.  A lot of it is quadrupedal, performed with hand and feet in contact with the floor. 

Again, I’m talking about scenario where it’s bodyweight versus gravity using various dynamic patterns (crawling, twisting, turning, balancing, etc).  Many of these patterns are animal-like.

On first exposure, people are often quickly humbled by the amount of mobilityvand strength needed for locomotion patterns.  You’ll be sore in the days after.

I’ve found variations of the Lizard Crawl to bridge the gap between “lifting weights” and putting those gains toward challenging movement patterns.

While crawling, there’s a feeling of connectedness, awareness, task oriented challenge.  I don’t get the same feeling from squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc.

Improvisation…

Ido has commented on numerous podcasts that improvised movement represents the highest form of human movement.  I couldn’t agree more.

Dominating isolation exercises makes the transition to integration significantly easier.  

With consistent practice of Isolation and Integration, one will arrive at the final progression of Ido’s movement philosophy… improvisation.

World-class gymnasts (pound for pound the strongest people on the planet) are rarely expressing improvised movement.  Competition routines are all pre-planned, practiced and choreographed prior.  

Improvisation is the combination of isolation and integration.  You’re essentially making it up as you go, or “flowing”.  Though it will likely take years of dedicated practice, improvised movement flows are achievable.  

This is where progression becomes important.  

Flowing like Ido Portal doesn’t happen overnight.  This isn’t to say significant progress won’t be made, but like anything worthwhile, practice is king.  Gains may come fast, than slow, than fast, than halted, etc.   

I’ll spend less time describing the Improvisation phase of the Ido Portal Method because most folks need to focus on nailing down the elements of Isolation and Integration for a long, long time.  

In interviews, Ido has mentioned several times he thinks there is a dimension to be explored beyond Improvisation.  Where do we go after improvisation?  Ido wasn’t quite sure, but the feeling is that something else exists.

Levitation? 🙂

Isolation and Integration Progress

The Ido Portal Method represents an incredible shift with how we view and define fitness.  

Humans are made to move (climb, run, jump, roll, carry, etc) and I think there is an emerging sector of people who want to experience the thrill of moving in this way.  

It’s important to clarify that traditional physical fitness modalities aren’t obsolete.  Nor should they be.  

A person must spend a great deal of time gaining ground in the Isolation phase,  grooving technique, building strength, improving joint control throughout a range of motion.  

Hammering away on the basics (Isolation exercises, squats, pulling, etc) is fundamental to progress.  Further down in this article I’ve shared two training programs that will bring a person very close the foundational work needed to progress through the Ido Portal Method.  

At the end of the day, a stronger, more stable, more mobile, more resilient body makes for a more useful human.  A life lived through movement can be an exhilarating life.  

Training Programs Similar to Ido Portal Method

Several years ago, I started looking for alternatives to the Ido Portal Method because nothing was being offered through Ido’s web store link.  It seemed like there were plans to create a product, but ultimately it never came to be.  

Here are two programs I found:

Both programs fuse elements of the Ido Portal Method.  

Movement 20XX  is the program for ground based movement, flow work and establishing a fluency with a variety of locomotion patterns.  Very unique training here. 

Global Bodyweight Training reinforces the importance strength training, which is vital for performance and long-term health.

Here’s an overview of each…

Movement 20XX

Screen Shot 2019-11-15 at 11.12.03 AM

Movement 20XX is a ground-based bodyweight training system that teaches many of the locomotion patterns and flow work found in Ido Portal Method.   

Locomotion consists mainly of quadrupedal ground-based exercises like crawling (Lizard Crawl, etc), switches, transitions, etc… and you’ll find a ton of floor work inside of
Movement 20XX.  

Integrating Movement 20XX into my own workout regimen has been a game changer.  

Flow training broke the monotony of traditional lifting and brought me back to natural movement, free of equipment, just me, my thoughts, my bodyweight and the floor.  

It restored the creative side of moving and put the spotlight on my lack of body awareness in space, mobility and strength.  

Depending on how I structure elements of Movement 20XX for the day, it’s also been great for strength-endurance work.  

Movement 20XX is loaded with smart exercise progressions.  

Novice or advanced, it doesn’t matter. Movement 20XX provides exercise progressions for all movement levels, all of the way up to movement mastery.    

Movement 20XX introduction to ground based movement begins with pre-planned movement sequences, very similar to Ido Portal Method.

Crawling patterns, switches and transitions are all worked in isolation first, integrated into flowing sequences, and later fused into improvised flow workouts.

Similar to Ido Portal Method, Movement 20XX combines ideas from many different movement disciplines to create a hybrid system of movement.  

The tempo of exercises and workouts can be manipulated to elicit a cardio-strength training effect or a dynamic yoga-like experience.

I’ve played around with adjusting the tempo, exercise variations and even brought Movement 20XX based exercises into cardio based work capacity circuits for conditioning.   

My Experience with Movement 20XX

I stumbled onto Movement20XX not long after finding The Ido Portal Method.  At the time, I wanted to know what was beyond lift weights, adding weight, etc.  

Ground-based conditioning, free of equipment, leveraging bodyweight control looked refreshing, functional, restorative and performance based.

Eero Westerberg (creator) also peaked my interest as he has tremendous movement capacity. 

Over the past few years, I’ve cherry-picked basic exercises and movement sequences from Movement 20XX.  

I started with the basics.  

To be transparent, the early days of movement based training SUCKED.  I felt uncoordinated, lost in space and frustrated with how choppy movement was.  It seems like it should be “easy” when you watch it.  Moving and observing are two different things.  

My spine was SUPER STIFF from years of “bracing”, “rigid neutral spine”, stability training, etc.   

It’s liberating (and fatiguing) to move around an open space for 20-30 minutes, varying the movement patterns, sequences and tempo.  

The simplicity of Movement 20XX is brilliant.  No equipment needed.  Just your body and the floor. 

If you’d like to learn more Movement 20XX, here’s the official website: Movement 20XX

Global Bodyweight Training:  

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 6.12.15 AM

Strength is the foundation of movement and control over one’s bodyweight.

Bodyweight Athlete is a bodyweight based strength program designed to build premiere movement patterns, such as horizontal pushing, horizontal pulling, vertical pushing, single leg squats and progressive core training.

Bodyweight Athlete covers the following:

  • Muscle Ups
  • Handstand Push Ups
  • Single Arm Push Ups
  • Single Arm Body Rows
  • Pistol Squats
  • Handstands
  • L-Sits
  • Human Flags (aka: body levers)
  • Back Levers

Improving performance in any or all of the movements listed above has great transfer into ground flow training and eventually, improvised work.  

Earning higher level movement requires an constant pursuit of strength in basic bodyweight movement patterns.  Pressing, pulling, squatting, core strength and stability, etc.  Single arm and single leg work.  

Once I realized how potent effective bodyweight training can be, it changed my opinions on what it means to be “strong” and have bodyweight control.    

The workout design, exercise progressions and step-by-step tutorials make Bodyweight Athlete a great bodyweight-based program.    

   

The human body is adaptation machine. 

You may struggle with many of these bodyweight movements early on.  

In the beginning, only eccentric single arm push ups might manageable.  With consistent practice you’ll find yourself performing full range single arm push ups.  

Same goes for lower body and core drills.  The human body is an adaptation machine if you keep introducing progressive stress.  

Proper progression, consistent practice and willingness to put forth effort will transform your performance.

Strength (like many athletic qualities) is built with…

  • Smart exercise progression.
  • Progressive overload.
  • Progressive exercise complexity and volume.

Smart progressions are extremely powerful.  Combining smart exercise progressions with simple accessory work like mobility, stability and flexibility training… strength gains can be made safely and quickly.  

Improving the basics of Isolation is often a missing link to building movement capacity.

Gaining strength in isolated chunks is essential to improving movement capacity.  

Global Bodyweight Training’s “Bodyweight Athlete” will set you back $150, but when considering the time most of us waste trying to collect this info from random online sources to structure some sort of training plan, or the price of hiring an in person gymnastics coach, it’s a deal.  

Closing thoughts… 

Find a program and follow the details.  When movements, reps, sets, flows start to feel easy, move on to the next progression.  Celebrate your progress but don’t stay too long.  Set your sights on the next  challenge

Don’t be afraid to film yourself.  Take before and after videos to see the progress.  There are few things more motivating than to to see your movement (and your body) change.  It’s a highly personal experience and very rewarding.  You put in the work and you receive the reward.  

Speed bumps and stalls in progress are temporary, especially when following an effective training template. 

There will be days and weeks where you feel like you’re not gaining any ground on your goals.  These are the moments are when you strap in and train harder/smarter, with increased focus and intent.  Discipline.  

Above all else, keep moving and moving often.  Your movement capacity will expand to the degree you’re willing to move it.

Cheers to you.   

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If you’ve enjoyed the material here, make sure you check out other M(eaux)tion content:

 

 

Cheers to the Basics of The Ido Portal Training Method…

KG

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Kettlebell Clean – Press- Squat

Motion

Years ago when I was low on cash and training in my studio apartment, my lone pair of 24kg kettlebells provided workout after challenging workout.  Making the most of a tiny home gym also gave me PHD in resourcefulness. 

Kettlebell training is unique, unlike any other mode of training.

Bursting onto the fitness scene in the early 2000s, kettlebells gradually became a mainstay piece of equipment in gyms all over the world.

Kettlebells disrupted fitness.  The spotlight was shifted really functional loaded exercises.  Drills like swings, cleans, snatches, Turkish Get Ups and other combinations became the new standard.  Most of which performed in standing position.

Though the effectiveness of kettlebell training has never changed, the novelty of the tool has since dissipated, which is common in the fitness industry.  

Exercises, equipment, and methods lose their popularity in the mainstream… here today, gone tomorrow.  

“Bring in the next shiny toy of the year, please!”.  

Despite the sex appeal fading a bit, basic kettlebell exercises remain brutally effective for building strength, conditioning, and fat loss.  

I’m one of those people who don’t forget.   

Outside of nutrition, sleep, hydration and adequate non-exercise activity on a daily basis… short burst kettlebell training (high intensity, low rest, etc) is amazing for burning body fat.

And yes, if you want to maximize workouts, you’d better be auditing habits outside of the gym.  Don’t sabotage your efforts. 

 

Kettlebell Clean, Press and Squat Combo

The clean, press and squat combination is a prime example of how a simple 3 exercise circuit can be leveraged to produce a significant training effect.  

And it doesn’t require much time at all.  15-20 minutes at most. 

For your eyes only… 


This kettlebell combination features 3 staple exercises:  clean, press and squat.  

Each exercise is performed with very little or no rest in between each exercise.  

Smooth transitions between each exercise is the goal.

Changing levels with the kettlebell… cleaning the bell from under the legs up to the front rack position, pressing overhead, back down to the front rack for the squat for repetitions…

… is pure work.  

This work creates a total body training stimulus.  

It’s the “magic sauce” of this combination.  

Before moving on, here are some key thoughts:

  •  You must have a working familiarity with each exercise before engaging in this circuit.
  •  Respect fatigue and what it does to the body while under load (increase rest if needed)
  •  Work reps, rounds and rest periods appropriate to your 
  •  Choose a sub-maximal kettlebell weight that allows for 10-12 reps per exercise (even though you’re going to do 6 reps).
  •  Not sure what weight to start with? Go light, work up as needed.
  •  Keep the workout short (15-20 minutes at most)

 

Alternatives/Substitutions

Not everyone is going to have access to a pair of kettlebells that are the same weight, or maybe they are the same weight, but too light or too heavy for your current fitness level.  

One of the most important ideas in staying fit is becoming resourceful.  When space is limited, equipment is scarce or time is tight, DO NOT FOLD.

How many times do we read a workout blog or fitness article and realize we don’t have the same set up the author did?  I’ve had this experience hundreds of times.  

What do you do?  Make adjustments, move forward, get the work done.

No kettlebells?  It’s ok!  Here are some equipment alternatives:

  • Barbell (same exercises and reps)
  • Dumbbells (same exercises and reps)
  • *Bodyweight (change exercises and reps)

Barbells and dumbbells are the most common pieces of weight training equipment in the world.  Most hotel gyms, YMCAs, 24Hour Fitness or Big Box Gym is going to have one or the other.  

Both allow for the clean+press+squat exercise combination to be performed.  The main difference between barbells/dumbbells and kettlebells is the design and how you can maneuver them.  

Barbell training fixes both hands to the shaft of the barbell.  For some people, this is great because you’re not having to control each hand independently.  

Dumbbells allow for independent arm work, but the shape of dumbells means you’ll have to tweak hand position/technique for each exercise.  These are subtle adjustments are mainly to avoid bumping the dumbells into your body on each movement.  

Bodyweight.  Now, if you’ve got no equipment available whatsoever, you’re still in the game, don’t worry!  You’ve got plenty of options.  Tons.  

When resources are scarce, you make adjustments, adapt and push forward.  Don’t get hung up on imperfections. 

  

Try this bodyweight combination…

Wouldn’t it be great if life was perfect all day, everyday?  Yes, it would be. 

(👋 slap across the face)

Life’s not perfect and never will be, so the best practice is to be ready to embrace the situation presented and make do with what you’ve got.

If bodyweight is the only option for the workout, consider digging into this circuit:

  •  Alternating Split Squat Jumps
  •  Dive Bomber Push-Ups
  •  Air squat (or variations: pistols, rear foot elevated, etc)
  •  Burpees

– 6-8 reps per exercise

– 6-10 rounds

– Limited/no rest between exercises

– 45-90 seconds rest after each round.

Perform in descending order (top to bottom) without rest between exercises.  Alternating split squat jumps first, then dive bomber push ups, etc…  

Factoring in no weight is being used to load these exercises, consider increasing reps per exercise, increasing the number of rounds performed or reducing the rest periods.  

Be mindful not to adjust all of these variables in one shot, it may create more fatigue than what your body can handle.  It’s like fine-tuning the dial on a boombox to get the signal of a radio station.  

Tweak here, tweak there.

Burpees?!?! What?!?! I h*te you!?

I don’t believe burpees are the greatest exercise on the planet. 

Some people do, I do not.

Burpees are often blindly prescribed to the wrong people and abused by many, but burpees are an incredible exercise to increase heart rate quickly and condition the entire body… in a pinch.

Personally, I rarely perform burpees.  But if I have few other options, hell yeah, I’m going to rip out some burpees.  

Don’t tar and feather me.

👉👉👉 Up for a challenge?  Try this burpee variation.

So, you have access to kettlebells, but… 

  • Kettlebells are too light
    • Increase the reps 
    • Increase the rounds
    • Decrease the rest periods
    • Add other kettlebell moves or filler bodyweight exercises
  • Kettlebells are too heavy (for desired rep range)
    • Decrease the reps
    • Decrease rest periods
    • Insert bodyweight filler exercises to achieve desired training stimulus)
  • Only 1 kettlebell (see video below)
    • Perform exact same exercises one side at a time 
    • Finish both sides, take rest period
    • Single kettlebell training is fantastic.

Ok, I’ve laid it out for you.  Time to dig in.  

Get after this exercise combination.  The kettlebell clean-press-squat combination is awesome for improving strength, conditioning and fat loss. 

Go.  Now. 

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

14 Exercise Total Body Warm-Up Routine

Motion

Before the workout, there is a warm-up.  

Warm-ups are an INCREDIBLE 15-20 minutes to make mobility gains, nourish joints, rep out isolated movements/activation drills, playfully engage in movement sequence or explore other movements that peak one’s curiosity.  

I used to dread warming up before workouts, as most people probably do.  

Warming up seemed like a barrier to the productive section of the workout.  

A period of time where I’d swing my arms around a little bit, bounce on your toes, a few neck rolls, get my hype playlist dialed in and throw a few shadow punches.

This used to be me.  

I’d drudge through a smattering of hand-selected, mindless dynamic stretches, mini band walks to “wake up” the glutes, and finish strong by mobilizing the ankles and T-Spine.  

I elevated my heart rate, initiated a sweat and feel focused, so the warm-up boxes must all have checkmarks ✅, right?  

In my mind, the answer to that question was, “Boxes check, good to go.  Moving on to the sexy part of the workout.  Exertion.”

Re-Establish the Purpose of the Warm-Up

People generally think of warm-ups as a stimulus to awaken and prime the body for more aggressive exercise, be it resistance training or cardio conditioning.  

This isn’t the wrong way to view things by any means.  Elevating the heart rate and increased body temperature is still important.

But the warm-up can serve as a vehicle to make incremental (valuable) gains in other areas.  Mobility, movement transitions, balance, coordination, etc.  

The problem, rather a common perception, is that investing time in a progressive warm-up seems like a waste of time.  

No muscle pump?  It must be a waste of time.

Lungs not burning?  Surely time is being wasted.

“Let’s get this over boring-ass sh*t over with so I can start making my gaaaiiinnnzzzz”.

For clarification, “Gainz” generally describes the usuals for most people:

  •  Fat loss 
  •  Muscle or strength gain
  •  Losing weight 
  •  General fitness improvement
  •  Big bouncing pecs, softball-sized biceps, and curvy butts, etc. 

I think we can do better with our pre-workout warm-up routines. 

We can do this by integrating joint mobility training, moving limbs through disadvantaged or strict patterns of motion, movement exploration/play, flow sequencing, transitions, etc.  

Today, it’s really hard to see where my warm-up stops and the workout begins.

The days of twirling arm and leg swings are long gone.  I’ve traded them for slow and controlled mobility drills, where I attempt to express the true joint range of motion I have ownership over, and fighting to earn and expand that gradually.

Rather than flailing my arms around in circles for 10 reps and calling it good, I’ll crush a tennis ball and draw the largest possible circle with my fist (from front to back) doing my best to stay avoid moving body parts to draw that circle.   

These mobility drills involve articulating joints through a maximum controlled range motion.  It’s simple, but not easy.  Each repetition is painfully slow.  You can find a lot of these drills on my YouTube page.  

Functional Range Conditioning refers to these joint nourishing exercises as CARs (controlled articular rotations).  

I also like to get on the floor and move.  

Twisting, turning, reaching, flexing/extending, squatting, lunging, blending pushing movements and rotation movements, crawling, changing levels, tossing, throwing, etc.

5-10 minutes are allocated to getting lost in bodyweight-based groundwork.

Some workouts, I’ll include a wood plyo box or other pieces of equipment, but moving with bodyweight through an open space remains the foundation.

Here are a few other things I like to practice during the warm-up:

  • Mobility techniques
    • Kinstretch
    • Gymnastics drills
    • Spinal Waves
    • Wood dowel training 
  • Improvised ground-based movement
  • Exploring new exercises, methods, and techniques
    • Macebell training
    • Weck Method drills (Coiling, RMT rope drills, etc)
    • Hybrid kettelbell exercises
      • Turkish Get Up variations
      • Swing variations
      • Hand-to-hand exercises 
    • New Bodyweight Movements
      • Sissy Squats
      • Dragon Squats
      • Task-Based Challenges
      • Legless Rope Climbs
      • Parallette Bar drills 

Total Body Pre-Workout Preparation

A while back, I uploaded a YouTube video demonstrating 14 different warm-up exercises to prepare the entire body for a workout. 

Here is the video…

Exercise order:

1.  Shoulder CARs

2.  Spine CARs

3.  Hip CARs

4.  Dowel Assisted Sissy Squats

5.  90/90 Series (transfers, lift offs, hovers, etc)

6.  Prone Swimmers Hovers

7.  Bodyweight Squats

8.  Bodyweight Lunges

9.  Bodyweight Push-Ups

10.  Side Kick Throughs

11.  Crab Reach

12.  Back Bridge

13.  Scorpion Reach

14.  Cossack Squat w/ Horse Stance Pause

Take notice of all of the joint articulations, slow tempo movement of arms and legs through challenging patterns, bodyweight exercises and movement combinations. 

It’s all there. 

Basic joint mobility work, ground-based conditioning, and exploratory movement training can really have a significant impact on your movement capacity, joint health, and performance.  

In time, movements that once plagued you or simply felt impossible, begin to feel very achievable.  Joints feel buttery.  Your body is changing.  Adapting to the stimulus. 

If you’re training 4-5 days per week, sectioning off 15-20 minutes to warm up with a few of the exercises featured in the video can add 60+ minutes of unique training to your regularly scheduled workout regimen. 

This adds up.  

Daily, the full-body approach to warming up is my personal preference.  Even if the day’s workout is mostly upper body, I still deliver a stimulus to the hips, knees and ankle joints.  

Conducting total body maintenance has made my body feel better at 35 years old then I did when I was supposedly at my “peak physical condition” in college.  

Nothing against people who opt for upper and lower body splits, but I prefer a daily micro-dose of joint articulations and full range movement.  

Find what works best for you.

It might not be what works best for me… and that is ok.  

How long should a warm-up be?

Working through 14 exercises generally takes 15-20 minutes, depending on reps and tempo per exercise.    

Should it always take 15-20 minutes?  

No.  Starting out, expect it to take longer because you won’t know what the hell you’re doing.  

Time will decrease as you become more familiar and waste less time setting up.      

All this being said, the more volume with most of these exercises, the merrier.  

How many reps per exercise?

In the video, I demonstrate 2-3 reps per exercise.  

I reduced the reps to keep the video moving along and lower the boredom factor.  Plus, uploading a 20+ minute video to YouTube can be full of problems.

Increase the reps to 8-10 per side for each exercise. 

Progress through all 14 exercises, one after the other, non-stop until the end. 

Of course, pause and rest as needed, but don’t waste too much time.  

Keep the show moving. 

Reminder… 

This warm-up shows 14 different exercises.  

Only 14.  There’s a mountain of other effective warm-up exercises not shown in this video.  

I simply wanted to share an example of a total body warm-up routine. 

There are many other incredible mobility drills, activations, locomotion exercises and ground-based movements not included in the video.

A total body warm-up can be organized a thousand different ways.  

Should all warm-ups look like this?

They don’t have to.  

Some days my pre-workout build-up consists of jumping rope for a few minutes paired up with crawling.  Other days I’m in the mood for ground flow, swinging kettlebells, rolling around on the floor, wall assisted handstands, etc.  

I like to mix it up.  

It doesn’t always follow this 14 exercise recipe.

On days where I am engaging in a long slow cardio session, I’ll climb on my air bike and ride.  No warm-up at all.  

The message of this post is to audit your current warm-up routine and observe if you’re breezing through a below-average pre-workout warm routine.  

Are you undervaluing warm-up time?  Is there room for improvement?

I’d bet there is.  

I used to overlook my warm-ups, and I’d guess a lot are doing the same.  

Time is a valuable commodity and goal achievement is important.  

Warming up with greater purpose can help to accelerate the time it takes to reach physical goals, keep your body feeling good and leverage your time in the gym.     

 

 

Cheers to getting after the warm-up, 

Kyle 

 

FLOW| 4 Exercise Bodyweight Flow to Build the Hips, Shoulders and Spine

Motion

Give your hips, shoulders, and spine some love with this bodyweight only combination.

This flow features 4 bodyweight exercises and is for EVERYONE.  

Each of these exercises can help to “unwind” folks who sit for long durations throughout the day. You know, that shoulders and head forward, spine rounded, hamstrings and butt smashed against the chair posture.  

The same posture that sucks the life out of many of us. 

Our bodies adapt to positions we spend time in the most, but I am telling you, spend some time working through basic flows like this one and you will be surprised at the difference it makes over time.

Here’s the flow…

Exercises featured:

  Table Top

  Table Top with Thoracic Rotation

  Crab Reach (from Animal Flow)

  High Bridge Rotation

*** Links to exercise demonstrations.

 

Reps/Sets Suggestions…

Start with 4-5 reps on each side.  Find a way to accumulate 3-5 sets per session, most days of the week.  It might sound like a lot, but we are talking about 5-7 minutes of movement.  

In a perfect world, you’d be able to work through this combination during designated workout time. 

However, despite what social media projects, nobody lives in a perfect world, so get it in when you can.  

This is a bodyweight-only flow combination, not incredibly demanding, but it does require some attention.  Practice quality to get quality.  Take pride in being detailed.  

Constant practice is key to learning new movements and refining the technique of those movements.

Personally, I prefer higher rep ranges. 

Go north of 10 reps on each side.  

I’m not afraid to turn on a good song and work combinations like this for the duration of the song, getting lost in the flow, turning attention inward to my breathing, relaxing the jaw, steadying the hands on the floor and shoulders as well.

Even after this combination becomes “easy”, I recommend revisiting it periodically to check in on each exercise and shape.

 

Exercise tips and commonalities…

  Drive the hips up toward the ceiling, squeezing your butt and rolling your pelvis toward your belly button.

  Maintain weight distribution on the midfoot/heel, pull the heels actively toward the hands, squeeze the thighs together (roughly 6-8 inch gap between)

  Keep the rib cage tucked.  

  Stay active with the shoulders vs. slumping, search for shoulder extension.  

  Allow the head and neck to relax and fall back in line with the spine.

–  Breathe.

  Return to the same starting position (butt swinging between the hands) before re-elevating the hips back into extension to complete the next exercise. 

*** If you’re able to flow through all 4 exercises, change sides after completing the high bridge thoracic rotation.  Or, change sides after the most difficult exercise for your current fitness capacity.  

 

Benefits of this flow… aka: “What’s in it for me?”

  Hip extension reinforces glute engagement. 

  Stretching the hip flexors 

  Shoulder extension and stability

  Pelvic control

  Thoracic extension and rotation (spine mobility)

  Movement transition practice

  A different view of the world in Crab Reach and High Bridge Thoracic Rotation

  Exposure to new body positions and movements

 

Closing… 

“Exposure to new body positions and movements” might be the most important benefit of practicing this simple movement combination.  

Exposure, exploration, and problem solving is the gift of trying anything new.  

I was reminded of this while reading Erwan Le Corre’s new book, “The Practice of Natural Movement”.  Erwan founded MovNat and has been promoting natural movement tactics well before it was popular to do so.  

Children get TONS of exposure to new movements while navigating the playground or in Physical Education class or while learning any new motor skill.  It’s not “working out” to them, it’s fun and playful.  Moving into adulthood, people lose this playfulness and curiosity.

Anyways, the simple message is continually introducing the body to new and challenging positions/movements is fantastic for growing mind-body connection. 

Expanding your range of movement skills is a worthy investment.   

You’re never too sophisticated to move.

It’s not necessary to obsessively think about movement at all times of the day.  Leave this to the gurus.  But, movement of some kind must be a part of your day, most days of the week.  Rack up the mileage walking, lifting, carrying, maneuvering, navigating, crawling, rowing, running, pressing, flowing… whatever.  

I’ve never met a person who adopted a progressive movement regimen who regretted it.

People who stick a movement regimen feel better, move better, have more energy and look better.  No sugar coating here.  

Success leaves clues.

Moving is both the benefit and the medicine.

Wolff’s Law:  Either use it or expect to lose it.  

Let me know what you think in the comments below…

 

 

Cheers,

Kyle 

3 Fresh Turkish Get Up Variations

Motion

Turkish Get Ups reinforce total-body movement.  

TGU’s are Swiss army knife of sorts, serving as a movement assessment or an effective strength and cardio builder.  

I’ve dabbled with longer duration TGU workouts (5+ minutes continuous), which can provide an impactful form of low impact, externally loaded cardio.      

The general premise of a Turkish Get Up is to move from a lying position to a standing position.  Once at the top, repeat the process in reverse, return to the lying position.

That’s it.  Lay down, stand up, lay back down.

Is there some technique to it?  Absolutely.  But the goal is to stand up and lay back down efficiently.  

Turkish Get Ups, used alongside other exercises like deadlifts, kettlebell swings, heavy loaded carries, bodyweight strength training and Gymnastics-based drills can create a potent training program.   

Toss in some Kinstretch and now we’re talking.

Popularized by the kettlebell crowd in the early 2000’s, Turkish Get Ups still seem to fly under the radar with the mainstream.  It could be due to the learning curve, the unknown benefits or the fact they aren’t easy.   

Over the last 10+ years, Turkish Get Ups have been embedded in my weekly training. 

When workout time is short, 20-25 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups paired with Kettlebell Swings is a staple movement session.  Allocate 10-12 minutes for Turkish Get Ups (alternating each side) and the remaining time for Kettlebell Swings.   

Traditionally, a kettlebell is the tool used to add load to the Turkish Get Ups.  However, a variety of training tools can be used (should be used).  Dumbbells and sandbags work quite well as alternatives.  

If there was an “Original” variation, it would likely look something like this:

 

Steps to the Turkish Get Up

 

Ascending to standing position:

Step 1:  Punch and roll

Step 2:  Elbow support

Step 3:  Hand support

Step 4:  Hip lift

Step 5:  Straight leg slides underneath body

Step 6:  Stand up via lunge motion

 

Descending back to floor:

Step 1:  Reverse lunge 

Step 2:  Lower hand to find the floor

Step 3:  Bring leg through to the front (extended)

Step 4:  Raise hips and pause for moment

Step 5:  Drop butt to the floor, supporting weight on extended arm/hand

Step 6:  Lower to elbow, gently rolling to starting position.

  • The ascent to the standing position is essentially the “concentric” portion of the exercise, muscles activating to move from one step to the next.
  •  The descent back to the floor is made up of a series of “eccentric” steps, as the goal is to control each step, lowering back to the lying position softly.  

The traditional variation is loaded with benefits, but there are ample opportunities to tweak the Turkish Get Up and create a new training experience.  

I’m a big believer in discipline.  It should be the foundation of any fitness regimen.  That being said, if you’re bored out of your mind, it’s time to play around other variations.  

Adjusting the speed, adding or removing load, adding or removing steps to make it easier or more complex, using different training tools (or no training tools), volume, duration, etc.   

Here are 3 Turkish Get Up Variations that will inject a fresh challenge to your next workout…

 

#1 Turkish Get Up + Squat Ascent/Descent


“Build the deadlift, maintain the squat”.

Ever heard this?  Well, you can both maintain and build the squat pattern with this unique variation.  

The traditional Turkish Get Up generally uses a lunge variation to move from the tall kneeling position to standing, also from standing back to kneeling on the way back down.  

This variation uses a squat to stand up and get back down, with subtle tweaks in technique.  

Small changes can change a lot about an exercise.  Sorting out how to maneuver the feet underneath the body can take some practice, so again, start with no weight or lightweight.   

Dropping into the squat on the way back down is a little more forgiving.  Once you’re low enough to touch the hand to the floor, support yourself between the arm and the opposite side leg.  Slide the foot out in front, lower back to the floor.  

It took me a while to warm up to the squat as the stand up/sit down pattern.  With a little practice it’s improved my movement capacity quite a bit. Exposing the body to progressively new and challenging patterns is great for expanding movement capacity.

Beware:  User must have sufficient shoulder/thoracic mobility and squat pattern grooved for this.  Balance a shoe on top of the palm of the hand or fist, or use light weight to start.  Take a video of your attempts. 

 

#2 Turkish Get Up + Press at Every Step

Adding a press at each step of the Turkish Get Up makes the exercise very taxing for the upper body.  

Pressing in uncommon body positions is also quite humbling.  Many people will find pressing early on in the exercise, posted on the elbow and hand, to be a new and challenge experience.  Start with lighter weight.  Don’t go for broke right away.

Overhead pressing from the half kneeling and standing position will be far more familiar for most people.  

Assuming you press at every step as I did in the video, there will be a total of 11 presses.  

That’s a lot of upper body work. 

Considering the volume, lighter weight should be used, along with decreasing the reps. 

2 reps on each side equates to 44 presses.  Arms will be rubber if overdone. 

If I’m using this variation, I’ll do 2-3 reps on each side of the “Press at Every Step”, and move on to more loaded variations.  Keep the weight on the lighter side here.

Tip:  Use a weight that you’re able to press in the weakest position, as this will dictate the load you’re able to use.  

 

#3 Turkish Get Up + Clean – Squat – Press

Adding a clean, squat and a press can create a broad training effect. 

Perform the usual steps getting up to the standard position.  Once standing, lower the weight down to the front rack position, execute a single rep of a clean, squat and press.  Descend back to the bottom.  

Simple, right? 

Tip:  Make sure you’ve got experience practicing cleans before trying this variation.

 

Reps, Sets and Time for Turkish Get Ups

Suggestions for reps, sets and time will vary greatly from person to person. 

Why?  

Mostly due to fitness level and experience with the Turkish Get Up.  

I used to read articles and think, “Just tell me what to do!”

But the reality is we’re all a little different, so it’s important to do what you can do, not necessarily what I can do or anyone else.  

In general, start with lower volume (reps and sets) and progress from there. 

Keep the focus on QUALITY.

I’ve been practicing Turkish Get Ups for 10 years.  My body is acclimated to the stress, working long duration sets and heavier weights.  

Reps

Start with 1 quality rep on each side, alternating sides.  Using 1 repetition (instead of doing 2-3 reps in a row) gives you the best chance to move with quality, before the fatigue creeps in and starts breaking down your body position, etc.

Eventually, if you’re looking to support the weight for longer durations on the same arm, you can execute 2 reps on each side before changing sides. 

Doing this will challenge shoulder endurance.  It’s a nice strategy to improve shoulder endurance, just not where a person should start if new to the Turkish Get Up.

Turkish Get Ups using progressively heavier weights should always be practiced for 1 rep per side.  I’m rigid about this.  Treat it the same way as any other strength based exercise (deadlifts, squats, etc).  

In general, as the weights go up, the reps go down.  And vice versa.  

Sets

The combination of reps and sets gives you volume.  Don’t over do it.  Fitness is a long-term game, not a one and done WOD of the day.  Play the long game.  

That being said, start with anywhere from 3-8 sets in a workout.  If performing 1 rep per side for 6 sets, that’s a grand total of 12 Turkish Get Ups.  

Doesn’t sound like much, but consider that a Turkish Get Up is a very long, drawn out exercise.  It’s not a 1 second time under tension type deal.  It’s 10-15 seconds, maybe even longer if you’re working a slow tempo.  

Time

Time is my preferred method for practicing Turkish Get Ups.

Set the timer and work until the timer goes off.  Keeping a steady work tempo, I don’t have to count repetitions.  Instead, the focus is on the movement, body position, breathing, tension, tempo, etc.  

The important stuff.

How long can you go?

In the past, I’ve set a timer for as long as 25 minutes and started the work.  Yes, 25 minutes.  It’s not a world record, but it’s a long time to be grinding out Turkish Get Ups continuously with minimal rest. 

During this time period, I will generally warm up with a light kettlebell (24kg/28kg) and bounce around with using a 32kg kettlebell and 40kg kettlebell.  I take brief rest periods to wipe away the sweat, drink some water and change the music track.  

For most people, I’d suggest beginning with 5-8 minutes using the timer method.  Don’t overdo it.  

Quality over quantity.

Tomorrow is another day to train, play the long game with fitness.

 

Closing It Out…

The Turkish Get Up is one of my top picks for building total body performance.   

Joint stability and mobility, core strength, lower body strength, breath work, tension and relaxation techniques are all benefits associated with Turkish Get Ups. There’s a potent cardio training effect when worked for extended periods.

The number of Turkish Get Up variations are virtually limitless.  I shared three.  I could have listed fifty more.  

Slip a press in here and there, clean the kettlebell at the top, squat, swing, row, etc. Adding exercises, tweaking movement tempo, weight used are just a few of the small adjustments that can be made. 

Variations are only limited by creativity.  To be safe, consideration should be given to  fitness level, knowledge and experience. 

Finding time to train can be difficult.  Life, career, kids, social activities all require time.  It’s tough to balance it all.  Having a 4 month old daughter (as I write this) I know first hand how quickly the time to play around in the gym get’s whittled down.

When you find yourself short on workout time, leverage a quality session of Turkish Get Ups.  10-12 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups is a highly effective, total body workout.  

Mix it up, alternate how you get up, tempo, speed, add exercises to the reps, etc.  

*** Remember, start with lighter weight, lower reps to groove technique and build strength and work capacity.  

Give each of these variations a try and let me know what you think.

*** M(EAUX)TION is active the following social media platforms…

  YouTube (longer exercise demos)

  Instagram (daily training, flow, exercises, workouts, life etc)

  Facebook (fitness news, research, science, brain training, nutrition, etc)

 

 

Cheers to you,

Kyle 

Beginner Flow Training: 5 Challenging Bodyweight Exercise Combinations

Motion

If you’ve dedicated time to training exercises in isolation, good.

What do I mean by isolation?  Training front squats using a work:rest type scenario is isolation.  Do a set of squats, rest, do another set of squats.  Most people will be familiar with this.    

Grinding on exercises in isolation is key to developing performance.  Celebrate the efforts.  

But, if you’re looking to add some flavor to your workouts, consider combining exercises together to create movement sequences.  

Creating bodyweight based “nano-flow’s” is a training tactic heavily influenced by Animal Flow and elements of Ido Portal’s ground based conditioning work.  I wrote an extensive article about Ido Portal’s training methodology, read here 

Movement in daily life rarely happens the same way twice (or for 3 sets of 10 reps) like it does in the gym.  We think it does, because it feels similar, but there are always subtle differences in every movement and motion that creates a unique physical experience.  

Practicing a series of movements with brief periods of transition between each movement is an effective strategy to prepare for the unexpected demands of daily life. 

Moving toward flow training improves a person’s movement IQ, confidence and aids in injury mitigation in by adapting the individual to impromptu traversing of obstacles.  Making split second adjustments to terrain, objects, trips and stumbles gradually become a skillset as the body adapts to quick decision making of the mind AND the body.    

Introducing a new physical  into the mix is refreshing and fun.  Hours in the gym working the same exercises, chasing weight increases, more reps and sets can get quite bland.  Staying excited about physical activity is important.  

Enough already.

Here are 5 bodyweight based movement combinations worth trying… 

#1  Parallete Bar Pass Through to L-Sit

Parallette Bars are a simple training tool and this combination makes great use of their design.  Begin in a push up position, immediately lifting the legs and “passing through” the middle of the parallettes into the L-Sit.  Hold the L-Sit for a 2-3 second count, then reverse the pass-through back to the start position.  

Don’t rush this.  Use a slower tempo, spend time under tension and focus on controlling every inch.  Embrace moving slow before moving fast. 

Obviously this combination requires a set parallette bars (aka: P-Bars) for this combination.  The parallette bars I’m using in this video are made of PVC, costing me roughly $6 and 10 minutes to cut, glue and assemble.  They work great. 

Could a person use chairs, wood blocks or something else?  Yes, absolutely.  But Parallette Bars will give you a better experience.    

 

#2  High Bridge Rotation to Lizard Crawl

I give credit to 3 different training programs for shining the spotlight onto the benefits of bodyweight based training:  Ido Portal Method, Animal Flow and Global Bodyweight Training. 

Animal Flow (ground training) and Global Bodyweight Training (strength) equipped me the movement tools that led to implementing the high bridge rotation seen in this video.  

Today, I work some variation of back bridging in nearly every workout, either as maintenance or to make progress.  

High Bridge Rotations require adequate spinal extension, shoulder mobility, stability and strength.  Practicing basic static back bridging is a must to gain access to the rotation.  For many, back bridging will be unnatural (it was for me).  In time, the body will make the adaptation the static bridge, bringing the High Bridge Rotation closer.  

Once out of the high bridge rotation, refocus your vision, lower down and initiate the lizard crawl.  The lizard crawl is an amazing strength and conditioning exercise.  

As you can see, the lizard crawl is the dominating exercise here.  You can also see my range of motion is modified to avoid the wall and cardio machines.  

If you’re new to the lizard crawl, check out the following variations, which may be a bit more palatable.  

  Alligator Crawl

  Handslide Lizard Crawl 

  Elbow Crawl

 

#3 Burpee Sprawl – Push Up – Squat – L Sit

What the hell am I supposed to name these movement combinations?  I realize it’s a mouthful, but technically, the name describes the sequence accurately.  I’ll keep it.  

Perform a push up, hop forward into a deep squat position, place the hands on the floor slightly behind the butt cheeks as the legs extend and LIGHTLY tap the floor with the heels.  Reverse the flow.  

Tip:  Keep the sprawl motion light and graceful.  This is designed to be a heart pumping, thrashing burpee exercise.  Control the kick back, be soft and quiet with the landing. 

 

#4  Lunge to Pistol Squat Flow

Lower body training is essential for health and performance.  So much of life takes place on two feet.  Strong, stable and mobile legs that are capable of performing a robust variety of movements is well worth the time investment.  

This combination binds together two fundamental patterns:  lunges and squats.  

Do your best to avoid touching the swinging foot to the floor during each transition.  

This is one combination probably best executed for reps.  Reps will vary from person to person, but 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps per side will work. 

 

#5  Lizard Crawl + Low Scorpion 


Like most people, I’ve got favorite exercises.  Not necessarily because I feel I’m good at them, but because of the value they bring to my workout time.  I don’t have all day to train.  I want exercises to give me big bang for my buck.

This lizard crawl + low scorpion combination is a unique, high value sequence. 

There’s no beginning or end with this sequence. It’s a cyclical flow perfect for a small training space.  

Practice this for repetitions or time.  I prefer the time option.  Setting a timer to focus on my movement quality versus having to tally repetitions and tripping over myself in the process.  Set the timer, start moving.  

Perform the initial phase of a lizard crawl, sweeping the unloaded arm forward.  Reach.  Once the hand finds the floor, transition your weight forward.  In a traditional lizard crawl, the trailing leg would articulate and relocate to the side of the body.

Instead of continuing the crawl, reach the trailing leg up and over the body.  Find the floor, step the other leg through, rinse and repeat.  

Got all that?  Just watch the video… hahaha. 

 

Closing it out.. 

Fusing movements together is a great way to further challenge the body and bring a refreshing challenge into workouts.  Maintaining interest in the contents of a workout is vitally important for long-term adherence.  Quite simply, I you’re bored and burned out, it’s easy to skip training day and make that the new habit.  

Not mentioned here are the cognitive benefits of learning new movements, skills and processing the transitions between those movements/skills.  The “mental gymnastics” involved in sorting out unfamiliar movement is incredible for the brain.  It keeps a person young and sharp with processing and solving movement riddles.  

 

 

Cheers to your efforts,

Kyle 

Animal Flow| Scorpion

Animal Flow

Enjoy Yoga?  I think you’ll like Animal Flow.

Don’t like Yoga?  That’s ok, I still think you’ll like Animal Flow.  

Animal Flow is a ground based, bodyweight movement program.

It bridges the gap between stationary Yoga and free flowing bodyweight based movement.  If you’d like some background info about Animal Flow, check out this article.

Yoga is an incredible physical practice.  Slowing down to focus on centering oneself, breath, calming down the busyness of the day, simplicity over complexity, and the poses provide tremendous physical and mental benefits.  

That being said, there are instances when I crave movement beyond the yoga mat. 

I’m not alone here.  Approachable movement based training is a mode of fitness a lot more people are looking for.  Many of Animal Flow’s exercises, combinations and workouts are quite popular with my YouTube subscribers.

Beginner or a elite movers, at home, the gym or traveling, it doesn’t matter much when the movements are scalable, bodyweight based and require little space to do.

In this article we will shine the spotlight on Animal Flow’s Scorpion exercise.  

Scorpion is one of many primary movements in Animal Flow.  

Here’s what Scorpion looks like…

The Benefits of the Scorpion exercise include:

  Lengthening of the hamstrings and lats

  Opening up and activating the hips

  Thoracic spine extension and rotation

  Shoulder performance

  Rotation core training

  Uniquely challenging multi-planar movement

  Ground based, bodyweight based, equipment free, minimal space requirements

Scorpion Movement Technique

The end goal of any movement training is generally seamless, flowing movement with beautiful transitions.  Strength, stability, range of motion and conditioning all fuse together to create movement skill. Words will never do expert level demonstrations of movement justice, but we know it when we see it.  It’s fluid, seemingly free of flaws and confident.  

Then, the reality of the situation.  Most people who are new to ground based movement are going to trip over their limbs for a while before getting it down.  I call it “eating dirt” (aka: sucking).  The more you practice, the less dirt you’ll eat. 

So, lets dive into Scorpion exercise technique to provide a solid base of what the exercise should look and feel like.

Bottom Position

The bottom position of Scorpion involves trunk flexion and a bit of rotation.    

Cues:

  Eyes toward the hands

  Shoulders over the hands

  Round the back slightly to make room for the knee coming across

Slide the knee across the midline of the body to the opposite side elbow.  “Kiss” the knee cap to the elbow. followed by a reversal of the motion to initiate the upward phase of Scorpion.

* Tip:  Remove momentum from the cross-body knee touch.  Move slow and with control.  If you cannot touch the knee to the opposite side elbow without compensating, that’s fine!  Work the range of motion that you’re able to control.  

 **Warning: core cramping possible… crossing knee through the midline to the opposite side elbow is a tough little move and requires a decent amount of core strength and control. 

Top Position

At the top of the Scorpion, the body moves into trunk extension and rotation. 

Cues:

–   Head between the arms

–   Keep anchored leg as straight as possible

–   “Reach” with the elevated foot, squeeze this glute

–   Relax the jaw and neck (breathe)

After touching the knee to the opposite side elbow, reverse the motion back through and up, leading with the foot.  Move into a modified Downward Dog as the free leg adducts and opens at the hip.

Say what?   

Here’s what I’m talking about…

Scorpion feels…

Moving is a multi-sensory experience.  You hear, see and feel with every movement.  

Learning new movements can be less confusing if you can anticipate what to feel while performing the exercise. 

At the bottom position of Scorpion, most people are going to feel an intense core contraction.  The “burn” if you will.  Scooting the knee across the midline of the body to the far side elbow is a tough maneuver.  Locking the trunk into place isolates this move even more.

At the top position of Scorpion, you may feel a little burn in the elevated glute, stretch of the hip flexors of that same leg, along with a nice stretch running down the anchored leg from glute to the heel.  The rotation in the up position is great for a side body stretch, with focus on the lats leading up into the armpit.  

Personally, my lats (hips to arm pits) get a big stretch during Scorpion. 

How to Incorporate Scorpion into Workouts

As part of a Warm Up

Animal Flow and other ground based movement training are PERFECT for warming up before resistance training or cardio conditioning work.  

In this situation, you could organize the workout like this:

1.  Foam Roll + Active mobility training (Kinstretch, etc)

2.  Ground Based Conditioning (Animal Flow)

3.  Resistance Training

4.  Cardio

5.  Cool-down

This is a very simple workout template, but simple can be brutally effective.  

Spend 15-20 minutes working through the foam roll, mobility and Animal Flow movements.  Keep it brief and focused.  

As part of a Lift or Cardio Circuit

Scorpion works well as a filler exercise when paired more traditional lifts (chin ups, squats, deadlifts, lunges, pressing, etc).     The nice part about filler exercises is they should compliment your traditional lift performance.  If they are sucking away too much energy from these lifts, you’re using the wrong filler exercises.  

Here’s an example of a strength focused tri-set with the Scorpion as a filler exercise:

A1)  Chin Up

A2)  Front Squat

A3)  Alternating Scorpion

The tri-set above is loaded with benefits.  3 exercises.  Chin ups and front squats are strength based, while the Scorpion is simple ground based natural movement.   

If you’re looking for a cardio circuit, see how this grabs you:

3-5 rounds of:

10 Kettlebell Swings

10 Push Ups

10 Alternating Jumping Split Squats

10 Rows

3-5 Scorpions

—> Rinse and repeat.

In this workout, the Scorpions will be performed under fatigue.  If you’re not ready for Scorpions under fatigue just yet, opt for practicing while fresh.  

As part of a Movement Flow

Set a timer for 5, 10, 15, 20+ minutes and flow around a room using nothing but bodyweight movements you’re familiar with.  

Simple crawling exercises integrated with periodic switches and transitions is a great place to start.  


Add in some push ups, planks, squats, lunges, bending, reaching, twisting.  

Do it all.  Flow around and explore the space.  

Flow work can be organized or improvised.  Beginners might want to organize several exercises in a row for memory purposes, and eventually make the jump to improvised movement.  Either way, a simple movement flow session can be a welcomed departure from weightlifting.  It’s freeing, challenging and nourishing experience for the mind and body.  

Break the idea that every workout needs to be a redline work efforts separated by rest.    

Move around just for the sake of moving around.  Explore.  Transition into and out many different positions (reaching, twisting, crawling, bending, jumping, holding, etc)

A little nourishing total body movement training on an off-day can leave you feeling refreshed and better prepared for the next intense training session. 

 Unique, Multi-Planar Movement Kicks Ass

The majority of Animal Flow exercises are multi-joint and multi-planar (which is awesome), but don’t expect to nail down the technique on the first attempt, second or even the tenth.  These ground based movements aren’t as simple as curling or pressing weight up and down for reps, until the “burn” is felt.  

There’s most certainly a period of acclimation.  Practice will improve body awareness in space, strength, joint mobility and efficiency.  

Body awareness in space is a big benefit to ground based movement training.  Expanding and refining your body’s movement skillset is a fantastic pursuit.  

A person’s ability to confidently interact with the ground (ever-changing terrain, body positions, etc) throughout life is a valuable skill to have.  We take it for granted when we are younger, but as we age, it could be the difference between an injury and a safe fall. 


So, each time you practice, the movements will improve as your body begins to familiarize itself with the mechanics, point of view, joint performance requirements.  

It’s academics, for the body, best learned through repetition.    

Don’t be hard on yourself or judge technique off of early attempts.  

A lot of common gym exercises lack rotation.  I’m by no means a rotational training junky, but it is part of human movement and adding in a little rotation training can provide tremendous improvements in movement IQ.  

Lunges, squats, kettlebell swings, over head pressing, push ups and vertical pulling exercises such as pull ups and chin ups are all great exercises, but they lack rotation. 

Exercises like the Scorpion move the entire body through a unique range of motion, challenging the core, hips and shoulders.

Clearly, I am a fan.

If you have any interest in exploring ground based movement, I highly suggest investing a few dollars into Animal Flow.  Animal Flow is the best ground based movement system offered on the internet. 

 

 

Cheers to you, 

Kyle 

The Benefits of Animal Flow’s Crab Reach Exercise

Motion

Animal Flow’s Crab Reach is ground based exercise loaded with benefits ranging from being a potent movement to activate the posterior chain, stretching/lengthening of the anterior body , thoracic rotation, shoulder stability and general body awareness in space using an uncommon body position.  

Benefits of the Animal Flow Crab Reach

The benefits of the Crab Reach are many, but here are some notables…

  • Posterior chain activation and hip extension
  • Active Thoracic Mobility
  • Anterior body stretch (hip flexors, quads, torso)
  • Shoulder stability/endurance emphasis in loaded shoulder
  • Trunk rotation
  • Right and Left Side 
  • Low-impact

A Tool to Off-Set Sitting Posture 

The Crab Reach is a great exercise to battle/off-set the negative effect long duration sitting.  It’s not the only tool or the “best” tool, but a good one to implement on a regular basis.   

Reversing aches and pains caused by primarily long duration sitting requires dedication, discipline and volume.  There is no quick fix.  

A quick hip flexor stretch, thoracic mobilization and glute bridge is not going to cancel out 8+ hours of sitting in the same turtle-like, wound up position.  

Body restoration takes time, effort, consistency and volume.  Lots of repetitions, likely lots of time and an aggressive mindset.  Assuming you’re doing everything right, expect improvements to occur steadily, but slowly.  

  Sitting for long durations often evolves into a slumped forward posture.  Despite how inactive sitting might seem, maintaining posture in a chair across 8 hours is not realistic.  

At some point, the head starts to migrate forward,  shoulders turn in and slump forward, the back rounds, the pelvis gets stuck in anterior tilt, the low back extends to make up for it, the powerful glute and hamstring muscles lay dormant as they are smashed into the chair, the anterior body often shortens (abdominals, hip flexors, quads, etc).  

Sounds depressing and it is.  Sitting when you’re body is tired of standing/walking and ready to rest in a seated position is normal.  Sitting because you’re job forces you to is another thing.  

Ok, so why is the Crab Reach a good exercise for helping with the negative effects of sitting?

Quite simply, the Crab Reach is the reverse position as slumped over sitting posture.  

Nearly every shitty side effect brought about by sitting is worked in opposition during the Crab Reach exercise.

The Crab Reach recruits the posterior chain to drive the hips up into extension, tilting the pelvis to a neutral or maybe a posterior position, the hip flexors open up, the back arches and extends through the thoracic region, torso rotates actively, the shoulders open up (weight supported shoulder stabilizes while free shoulder reaches diagonally), head posture is back and rotated, the hip flexors/quads fall into stretch while the torso elongates and rotates.  

Reading the above paragraph is a lot to take in, but in slang summary, the Crab Reach is the opposite position of sitting and a damn good tool to use every single day.  

The end range motion (the high position with arm reaching over the top) of the Crab Reach is an active position.  You have to be active to get to that high position and remain in that high position.  

  Making range of motion progress requires active involvement of the muscles.  Many popular mobility and flexibility drills are passive.  Static stretching is passive flexibility.  The muscle is elongated and maybe range of motion is increase, but very little of the gain is useable.  The downside to passive mobility and flexibility drills the range of motion gained isn’t necessarily useable, since the body wasn’t actively pursuing and “coding” in that range of motion, acknowledging the motion as “Yes, ok, I actively went here and I know I can go here safely again”.   

The Crab Reach is active the entire of the way.  

Uncommon Movement

The Crab Reach is an uncommon exercise.  

Including an exercise into your program simply because it’s “uncommon”  may not seem like a strong enough reason to practice a new exercise pattern, but ongoing exposure to progressive movement patterns and positions is an effective strategy for training the Central Nervous System, improving movement IQ, capacity and confidence.  

The concept here is simple: if we do what we always did, we will get what we always got.  

To make yourself a better mover means exploring movement.  So, when you’re body is craving an unrestricted, multi-planar approach to your next workout, feed it with some ground based conditioning.  

Practicing postures and movement patterns that are less common to daily life improves physical and mental confidence.  Improving strength, mobility and stability in uncommon movements makes everyday exercises feel easy.  Performing basic tasks around the house or at work becomes more of a game.  

Training Rotation

When we look at the average person’s “workout of the day”, it’s generally packed with linear resistance training and cardio. 

The objective for those who find themselves stuck in a linear dominant training program, should consider adding some multi-planar movement into the mix.  

The Crab Reach is a multi-planar exercise.

Each rep moves the body through the Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse Planes all in one shot.  

Most (not all) workouts are lacking rotation.  Lots of squats, upper body pressing, jumping, pulling, deadlifting… but very little deviation from linear exercise.  

Take quick audit of your training regimen.  Are you twisting, turning, rotating on a regular basis?  If not, integrating simple movements like the Crab Reach will fulfill the rotation element, effectively opening new doors to your movement training.  

Including an exercise into your program simply because it’s “uncommon”  may not seem like a strong enough reason to practice a new exercise pattern, but ongoing exposure to progressive movement patterns and positions is an effective strategy for training the Central Nervous System, improving movement IQ, capacity and confidence.  

Over time, if you’re like me, you’ll likely find yourself executing basic tasks with some creative flare, versus bending, squatting, reaching, twisting movements like it’s a pain in the ass. 

I don’t have all day to workout.  So, with the time I do have to train, I prefer leverage exercises that kill many birds with one stone.  Being a multi-planar exercise, the Crab Reach is an ideal pattern.  Every repetition activates the posterior chain and stretches the anterior body while reinforcing thoracic rotation, shoulder stability and breath.  

How to Incorporate the Crab Reach

Ground based bodyweight movement is extremely versatile, so don’t assume how I suggest using the Crab Reach is how you have to use the Crab Reach.  Use this article for ideas, or, maybe as the blueprint for your next workout.     

In the spirit of keeping it simple, there are several primary ways to start practicing the Crab Reach:  in the warm up, as part of a lifting session or as part of a flow sequence (organized or improvised).  

Of these three ways (warm up, workout or flow), the Crab Reach can be practiced in isolation or as a combination.  I always recommend practicing new movements in isolation to increase focus on technique while getting in tune with your senses while moving.  I believe isolating an exercise to better understand the mechanics and demands is best.  It allows you an opportunity to “feel all of the feels”, pay attention to breathing, tightness, etc.  

Isolated Crab Reach

For the intermediate or advanced, combining the Crab Reach with other Animal Flow exercises keeps training challenging and fresh.  

Here are a few worthwhile combinations:

Side Kick Through + UnderSwitch + Crab Reach

Crab Reach + Spider Man Stretch (aka:  Elbow to Instep)

Slow and Controlled Improvised Animal Flow Workout

Warming Up with the Crab Reach

Animal Flow exercises are perfect for pre-workout warm ups.  The movements are dynamic, full range of motion and take the body through just about every position.  Increasing the tempo raises core temperature and increasing respiration.  All great things.  

As part of a warm up the Crab Reach is an effective, low impact and full range of motion exercise.  Driving the hips hard recruits the posterior chain, diagonal reaching reinforces thoracic rotation while unwinding the spine into extension, the spinal erectors flip on to further arch the back, the loaded shoulder stabilizes the weight of the upper body all while the anterior body (quads, hip flexors, torso) gets a nice stretch.

Crab Reaches serve as a valuable closed chain movement drill prior to deadlifting, kettlebell swings or any other hip dominant exercises where expressing hip/thoracic extension and mobility is important to technique, strength and power.   

Crab Reach as Part of the Workout

Positioning the Crab Reach as part of a Tri-Set is a great way to isolate and practice the exercise while staying active/productive during a strength training session.  

Here’s an example a simple Tri-Set:

Exercise A)  Front Squats 

Exercise B)  Chin-Ups

Exercise C)  Crab Reach

The Crab Reach fits nicely in this Tri-Set and doesn’t take away from the Front Squat or the Chin Ups because, again, it’s low load complimentary to those exercises without sucking away valuable energy.  

Crab Reach Reps/Sets/Time and Practice Recommendations 

Starting out, I worked 6-8 reps per side and I tend to recommend keeping the reps lower in the beginning while focusing a slow and controlled tempo through the range of motion.  

After you are feeling good about the technique, increase the volume.  

Don’t be shy about bumping up the reps to 15-20 reps per side, or even setting the timer for 2-5 minutes and alternating the right and left side continuously until the timer sounds.  

The Crab Reach is a low-impact exercise with a very low risk of injury.  Adding more repetitions (volume) is a nice way to hone in on movement efficiency.  

Example… 

A small open space on the floor can provide hundreds of different options to organize a bodyweight based training session, even with no equipment available.  But I’ve found that acclimation to the mechanics of bodyweight patterns pre-workout warm ups or in combination with traditional lifts works best.  

Over time, I began practicing longer duration improvised flows using nothing but bodyweight movements, transitions, flows, locomotion, etc.   

Example… 

Flow Training with Crab Reach

Create a simple bodyweight flow circuit, emphasizing the Crab Reach periodically throughout the flow.  

Structure several exercises in a row.  Start with two main exercises separated by a switch to keep it simple.  The video above, “Side Kick Through + Underswitch + Crab Reach” is an example of a simple movement sequence.

For an added challenge, increase the number of exercises to 4, 5 or maybe 6.  Of course, doing this will make it more of a challenge to remember the sequence, but it will also challenge the body move through many different patterns.  Adding more exercises to create longer flows is great for the mind-body connection.  

The tempo of your thinking must match the tempo of your body’s movements.  

Whether you pre-program the sequence or improvise the flow, will likely depend on your movement IQ and knowledge of  basic options (exercises, transitions between patterns, etc).  

The ultimate goal of movement training is improvisation.  This idea was plucked right out of the Ido Portal Method.  Ido Portal Method teaches movement using the following hierarchy:  

Isolation —> Integration —>  Improvisation

Following this operating system will give your workouts a new purpose.  

Improvised Movement

Improvised, seamless movement, is the ultimate goal of physical activity.  

Moving however you want, whenever you want without thought is an amazing destination of ground based movement flows.  

Bodyweight flow workouts only need a plan if you want one.  

Otherwise, make it up as you go.  Be creative.  Explore the possibilities.  Move all around the room, explore positions.  

Do it all.  

Syncing thought processing speed with movement tempo is an integrated approach to building the human body.  You’re not just reading a book trying to absorb knowledge or pedaling a stationary bike for hours without thought, you’re bringing together the cognitive with the physical.   

Warning:  Expect to suck during the first couple of attempts at improvised movement flow.  It’s likely to feel and look sloppy and segmented, nothing like you pictured it.  Practice makes progress, volume makes progress.

Here’s another cool, unscientific benefit of practicing progressive improvised movement flows… 

… daily exertion starts to feel like a movement game.  

I’ve had this feeling playfulness toward physical exertion of any kind since limiting linear resistance training in favor of movement based training, and I know others have had similar an experience.  

The idea of moving sucks when you aren’t moving.  If you’re a couch potato, your body adapts to the lack of exertion and falls into the pattern of wanting to remain in that state.  But when you’re proactively practicing movement, making progress and seeing/feeling improvement, you begin to crave it outside of the workout as well.  

What’s happening during improvised movement progress?

I’m starting to get off topic, but real quick, here’s my take… 

Reaction time to various physical stimuli decreases and uncommon patterns and ranges start to become second nature.  It’s a pretty neat feeling to own more and more patterns, angles and positions without taking time to think if you’re able.  This constantly expanding approach to movement creates limitless possibilities.  

What do you need to do this?  If you have some open floor space or a yard, get creative and perform a variety of crawls, transitions, switches in any order for as long as your fitness can handle it.  Transition quickly and as seamlessly as you can.  

Inside of a flow workout like this, consider isolating the Crab Reach from time to time.  Hold the high position, dig in for more hip extension, more diagonal reach, relaxing the breath and the neck.   

I mentioned getting off topic a bit, I apologize for that.  The main message is that exercises like the Crab Reach are cash money when practiced in isolation, but they are also small (but valuable) puzzle pieces in a much larger movement picture.  

Programs like Animal Flow emphasize the value of each individual movement pattern, but clearly recognize the bigger picture.  The result is a human being that is more physically prepared.  

I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.

In Summary…

  • Bodyweight ground based movements are effective for building strength, mobility, endurance and movement IQ
  • Animal Flow’s Crab Reach a versatile exercise that can be performed anywhere and anytime.  
  • Benefits of the Crab Reach include posterior chain activation, anterior body lengthening, thoracic mobility, body awareness in space.
  • The Crab Reach is great include in warm ups, during the workout or as flow training.  
  • The Crab Reach is an effective exercise to help mitigate aches/pains from sitting, restore function.
  • Improvised movement flow is the end destination of all movement. 

Animal Flow

Naturally, Animal Flow is referenced throughout this article because the Crab Reach is an exercise within the Animal Flow program.  Animal Flow exercises are progressive, unique, and scalable for the beginner all the way up to folks who are seeking movement mastery.   I’ve written a few other Animal Flow related articles covering basic principles, exercises (and progressions) and flow combinations.  

Animal Flow is one of a only a few premiere fitness programs I’d ever suggest to anyone and I highly recommend seeing if it fits your fitness goals.  My YouTube channel is loaded with Animal Flow demonstrations.  

If you’re interested in bodyweight strength training, “Bodyweight Athlete” is worth your time. It’s another Mike Fitch creation (the creator of Animal Flow) and offered under the parent company Global Bodyweight Training.  “Bodyweight Athlete” goes in-depth on effective bodyweight strength training, which compliments Animal Flow’s ground based movement perfectly.  Read more about it here.  

The 48 Best Exercises for Your Core

Animal Flow, Core Training

I almost didn’t compile this list.  I feared people would find it in a Google search and think, “Ha, another bullsh*t click bait blog post”.  

But after giving it some thought, I realize how many people I come in contact with who have no idea some of these amazing movements even exist.  These are the same folks stuck crunching themselves into low back pain and the same (or worse) core performance as 5 years ago. 

So, I decided to build the list and press “publish”.   

My hope, is you are able to extract some value from this list.  Sometimes, value is simply exposure to new ideas, if nothing else.  

Core based training is an essential element of any comprehensive workout program.  It’s important to note that all movement is core movement.  You cannot wipe your ass without getting help from the muscles of your trunk.

A well-functioning body is educated (through movement practice and repetition) on how to absorb and produce force in all planes of movement, through a robust range of motion.  A strong and stable core protects the body’s life force (the spine), serves as conduit for force transmission between the upper and lower body, and is a first line of defense with injury mitigation.

Injury mitigation is a hot phrase right now.  No training method is guaranteed to prevent an injury.  But, we can reduce the likelihood of an injury occurring due to ill-prepared joints and tissues.   

I’ll warn you… this is a long ass article.  Nearly 8,000 words long.  Each movement has a brief description, interpretation, and either an embedded video or a link to my YouTube Channel where I demonstrate the movement.  Some exercises I comment more in-depth than others.     

A couple of things to consider:

  • This is not a “best of” list, each movement has it’s own value with proper application, timing, experience, etc.
  • This list of exercises is highly subjective, and the importance of each exercise can/will be debated from person to person.
  • This list is not designed to be “extreme”, each exercise is approachable with smart progressions and regressions for the beginner.  
  • This list is organized in no ranking order of importance, no exercise is better than any other. 
  • All movement is important movement and there are very few “bad” exercises, only poor application to one’s situation or possibly a lower level of usefulness depending on what a person is looking to gain from the exercise. 
  • Consistency is king… the body will gain strength, stability and coordination to stresses with ongoing practice. 
  • Six-pack abs are built-in the kitchen (nutrition) and highly influenced by hydration, sleep and physical activity outside of gym time.
  • Building a lean six-pack is not the intention of any of these exercises, do the work, stay disciplined and you’ll become lean as a byproduct.  

The last three bulleted points can be tough for a lot of people to swallow and adhere to.  People want to crank on their abs, feel the burn, wake up in a week and see a shiny set of abdominals staring back at them in the bathroom mirror.  

It doesn’t happen this way, nor should it.  

Lean bodies are earned.  People who have made impressive transformations have a meaningful understanding of the discipline it takes to swap fat for muscle, take back control of health and build performance.  It’s very simple, but it’s not easy.  Everyone can do it, but not everyone will.  

Consistent with focused efforts yield progress, gains, results and reward.  This is not a 100% guarantee, but “luck” and good fortune seems to follow people who go hard on a regular basis.  Give your body the chance to struggle, adapt, rebuild and understand the stresses of these exercises.  It will understand eventually, but you have to give it time to do so.  

* Sidenote:  Embrace the struggle.  In fact, I want people to struggle.  If any of these exercises were easy, everyone would be doing them all of the time.  Breaking beyond the struggle makes the reward so much sweeter.  If the results came easy, you would have far less appreciation.  

No “bad” exercises. I’m guilty of rolling my eyes, pursing my lips and turning away from “bad” exercises.  Big mistake.  The human body can do so many things movement-wise, I now realize this was a foolish stance to take. 

Here we go…

1.  Anti-Extension Roll Outs (aka:  Ab Wheel Roll Outs or Fall Outs) 

For $5 on Amazon, you can purchase a simple Ab Wheel and start “rolling out”.  Ab Wheel Roll Outs are anti-extension core exercise, great for building not only core strength, but core endurance.  

In a tall kneeling position, slowly roll out way from the knees.  During this outward motion, cue your hips to fall outward at the same pace as the rest of your body.  Roll as far out as you can, without allow the lower back to fold.  Contract the mid-section, lats and pec muscles (gripping the handles hard) to return back to the start position.  

During the most difficult portion of the roll out, try your best to maintain a “hollow” core position.  To do this… tilt the pelvis back (posteriorly), squeeze the butt cheeks, keep rib cage pulled down and in (versus flaring out).  Making a subtle “U-Shape” from the hips to the shoulders.  This is hollow body.  

Beginner tip:  

The biggest mistakes beginners make is beyond their range of motion tolerance too far for their current strength, mobility and stability level.  To help with this… consider the following

  • Set up facing a wall, yoga block, chair or any other object that can provide your maximum roll out distance before the lower back folds.  
  • Roll out until the ab wheel makes light contact with the object.  
  • Pause and roll back to the starting position.  
  • The eventual goal is to roll out into full extension, with arms fully extended at the shoulders and elbows, chest facing the floor.

Advanced tips:

  • Roll for HIGH REPS (20+ per set)
  • Increase time under tension (5 seconds out, 5 seconds in… or longer)
  • Roll downhill (decline)
  • Roll from a standing position, returning to a standing position

2.  Turkish Get Ups 

As far as productivity and global training effect, Turkish Get Ups (TGUs) are hard to beat.  They’ve been labeled a “king” worthy exercise in the kettlebell scene, and I certainly don’t disagree. 

The Turkish Get Up is a segmented total body exercise.  The basic premise of a Turkish Get Up is to move from a lying position (supine) to a standing position, reverse the order and return to the lying position once again. 

Controlling the weight during the up-down sequence is fatiguing not only for the core, but for the loaded shoulder as well . 

TGU’s are best performed with kettlebells or dumbbells, though nearly any object of weight can be substituted.  I’ve used sandbags, liquid filled milk cartons, barbells, weight vests and weight plates to name a few.  

For those who new to TGU’s, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about the number of steps or remember which step comes next.  I’ve found Turkish Get Ups are best learned  by isolating and practicing each segment.  

Once you’ve got the feel of each step, begin adding steps to the practice.  

The cool thing about Turkish Get Ups is the sheer value of each of the steps.  They all carry their own value. 

For a lot of people, “punching” the kettlebell up while rolling onto the free elbow will be the toughest part.  This cross-body, rotational effort is a motion missing from a lot of daily workout routine. 

Secondly, expected the shoulder to tire out quickly.  Stabilizing the weight overhead is can be draining for the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder.  However, time spent in this over-chest/over-head position is fantastic for building shoulder stability, which can help with injury mitigation and performance.  

Standing up and laying back down equals one repetition of a Turkish Get Up

Sidenote:  I’ve used Turkish Get Ups as my “workout of the day” for years.  I set a timer (10, 15, 20 minutes) and alternate sides until the timer sounds. 

I use a variety of weights during this time, work several repetitions in a row without putting the weight down or mix up the way I stand up and lay back down for variation (squat, lunge, etc).  I’ve added a simple press at each of the 7 steps, performed kettlebell swings, cleans and snatches at the half way point (standing position).

3.  Dragon Flags aka: Gymnastics “Candlesticks” 

Bruce Lee made Dragon Flags famous, which is fine, but I prefer the gymnastics name for the exercise, “Candlesticks”.  Same movement, different names.  In reality, they should probably be called “Inverted Levers” or “Inverted Descents/Ascents”.  

Candlesticks are one of the my favorite core exercises. 

They require body tension like few other exercises and develop transferable strength in the core and low back region.  Newbies to this exercise quickly find they are near impossible to execute without creating massive tension on each rep.

In a supine laying position, grab onto a bench, squat rack or any other immovable object with the hands positioned above the head.  Invert the feet and point them toward the ceiling, making the body as straight as possible from ankles to shoulders.  Maintaining this straight body position, begin lowering to the floor, resisting the pull of gravity as much as possible.  SLOW IT DOWN.  

Beginners can stop once the body contacts with the floor, tuck the knees in to “curl up” and begin the next rep.  

Advanced Trainees can reverse the motion and bring body back to the inverted start position, all without changing straight line body rigidity.  

A nice coaching cue for the candlestick exercise is to avoid any change in the straight line body position.  Keep your body rigid straight on throughout the entire range of motion, limiting the range if need be.

I started to hammer away on Dragon Flags after listening to Christopher Sommer’s podcasts with Tim Ferriss, and after coming across some of the smart dragon flag progressions from Global Bodyweight Training.  

4.  Dynamic Plank Variations 

Plank(s) are a foundational core exercise.  Controlling a plank is a body building exercises in itself, but it also has widespread application to other exercises.  

Personally, I believe it’s important to check in on planks from time to time, beginners to advanced movers and everyone in between.  Planks are one of the early exercises back injury patients are prescribed to begin rehabilitation, so it’s hard to imagine that other folks are somehow too good for plank based exercises.  

Above are is a simple demonstration of rotation side planks.  I use these (and many other plank variations) frequently. 

Reps, sets and time to hold each plank exercise is a highly debated topic. 

Personally, I feel holding a plank beyond 90-120 seconds without strain is a clear indicator of diminishing returns and wasted time.  If you’re strong enough to hold a plank for longer duration, it’s time to move onto a more challenging variation.  

4.  Beast Crawl 

Crawling is one of the most important forms of movement we have.  Babies or adults, it doesn’t matter.   

Here is my jargon-free opinion on crawling… the more “adult” we become, the more we move away from the types of activities that we did as kids, the more we vitally need the activities that we did as kids.  

Opinion:  Adults need to exercise like kids.  “Adulting” has lead us to sophistication, great careers… and also to an epidemic of chronic orthopedic issues initiated by spending a large amount of time sitting, laying… not moving.   

Fixed static positions, deformation of posture, lack of movement, lack of play, lack of sleep, mindless food choice and consumption, etc.  

Real uplifting isn’t it?

5.  Lizard Crawl 

The Lizard Crawl is the king of the jungle (in my opinion).  I often think of it as “ground based conditioning” and others have classified it as locomotion.  Ground based conditioning is free movement activity with no equipment, either static or dynamic, moving with an organized sequence or improvising into and out of positions (flow).  

Lizard Crawling is one of the best (if not thee best) locomotion based exercises.  It is also one of the most challenging to control, which in part is due to how physically demanding it is.  Maintaining a low body position (in relation to the floor) while challenging the joints to a range of motion while the muscle maintain enough tension to support SUCKS THE LIFE OUT OF A BODY QUICKLY.  

You’ll be tired.  

Lizard Crawling is part of my workout 3-4 days per week at different volumes, variations and intensities.  Sometimes I crawl very slow, drawing out each movement and holding positions.  Other times I crawl with some intensity, aiming to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible (with reasonable technique).  The distances also vary.  As a beginner, I kept the distances short, anywhere from 10-20 yards at most.  I’d separate efforts with rest to ensure I had gas in the tank for the next effort.

Lately, I’ve begun crawling for longer periods of time (45-75 seconds continuous) or 25-50 yards without taking a break.  It’s soul crushing yet body developing.  The Lizard Crawl has become an important part of my non-traditional workout practice (aka:  movement without “lifting weights”).  

Locomotion practice is essentially moving your bodyweight from point A to point B using a wide variety of quadruped based crawling patterns.  Locomotion has beginner and elite level movement scalability, no different from basic lifts like lunges, squats, or push ups.  

Developing strength, stability, mobility over one’s bodyweight enhances life.  Especially when more complex aspects of movement are practiced.  Locomotion practice is also ideal for those who need a break from resistance training, travel frequently or are interested in building athleticism beyond what typical linear exercises (deadlifts, bench press, squats, pull-ups, etc) can offer.  

6.  Offset/Asymmetric Pressing and Holds 

Grab a dowel, barbell or a stronger broomstick.  Dangle an object (with a handle) like a kettlebell or wrap a resistance band on  on one end. 

Now, press or hold that dowel without changing body position or allow the object to slip off.  Confused?  Me too.  Watch the video above and it will all make more sense.

The idea here is influence by the reality that objects we encounter in real life rarely perfectly balanced.  Weight is often distributed unevenly, which means we have to adapt to these asymmetries.  

7.  One Arm Push Ups 

A lesson in indirect core training, one arm push ups will challenge muscles of the midsection better than 95% of core based exercises.  Plus, you’ll get the benefit of building single arm stabilization and pressing strength.  

The path to a single arm push up is simple.  There are a ton of palatable variations to suit any strength level.  My personal favorite for beginners to the one arm push up is to use the assistance of a resistance band.  The band will make the toughest part of the exercise (the bottom of the push up) easier.  

Global Bodyweight Training does a great job laying out exercise progressions for the one arm push up.

8.  L-Sits (all variations)

The premise behind L-Sits is core compression.  The act of creating an “L”with your upper body down through your legs is extremely demanding for the hip flexors and lower abdominal muscles.  

Don’t be frustrated if you can only hold an L-Sit posture for a few seconds at time.  The value is still there, and with consistency, you’ll be able to extend the hold for longer durations.  

Of all of the basic gymnastics postures, I have found L-Sits to be an absolute game changer for building core strength.  Including L-Sits in my workouts 2-3 times per week has increase my hold duration time from a few mediocre sets of 10-15 seconds, to 30+ seconds with legs moving above parallel.  

You must look into gymnastics based core exercises if you’re currently unfamiliar.  They are some of the most practical and effective core training drills out there.  

9.  Arch Body Holds 

Lay on the floor face down, arms and legs stretched out straight above/below.  Simultaneously lift the upper body and lower body, creating a “contact” point at the belt line.  Hold this Superman-like position for a 5-10 seconds and release back to the floor.  Repeat for repetitions.  

Progress Arch Body Holds by increasing the time of the hold.  

This article is about the “core”, and the core wraps all the way around the body, 360 degrees.  Personally, I think of “the core” as spanning from the shoulders to the tops of the knees, a full 360 degree wrap.  

And this might be doing the body a disservice since we operate as an integrated unit, not in isolation.  But hey, it’s my “core” article so I will share any core exercises I want!

10.  Hollow Body Variations (rocking and static holds) 

The Hollow Body position is fundamental stepping stone for gymnastics based training and has application to all progressive bodyweight movements where tension is a must.  It reinforces how to shape the body as ONE unit.  

Hollow body holds (progressing into rocking) build the entire front side of the body, known as the anterior chain.  The quads, diaphragm, abdominals, hip flexors all get challenged during a hollow body hold.  

* The anterior chain has taken a back seat to posterior chain dominant exercise promotion (nauseatingly so) over the last 10+ years, but building a complete body means addressing the performance of the anterior chain also.  

11.  Toes to Bar

Toes to Bar improves core strength, midline endurance while improving grip, shoulder health and back performance.  Prolonged hanging from a bar, branch or anything overhead is therapeutic for the upper body.  

There are few different variations of the Toes to Bar exercise, kipping (ballistic) or strict.  

Starting out, I am a fan of strict for everyone.  I’d rather someone spend time on a regression to an exercise because they cannot yet perform the strict variation, versus flailing around using momentum to perform something that resembles that exercise and satisfy the ego.  

Demonstrating strict, slow tempo form through a robust range of motion is demonstration control over one’s body.  

Once you own the movement, do whatever you please.  You earned it.  

12.  Bridging and Rotation into High Bridge

Proper bridge work is a full war on the modern-day desk warrior posture.  

I say “proper” because jumping into a full high bridge is not a great idea for a lot of people, since bridges requires quite a bit of shoulder and thoracic mobility, along with hip flexor length.  

But, following lead up bridge positions and working shoulder and mid-back mobility, hip flexor flexibility and glute strength can inch you closer to a full bridge every single day.  

Sounds like a lot to address, but it’s not, and much of it can be improved with simple regressions to the bridge.  

Once you’re able to hold a static high bridge for time, start playing around with the rotation into high bridge movement.  Super fun and a great confidence building exercise.  

13.  Dynamic High Plank Exercises (pull-throughs, push-pull) 

14.  Landmine Grapplers

A barbell and a weight plate on end and a fixed pivoting point on the other end, landmine grapplers are challenging loaded rotation drill.  You must first create rotational force to arc the barbell up across the midline and over to the other side, but quickly absorb that momentum and decelerate the weight to a stop.  

The landmine trainer provides the opportunity to train many angled exercises and rotational exercise not possible without the pivoting sleeve.  Landmine training is part machine and part free weight, a hybrid of sorts.  

Using moderate weight, I like going higher repetition with landmine grapplers.  3-5 sets of 8-15 reps per side.  But the landmine trainer can be used for heavier loads which would decrease the amount of reps due to the increase in weight.  

15.  Slosh Pipe Exercises

The water inside of the pipe is unpredictable and free moving.  Tilt the slosh pipe an inch below level, the water is runs, the balance of the pipe changes and your body must react to this change.  There is no rest for the body during a slosh pipe exercise.  These subtle adjustments add up over time, many people find slosh pipe exercises to be very challenging.  

16.  Sandbag Training

Sandbags lack structure and change shape constantly during exercises.  Texture of training tools is often overlooked and very important to how effective sandbag training is.  

Every repetition with a sandbag is a fight.  The clean-squat-press exercise is exactly that.  A clean, a squat and a press, with the unique twist of a series of split second adjustments by the body try to stabilize a shape changing object that wants to fall to the floor.

* If you want to increase the instability component of sandbag training, avoid over stuffing the outer shell with inner filler bags.  The more room inside the outer shell, the more the inner bags will slide, roll, move.  

On the flip side, if you’re looking to develop raw strength, load up sandbag and train with it like you would a barbell or any other strength based tool.  Due to design, sandbags have unique grip options not available with other tools (bear hug, shouldering, etc).

17.  Slow Mountain Climber Variations 

Yoga refers to this exercise as “knee to nose”.  Call whatever your heart desires, it’s challenging to pull the knee up to the “nose”.  The prone position (chest down) is a disadvantaged position for the body to make this happen.  Arch the back and hollow out, push the shoulder blade out and back (protract) and slowly bring one knee up as far as you possibly can.  

I like to cue myself to bring the knee up far enough that I could set the foot down gently and stand up.  

18.  Weighted Plank Variations

If you can successfully dominate bodyweight-only planks, add weight and try the same variation.  It will be harder.  If you’re a go getter, figure out how to put the weight on your back by yourself.  At the present moment, I don’t yet own a weight vest.   I am not sure why, but I don’t.  So, I shimmy a heavy sandbag onto my back and hold planks while balancing the sandbag.  The process of getting the sandbag onto my back is a workout in itself.  

19.  Tuck Planche 

Tucking the thighs tight to the stomach while supporting bodyweight using only the arms.  It’s a difficult task with many regressions to make the task more palatable.   

The tuck planche requires core compressional strength and eventually endurance as the duration of the hold increases.  

20.  Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Core training in a standing position on a body of water in the sunshine?  Yes, please.  

The first couple of strokes on a stand up paddle board is all of the proof you’ll need to understand how challenging this activity is for the core.  Though the entire body must be engaged to stay on top of the paddle board, SUP’ing is mainly upper body focused.  

Each stroke on a stand up paddle board is core dominant.  Core strength is essential for moving the board through the water.  

21.  Sleep

Zzzzzzzzzz.  

The benefits of 7-8+ hours of quality sleep are very important for body composition, daily function, mental clarity as well as recovery and regeneration from the stresses of exercise.  Yet, the value of sleep remains largely unknown and under emphasized.

I am not a sleep expert, but it doesn’t take a million person study to realize how “off” my body and mind feels when I don’t get an adequate amount of sleep.

If you’d like to learn more about sleep in a super entertaining, yet informative interview, check out Joe Rogan’s interview with guest Dr. Matthew Walker.  The link to this episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast can be found here.  

Dr. Walker has also written a fantastic book on all things related to sleep, “Why We Sleep:  Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”.

22.  Kettlebell Swings (variations)

All movements are core movements.  In other words, you cannot crawl into bed, bend down to tie your shoes or brush your teeth each morning without your core musculature supporting the effort on some level.  Anyone who’s experienced a back injury undoubtedly knows how important the core is when performing simple tasks.  

Kettlebell swings, while not a direct core exercise, work primarily the trunk, hip and hamstring muscles.  Entire books have been written around the kettlebell swing and it’s ability to improve power, cardio conditioning, strength and body composition.  Nutrition aside, if I was to hand select a few movements to burn fat and build muscle at the same time, I would go with kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups.  

23.  Dead Bugs

Ly on your back with chest facing the ceiling, actively press your low back into the floor (curling your pelvis back neutral/posterior), lock out all four limbs and point them toward the ceiling.  To start the movement, slowly lower opposite arm/ opposite leg to the floor.  

Ideally you’ll make soft contacts with the floor or stop 1-3 inches above, and come back to the start position.  However, a use an abbreviated range of motion if you feel your pelvis shifting to make up for lack of control.  

Imagine a full glass of water in a skinny tall glass balancing at the navel region (or just above) while you move the extremities, yet keep the torso “quiet” and still.  

A lot of the exercises in this article have some room for technique deviation.  But in my opinion, strict technique is only way to practice dead bugs.  

Alternate each side for repetitions.  3-5 sets x 8-20 repetitions.  

24.  “Twisted Tea” from the #OMU (Instagram)

This is my new favorite “core” exercise.  

I have to give credit to the “#OMU” crew on Instagram for introducing me to this multi-planar core drill.  

Assume a high plank position with arm extended out in front of the body.  Now, make the biggest circle possible, spiraling down to the floor, reaching in and out of the legs, etc.  When you reach the end point, reverse the motion and take it back to the start position.  

Each rep is extremely long, challenging and very interesting.  So far, I have only used a 2.5lb and 5lb weight plate on this drill, and my obliques were sore for days after.  

25. Overhead Loaded Squats

Basic exercises become increasingly difficult when weight is overhead, which raises the center of gravity and requires more joints to contribute to the activity.  The overhead position is challenging for a lot people, often due to having stiff upper backs (thoracic spines) and stiff/unstable shoulders.  

Again, positioning weight overhead raises the center of gravity causing the torso to lengthen.  The core muscles make the adjustment and work overtime to stabilize the body.  The overhead position is very challenging for the joints, moving from the shoulders to mid-back, to hips, to knees and finally down to the ankles.  Each joint must have adequate mobility and stability to control the weight overhead.  

Overhead squats are a fantastic exercise and therefore worth mentioning on this list, but they are also the exercise with the most pre-requisites.  Make sure you’ve done your mobility and stability work before slinging weight overhead.  

One way to observe your readiness is to practice overhead squats with a wooden dowel… and film your technique.  

26.  Windmills 

This is a classic, yet forgotten kettlebell exercise.  The weight is supported overhead with elbow locked (but soft).  Hips are pushed to the side while the upper body lowers to the floor.  Softly touch the free hand to the floor and return to the starting position.  

Windmills are one of those movements I program infrequently, but I really see value in establishing motor control and know how.  In a real world setting, we won’t always be perfectly vertical while supporting objects overhead.  Sometimes, we have to bend, twist and hinge while maintaining control from shoulder to elbow to hand.  

27.  Janda Sit Ups

I do not program sit ups in my own training regimen and also do not prescribe for others.  I feel there are FAR better uses of gym time.  However… Janda Sit Ups will change your perception about the intensity of isolation.  

Janda Sit Ups help to further isolate the rectus abdominals by reducing hip flexor contribution during each sit up.  This means the abdominals have to do more work, probably so much work that you’ll feel like you cannot control the descent to the floor, or get off the floor at first. 

The effectiveness of the Janda Sit Up is all in the set up and technique.  While a training partner is good to have for these, I do think they are possible to execute alone using a well placed stretch resistance band.  

With the knees at roughly 90 degrees and heels on the floor, anchor a resistance band (at knee height or slightly above) around squat rack, door, piece of furniture or anything else sturdy. Stretch the band out and wrap it around your calves, 3-4 inches above your ankles.  The band should have some stretch loaded into it, which will require your glutes and hamstrings to actively pull against the band during the sit-ups.  You’ll have to play around with the band height and tension until you find a sweet spot.

Before and during the sit up action, contract the glutes and hamstrings to initiate reciprocal inhibition of the hip flexors. 

My first couple of experiences with Janda Sit Ups resulted in a level of muscle soreness that humbled me to my core (no pun intended).  

To be honest, the first couple of reps it’s hard to know if you’re doing it correctly, but in general, if you have the sensation of not being able to peel your back off the floor to sit up, you’re on the right track.  It’s  interesting to see the amount of assistance hip flexors give during sit ups, and along the same lines, how intense isolating the abdominals a bit more.  

28.  Hanging Knee Tucks 

Hanging Knee Tucks effectively kill two birds with one stone, maybe more than two birds, but for now we will focus in on two specifically.   

Hanging from an overhead bar for extended periods of time is great for building grip strength/endurance, traction for the spine, stability for the shoulders.  Second, the motion of raising the knees up to parallel with the waist line (or ideally above) is a challenging exercise for the core, particularly the lower abdominals.

I prefer to do less repetitions of hanging knee tucks, opting for longer duration holds with the knees tucked.  Anywhere from 5-10 seconds per hold.  5-8 reps of a longer duration holds will have your abdominals and grip burning.  If you’re in the mood for a metal test, simply hang from the bar with knees tucked for as long as you can.  

29.  Zercher Sandbag Squats

 Hooking the arms under a sandbag is both a bicep scorcher and a worthy challenge for the core as it battles to maintain body position, even in a non-moving static position.  Now you add a squat and the challenge becomes even more difficult.  Although we want the sandbag pulled in tight to the body, it’s still an external load situated just anteriorly to your center of gravity, wanting to pull you forward.  

30.  Explosive Flexion Slams

Slamming a weighted ball on the ground is basically a mutated variation of Olympic Lifting for your core.  The lats also get a nice stimulus during flexion slams  Power development in all planes of movement is a great thing.  If you’re going to do flexion slams, consider using a no rebound ball, versus slamming a ball that re-arranges your face.  

31.  Rotational Throws

The human body must be able to produce force and resist forces acting on it.  Rotation is a missing component from a lot of workout programs.  Most exercises work off of the pull of gravity, which is a vertical force, as I am sure you know.  The weight goes up and comes back down.  Up and down, up and down.  

But our bodies can rotate to perform, so rotational throws had to make this list.  

Don’t necessarily reach for the heaviest weighted ball in the gym or on Amazon if you’re going to buy one.  World Class Pro Athletes often train explosive rotation using 8lb, 10lb or 12 lb medicine balls.  The most common weighted ball these days seems to be the 20lb, mainly because of “wall ball” exercise.  But keep in mind, “wall ball” is straight up and straight down.  Rotation is much different and you may want to dial back the weight of the ball, at least for a little while.  

3-5 sets of 5-8 throws per side (ideally while the body is fresh).

32.  Chops and Lifts

Ironing out body symmetry is a worthy endeavor and not all core drills are going to light your abdominals up like a Christmas Tree.  Chops and Lifts are a very simple exercise that most people will find they:  a) cannot do on either side, or b) can only successfully do on one side.  

There are many different positions to perform Chops and Lifts in, but the inline position is one of the most humbling.  Assume a half kneeling position (one knee down, one knee up).  Place the down knee directly behind the heel of the up leg.  So, make a straight line with your up and down legs.  

Chopping or Lifting once in this position is dramatically more difficult.  You will also find it’s calming to the ego, as most people cannot hold posture while chopping or lifting much more than 15-20lbs.  

33.  Anti-Rotation Press Outs

Training rotation is often forgotten yet a HUGE part of everyday movement.  One of the core’s important functions is to brace against forces acting upon it.  By stretching a resistance band under tension, pressing the hands out away from the body, you’re educating your core how to resist the pull of the band, therefore resisting rotation.  

3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions.  You can hold with elbows extended for 2-3 seconds at first, extending that time later on. 

34.  Single Arm Push Ups

Everyone is fanatical about something, and I am fanatical about the value of single arm push ups. 

To get started here, allow me to say that single arm push ups are not a circus exercise only for the flashy calisthenics athlete.  They are for EVERYONE.  Follow the progressions and you can make great gains with upper body pressing strength, stability and range of motion.  

Single arm push ups are a fully scalable movement for a beginner.  A beginner can make single arm push ups more approachable by executing from a kneeling position, hands elevated on stairs/bench/plyo box or by wrapping a resistance band around the chest to reduce the loading.  All of this regressions will build strength while moving you closer to the a full single arm push up.  

Are you advanced?  Too cool for school?  Take it to the limit then… use what we know to be effective with exercise progressions:  increasing load (add a weight vest), increase time under tension (slower on the way down, slower on the way up), increase reps, sets, etc.  Varying the movement complexity is green lighted.  Press from different positions or use the press as a transitional piece into other movements.  Single arm push ups on a set of gymnastics rings will make your eyeballs dislodge from your face.  

Do it all.  Explore.  

I have found single arm push ups to be one of (if not thee greatest) the best upper body pressing exercises in my arsenal.

35.  Atomic Push Ups

There is a time and place for isolate core work, and at some point, you realize that all exercises are “core work” on some level.  So if you can add a push up to a knee tuck, do it.  The key to the knee tuck in this exercise is lifting the butt/hips to the ceiling, as high as possible, to make room for the knees tucking in toward the elbows.  

3-5 sets of 6-15 reps

36.  Core Smash

Core smash = intense core flexion contraction.  

Ly face up on the floor.  Place hands on the side of the head (fingertips just behind the ears), slowly bring your knees to meet your elbows, pressing elbow into the knees as hard as you can.  Hold it there, think of something other than the intense core contraction you’re feeling.  The Core Smash set ends when the elbows lose contact with the knees.  Aim for brief holds at first, lengthening as you gain strength and confidence.  

37.  Arch Body 

The core is not only on the front of the body, easily scene in the mirror.  It wraps around your body like a weight belt.  Hard to see in the mirror, the glutes and spinal erectors are crucial for human performance, body health and injury mitigation.  

Arch body exercise is the opposite of the Hollow Body exercise.  Chest down on the floor, you’re going to create a pronounced U-Shape by lifting the arms/back/hamstrings and heels.  A lot of people will feel weak during the arch body, possibly cramping.  It’s ok.  Hold as long as you can, rest and repeat.  

Hammer the front side, hammer the back side.  

38.  Hollow Body High Plank or Push Ups

Assume a high plank position (aka: top of a push up), roll your pelvis under, arch your spine and protect your shoulder blades to make as pronounced of a “U-Shape” as possible.  Hold there and embrace the suck, because it’s a highly rewarding position but a sucky position at first.  The hollow body position is fundamental for many more difficult gymnastics based movements.    

Beginner level gymnastics posture here.  Very humbling.  

39.  Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot

Stability balls are naturally unstable.  So, putting the elbows on the stability ball to perform a plank creates a wobbly situation.  Now, add a circular motion with the elbows as if you were stirring a giant pot of soup.  

Why do this exercise?  Because adding more time to a marathon length standard plank is not what most people need.  More time doesn’t mean greater gains.  At some point, especially with planks, make them harder.  One way to make them harder is to add a dynamic movement to a fundamental stability exercise.  Take the core stillness reinforced with a traditional plank, start moving the arms on a stability ball, but maintain that same core stillness.  Plank variations are great for improving core endurance.  

40.  Suspension Trainer Pendulums

Slip your feet into the loops of a suspension train or gymnastics rings, turn over and assume a high plank position (top of a push up).  The feet are now suspended while the upper body is supporting.  

Initiate a side to side motion pendulum motion from the waist on down by activating the hands/arms/torso.  Grip the ground hard and swing the legs without breaking at the low back, hips, knees.  

This is a very non-traditional exercise that will blow up your mid-section.  Expect oblique soreness in the days that follow.

3-5 sets of of higher repetitions, maybe 10-20 per side. 

41.  Core Compression Pulses

Core compression pulses are a beginner level gymnastics exercise, which in itself is humbling to think about.  To do them, sit on the floor, upper body erect and legs straight out in front of you.  Place hands on the outsides of the thighs, pressing into the ground for assistance as you lift each leg entirely off of the ground, pulsing up and down.  

Lift the legs as high as possible without rocking, bending the knees or compensating to do so.  

Core compression pulses are a high repetition exercise, but beginners don’t be surprised if you’re only able to get 3, 4 or maybe 5 before form breaks or cramping begins.  Staying disciplined to this exercise will result in quick improvements.  

I like to work these early in the workout, before any other lifting or cardio because they are so demanding and isolating the motion is important.  3-5 sets of 4-20+ reps.  

42.  Loaded Carrying Variations

Loaded carries are incredible for core development and performing real world work.  

For the functional fanatic in all of us who want every minute of strength work and cardio exercise to translate to real world scenarios, is there any other mode of exercise more functional than carrying objects of varying weights, texture, shapes and sizes (not to mention carrying in various positions) from Point A to Point B?

Personally, I do not think so.

43.  Lizard Crawl + Push or Pull 

Perform a lizard crawl while pushing or pulling an object of weight.  Simple as that.  

I hesitated to include this hybrid locomotion exercise, but ultimately felt that people who can Lizard Crawl proficiently would enjoy adding a brutal push or pull to the exercise.  If you don’t have an understanding of the basic Lizard Crawl, start there before adding elements to an already difficult locomotion pattern.  

Push and pull equipment.  Tools that can be used for the push/pull include a sandbag on carpet or a hard floor surface, or, substitute a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate.  I have used all of these tools with success, but keep returning to using a sandbag on carpet or hardwood.  

If you’ve never pushed or pulled a sandbag on carpet, you’re in for treat.  It’s difficult.  The amount of friction between the sandbag and floor makes moving it a nightmare, in a positive way.  Plus, a sandbag lacks shape, which requires constant readjustments in body position to gain leverage to move it, along with hand position on the bag as it melts into the floor.  

44.  Spinal Waves

It’s been said we are only as old as our spine is healthy.  

Spine health is our life force and if we cannot move it when we need to, it is likely to become a problem down the road.  

Soft hump the wall for 100-200 reps most days of the week.  Sounds like too much?  200 reps of spinal wave takes less than 5 minutes and your body will thank you for the movement.  

45.  Standing Spine CAR’s

Lock in the hips, hug yourself and articulate in a circular fashion as if you were trying to dodge pushes from a boxer.  Say hello to controlled articulations and their ability to wake up the obliques.  Brace and breathe.  

46.  Hip CAR’s

Assume a quadruped position with hands, knees and feet in contact with the floor.  Raise your leg out to the side of your body as high as possible, pretend like you’re a dog about to pee on a fire hydrant.  Be mindful to keep your shin bone parallel with the floor, which means your foot doesn’t move higher or lower than your knee.  (Watch the video)

Draw as large circle with your knee (articulate) as you slowly move the knee behind the body.  This will look like the finishing position of a donkey kick.  Lower the knee back underneath the body, but don’t set it down.  Reverse the pattern.  

Once again, many of the best “core” movements are not isolated movements, and they shouldn’t be because isolating the “core” is not how humans operate.  Every little movement is a synergistic experience, with many muscles contributing.

47.  Animal Flow Side Kick Through’s

Side Kick Through’s are a basic movement element in Animal Flow, resembling a break dancing type move.

Animal Flow is a bodyweight focused, ground based movement system packed with performance and restorative movement patterns.  

Start in a quadruped position, hands and feet supporting the body (knees hover 1-2 inches off the floor).  Rotate to one side by pivoting on the ball of that sides foot, opening up your chest to the side you’re turning toward.  Slide the trailing leg through and “kick” it through until fully extended.  At the same time as the leg kicks through, pull the opposite arm/hand back as if you were drawing back a bow and arrow.  

The simultaneous opposite arm/leg reach with light up the anterior oblique system (fascial slings crossing the front of the body).  Some will and some will not feel this diagonal “stretch” from the hip through the torso up to the opposite shoulder during Side Kick Through end range… I personally feel it.  You, may not.  Regardless, there’s tremendous movement benefit in this exercise. 

48.  Animal Flow Crab Reach

This is my favorite Animal Flow exercise because it’s LOADED WITH BENEFITS.  

Posterior chain activation, controlled rotation of the torso, elongation of the often shortened muscles of the core, and honestly… it’s a position most people do not explore, which is absolutely of great benefits for expanding movement IQ (aka:  confidence).

In one shot, the Crab Reach accomplishes the following:

  Opens up the torso and chest in a diagonal pattern (far hip to far shoulder)

  Challenges and improves shoulder stability on the loaded working arm

  Opens up the hips anteriorly 

  Activates the posterior chain (gluten/hamstrings) moving into extension.

  Uncommon position (head and eyes get a different look at the world)

The end, finally.

This extensive exercise list does tend to place higher stress on the muscle of the torso/trunk.  

But, ALL training is technically “core training” since we cannot sneeze or cough, reach for tissue or stand up from the toilet without assistance from our trunk muscles.

I don’t want this list to project favoritism to core building exercises, as if these are all a person should focus on.  However, if a simple audit of your gym time shows you’re spending a lot of time crunching your core into oblivion, sub-out those crunches with a few of these exercises.   

A complete training regimen includes bits and pieces from many different movement patterns, drills, muscles, tempos, strength, power, stability, mobility, cardio, etc.  

If there’s one final thought to leave you with (assuming you made it this far) it’s this:  do it all. 

Keep showing up and working movement in all planes, in as many different positions as possible, making gains through smart exercise progression, mobility training and probably most important of all, consistency across the long haul.  

Your body will love you for paying attention to what it needs as you build it’s capacity to move well and mitigate injury.  

Cheers to you and the daily effort…

Kyle