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 a few programs I highly recommend:

  • Movement 20XX
  • Global Bodyweight Training
  • MyDailyMobility

Each program provides a different benefit.  Yet used in combination, they help each accelerate results. 

Movement 20XX  is the program for learning and practicing ground-based movement, locomotion patterns (lizard crawl, etc), building movement sequences and graduating to improvised flow work.  Movement 20XX is the best option in the ground based conditioning department.

Global Bodyweight Training teaches the potency of properly administered bodyweight strength training techniques.  Strength is critical for performance and long-term health.  Pistol squats, one arm push ups, handstands, l-sits, body levers, upper body pulling, etc.  The most effective movements are detailed in GBT.  

MyMobilityDaily is a mobility based training system designed expand joint range of motion and create OWNERSHIP (strength, stability and control) over the range of motion.  Building strength at end range is CRITICAL.  The follow along techniques in MDM create full ownership over your joints. Effective mobility training is the most mis-understood area of fitness.  Gym goers perform leg swings, T-Spine drills and static stretches for years without any results.  

The guys at MDM are teaching techniques from Functional Range Conditioning, which is the single best thing to happen to the fitness industry.  

Starting in on a quality mobility training regimen is life changing. 

I’ll have a full write up on why MDM is a game changer.

Here’s bit more about Movement 20XX and Global Bodyweight Training…

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.  

Crawling patterns peaked my interest, but I wasn’t sure where to start or how to implement crawling into my workouts.

Natural, bodyweight-based ground conditioning seemed like a logical approach to filling in the gaps missed from traditional resistance training.  

Founder of Vahva Fitness and creator of Movement 20XX, Eero Westerberg, has great movement capacity and was demonstrating a lot of these ground based techniques on his YouTube channel.  

This led me to Movement 20XX.

Since then, I’ve cherry-picked many different exercises and movement sequences from Movement 20XX.  

I started with the basics.  

The first few months of ground work left me frustrated and sore.  

I was a pretty athletic guy, but felt uncoordinated, lost in space and flustered with the sloppiness of my movement.  

My spinal control was terrible.  Years of “bracing”, “neutral spine” and stability training had left me SUPER STIFF.  In time, this improved.  

Comparing older videos to more recent videos, it’s amazing to see the difference.  

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

👉 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‘ll struggle with many of these bodyweight movements early on.  

In the beginning, only the eccentric phase of single arm push ups might manageable.  

With consistent practice and adaptation, full range single arm push ups become a reality.  

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.
  • Rest and Recovery.

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.  

GBT’s flagship training program,  “Bodyweight Athlete” costs $150.  

Considering the time you’ll likely waste trying to piece meal your own program or the cost per hour of hiring an in-person coach, that $150 investment quickly becomes quite inexpensive.

Bottomline…

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 celebrate for 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.  Deliver the training stimulus, recover, adapt, attack the training stimulus once again.   

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. 

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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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Hybrid SkiErg Training

Motion


The number of exercise variations and hybrid circuits that can be performed using a SkiErg is relatively unknown.

Simple adjustments in body position, adding exercises or implementing other equipment to alter and amplify the training effect of the SkiErg are many.  You’re only limited by your creativity.    

Most SkiErg videos and articles are centered around “SkiErg how-to”  stroke technique and mechanics.  We need these videos, and there are some really informative instructional videos on YouTube.  

But for people wondering how they can expand there use of SkiErg, there are very few videos.  Not a lot of discussion on stroke variations, adding movement to strokes, combining exercises with SkiErg to create work circuits, or other creative applications for the cardio machine.  

This article is an introduction to a few of the variations I’ve played with and implemented successfully into my own workouts.  

Per usual, everything shared has been tested by me first.

Try Something Different, Avoid Boredom at All Costs

There are ZERO reasons to allow boredom to creep in and dissolve your workout regimen.

Fitness pro’s are willing to argue over nutrient transport and motor units recruitment during deadlifts, but few acknowledge how boredom is a very effective killer of exercise motivation.

Changing it up from time to time is important.  

 Adjustments and tweaks can always be made to create a new challenge and keep daily workouts fresh.  

I’m a big believer in gym discipline.  Show up and leverage basic fitness principles because they are powerful.  The fundamentals get results.

But…

… if you’re one bland workout away from throwing in the towel with your fitness, it’s time to switch it up.  

❤️ SkiErg

SkiErg workouts have never made me cringe the way other cardio machines do.  

Rowing?  Brutal.  Someone utters “2000m row for time” and I melt into the floor. Gross.

Airbike?  Meh.  Not as bad, but bad enough.  Higher intensity air bike training can be awful, especially when gunning for personal records on the 5-mile ride for time

For whatever reason, I’ve developed an affinity for tough workouts on the SkiErg.  

I’m always game for a quality SkiErg session.  Even the longer distances don’t give me the heebie-jeebies like the rower. 

Save the Legs!

SkiErg training is a leg sparing cardio activity.

The training stress is much different compared to rowing, biking or running.   

SkiErg is upper body dominant. 

While the arms pull on the handles, the trunk begins to flex slightly as the hips hinge and knees bend ever so slightly.  

This loosely describes traditional SkiErg stroke technique.

Reach and contract, pull and flex/hinge…. relax and return to the start.

Photos of a split squat variation… 

Strokes become rhythmic while the meters accumulate.  

SkiErg training is mostly (not always) performed in a vertical standing position. Training in a standing position with feet on the floor is a nice feature of SkiErg. 

I say “not always” because the SkiErg can be used in the seated or kneeling positions.  

These modified positio are great for adapted athletes or people with lower-body injuries.  

SkiErg Variations

Over the course of the last year, I’ve tested a wide scope of applications for SkiErg training.

  •  Short burst efforts integrated into hybrid circuits
  •  Long distances (2000m, 5000m, etc)
  •  Power training for shorter distances (100-200 meters)
  •  Multi-modal aerobic cardio training (bike, row, SkiErg)

What did I find?

It all works quite well.  

SkiErg is seamless to integrate into circuits because there’s zero set up to initiate the exertion.  

You don’t have to climb onto it or need to strap any body parts in, or mess around with seat heights, etc.  

Check out this little circuit:  Lizard Crawl + Kettlebell Swing + SkiErg circuit.

As you can see… pairing SkiErg with other exercises (bodyweight, kettlebells, barbell, etc) is a piece of cake, and challenging as hell.  This integration adds a whole new dynamic to basic gym equipment.    

Simply walk up to the machine, grab the handles and start pulling.  Make it purrrrrrr.   

Tiny adjustments to the traditional SkiErg stroke technique can change a lot about the training stimulus.  

Staggering the stance, turning the body to a 45-degree angle, jumping on each stroke all create a new training experience.  

Below are several different ways to shake up your next SkiErg session.  

Future articles will branch off to share more SkiErg variations I’ve found to be challenging and “fun”.  

The idea here is simple…  

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. 

 

Foot Placement/Base of Support Variations

Shifting foot position can alter the base of support, which changes the training effect ever so slightly as the body makes on-the-go adjustments to remain in control and balanced during efforts.  The feet remain in a fixed position on the floor in all of these variations. 

Split Squat Double Arm Pull 

Technique cue: “kiss” the knee cap of the rear to the floor at the bottom of the split squat.

Leverage your body weight’s descent to the floor and pull HARD on the handles.  Generate power!

45 Degree Angle Stance + Double Arm Pull 

Rotate the lower body to a 45-degree angle to the SkiErg.  Turn the upper body to face the chest at the SkiErg.  

Training from this position will challenge the upper body/lower body separation and hammer the obliques.  Again, the obliques will take a serious beating here.   

 

Dynamic Variations

Now, we get the lower body moving.  

What was once upper body focused training, goes headfirst into the total body cardio realm.

Everchanging positions, twisting/turning, jumping and lateral bounding.  The lower body movement will vary, the upper body pulling action remains the same.  

Alternating Split Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull

Adding split squat jumps to the double arm pull creates a total body training effect.  The split squat jump increases the fatigue factor 3x, versus normal technique.  Traditional SkiErg training is primarily upper-body focused, the split squat jump changes that.    

At the bottom of the split squat jump, “kiss” the knee cap to the floor. Soft and quiet landings.  Try and time the pull of the handles with the landing of the split squat, which will give you the best opportunity to create as much power on each stroke as possible. 

 

Rotational Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull 

Squat, jump and rotate.  Find the floor, pull.  

Got it?

This SkiErg variation adds complexity to the effort.  

The key to having success with this exercise is planting the front foot on the floor in line (or as close to) with the tower of the SkiErg.  Doing so will create space for the handles to straddle the front leg and avoid any interference on the pull.

Adding Equipment

Sometimes, other gym tools can be used to add a new dynamic or challenge to a cardio experience.  With SkiErg, the hands are fixed to the handles, so the external loading will likely be hands-free.  Weight vests and resistance bands work really well here. 

Here is a badass resistance band variation worth trying out...

Stretch Band Resisted + Double Arm Pull 

The resistance band pulls the hips backward, making driving hips forward into extension a more difficult.    

The pull of the band will set your glutes on fire.  

Of all of the variations listed in this post, this is my favorite.  

Getting a little more action for the glutes and reinforcing aggressive hip extension is a fantastic addition to an already great cardio activity.  

 

SkiErg Hybrid Circuits

Whenever I feel my workouts getting a bit stale, I’ll mix 1-2 exercises with the SkiErg to create a hybrid circuit.  “Nano-Circuit” may be a more accurate description.

Kettlebell swings, clean and press, loaded lunges, goblet squats and lizard crawling all pair extremely well with the SkiErg and the transition between activities is painless.  

Generally, I keep the SkiErg distance consistent.  Each of the videos below shows a 100m effort on the SkiErg, short enough to really power up each stroke, but not so far to create fatigue too early in the workout.  

I recommend keeping the resistance exercise, locomotion pattern and SkiErg effort brief and intense.  Choose fewer reps for the non-SkiErg exercise… anywhere from 6-10 reps.  

Rest after achieving your target distance.  Execute for however many rounds you prefer.  

Steady, accumulated fatigue is the goal.  As the clock ticks, you’re going to get tired training using this format.  Don’t start out too aggressively and burn out in the first round.  

I value these workouts because almost all of the work is performed standing.  

Here are some examples:

Kettlebell Swings + SkiErg

Macebell 360’s + SkiErg

Lizard Crawl Flow + SkiErg

Ah, yeah, that’s enough for this post.  

Get into some of these variations and let me know how it went.  

I love hearing from everyone!

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

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.