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 even 2 or 3 years ago.  

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

Multi-planar strength and movement freedom.

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

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

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

 Flow

Ido Portal Method combines the best of many movement disciplines.

Integration

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

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

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

Here’s a video example:

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

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

The shift is on and people are taking notice.

Nike has…

Ido Portal Nike

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

Another example of Integration…

Integration builds on the physical preparation from isolation training.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improvisation…

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

Dominating isolation exercises makes the transition to integration significantly easier.  

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

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

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

This is where progression becomes important.  

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

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

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

Levitation? 🙂

Isolation and Integration Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training Programs Similar to Ido Portal Method

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

Here are two programs I found:

Both programs fuse elements of the Ido Portal Method.  

Animal Flow is ground based movement, flow work and establishing a fluency with a variety of locomotion patterns.  

Bodyweight Athlete drives the importance bodyweight based strength training.  

Here’s an overview of each…

Animal Flow

Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 6.43.52 AM

Animal Flow is a ground-based bodyweight training system that closely parallels a lot 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
Animal Flow.  

Integrating Animal Flow 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 Animal Flow for the day, it’s also been great for strength-endurance work.  

A big value of Animal Flow are the exercise progressions.  

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

Animal Flow’s 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, Animal Flow combines ideas from many different movement disciplines (parkour, capoeira, yoga, gymnastics, etc) 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 Animal Flow based exercises into cardio based work capacity circuits for conditioning.   

My Experience with Animal Flow

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

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

Mike Fitch (creator) also peaked my interest as his movement capacity is world-class.  

Over the past few years, I’ve cherry-picked basic exercises and movement sequences from Animal Flow.  

I started with the basics… Beast, Crab, and Scorpions.


The first few sessions sucked.  I sucked.  I felt uncoordinated, lost in space and frustrated with how choppy movement was.  It seems like it should be “easy”. 

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

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

Again, the simplicity of Animal Flow is brilliant… it’s just your body and the floor.  No equipment needed.  

This article explains how I’ve woven Animal Flow into my workouts.

If you’d like to learn more Animal Flow, here’s the official website: Animal Flow

 

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 training system designed to improve strength using many of the most important movement patterns. 

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.  The fact is you may struggle with many of these bodyweight movements early on.  In the beginning, only eccentric single arm push ups might manageable.  With consistent practice you’ll find yourself performing full range single arm push ups.  

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

Proper progression, consistent practice and willingness to put forth effort.  

Strength (like many athletic qualities) is built with…

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

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

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

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

Global Bodyweight Training’s “Bodyweight Athlete” will set you back $150, but when considering the time you’d wasted trying to collect this info from random online sources to structure some sort of training plan, or the price of hiring an in person gymnastics coach, it’s not bad at all.  

 

Closing thoughts… 

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

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

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

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

Above all else, keep moving and moving often.  Your movement capacity will expand to the degree you’re willing to move it.  Keep moving and your body will make you better at movement.  

On the flip side, your body will do the exact opposite if you don’t move.  You become an expert at not moving as the tissue lock up.  

Choose movement. 

Cheers to you.   

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

 

Cheers to the Basics of The Ido Portal Training Method…

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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.  

Core Exercises: 48 Prime Core Movements | M[EAUX}TION

Animal Flow, Core Training, Motion

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

Feel bad for me?  Me either.

But after giving it some thought, I realize how many people I come in contact with who have no idea some of these amazing movements exist.  

Beyond that thought, how some of these movements can impact their daily workouts so much more than crunches and machine based training.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of things to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go…

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

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

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

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

Beginner tip:  

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

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

Advanced tips:

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

2.  Turkish Get Ups 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Dragon Flags aka: Gymnastics “Candlesticks” 

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

Candlesticks are one of the my favorite core exercises. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Dynamic Plank Variations 

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Beast Crawl 

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

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

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

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

Real uplifting isn’t it?

5.  Lizard Crawl 

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

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

You’ll be tired.  

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

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

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

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

6.  Offset/Asymmetric Pressing and Holds 

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

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

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

7.  One Arm Push Ups 

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

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

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

8.  L-Sits (all variations)

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

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

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

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

9.  Arch Body Holds 

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

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

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

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

10.  Hollow Body Variations (rocking and static holds) 

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

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

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

11.  Toes to Bar

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

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

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

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

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

12.  Bridging and Rotation into High Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.  Landmine Grapplers

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

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

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

15.  Slosh Pipe Exercises

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

16.  Sandbag Training

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

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

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

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

17.  Slow Mountain Climber Variations 

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

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

18.  Weighted Plank Variations

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

19.  Tuck Planche 

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

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

20.  Stand Up Paddle Boarding

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

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

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

21.  Sleep

Zzzzzzzzzz.  

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

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

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

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

22.  Kettlebell Swings (variations)

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

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

23.  Dead Bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my new favorite “core” exercise.  

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

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

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

25. Overhead Loaded Squats

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

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

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

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

26.  Windmills 

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

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

27.  Janda Sit Ups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28.  Hanging Knee Tucks 

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

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

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

29.  Zercher Sandbag Squats

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

30.  Explosive Flexion Slams

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

31.  Rotational Throws

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

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

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

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

32.  Chops and Lifts

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

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

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

33.  Anti-Rotation Press Outs

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

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

34.  Single Arm Push Ups

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

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

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

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

Do it all.  Explore.  

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

35.  Atomic Push Ups

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

3-5 sets of 6-15 reps

36.  Core Smash

Core smash = intense core flexion contraction.  

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

37.  Arch Body 

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

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

Hammer the front side, hammer the back side.  

38.  Hollow Body High Plank or Push Ups

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

Beginner level gymnastics posture here.  Very humbling.  

39.  Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot

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

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

40.  Suspension Trainer Pendulums

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

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

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

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

41.  Core Compression Pulses

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

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

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

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

42.  Loaded Carrying Variations

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

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

Personally, I do not think so.

43.  Lizard Crawl + Push or Pull 

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

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

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

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

44.  Spinal Waves

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

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

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

45.  Standing Spine CAR’s

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

46.  Hip CAR’s

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

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

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

47.  Animal Flow Side Kick Through’s

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

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

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

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

48.  Animal Flow Crab Reach

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

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

In one shot, the Crab Reach accomplishes the following:

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

  Challenges and improves shoulder stability on the loaded working arm

  Opens up the hips anteriorly 

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

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

The end, finally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to you and the daily effort…

Kyle 

Build a Home Gym? Yes, You Should.

home gym, Motion

Before you read this, please know I am a HUGE advocate for moving workouts into the home setting.  

Cutting the cord on a big box gym membership is a little like cutting the cord on cable television.  I’ve done both so I’ve got some experience here.  Change is hard.  Sounds dumb but when I cut cable television for good, I had a few weeks of not knowing what the hell to do with myself at night.  

It was purely conditioning and habit driving these feelings.  

But eventually, I adapted and transitioned my time to more productive activities.  Of course economical streaming subscriptions also helped fill the void (Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, etc). 

Anyways, there’s some initial hesitation, weighing, back and forth, and although it sounds kind of funny… anxiety involved with cancelling a gym membership (or cable television).

“What will I do without my gym membership?”

Step one is to ask yourself if you’re actually using your gym membership.  If you are, how many days a week are you going?  Are you getting results from that money and time investment?  

These are simple questions.  Are you going to the gym enough to make the cost of keeping the membership worth while?

A lot of people go to the gym with intentions of losing weight, building strength, getting healthy, yet have very little if anything to show for it.  

No offense to these folks, but there’s a lot of people that fall into this category.  Gyms love them because not achieving results (aka:  spinning tires in the mud) is great for ensuring a steady revenue stream.  The anxiety is too high to cancel the membership.  So, you pay every month.  

If you do go to the gym and you enjoy it, KEEP YOUR MEMBERSHIP.

The goal of this article isn’t to project a rigid stance on big box gyms and paint them as being a bad place.  

My goal is to shed light on the effectiveness of working out at home and let you know it’s more than doable, it’s becoming the new standard.  Lots of people aren’t aware of this.  #themoreyouknow

A lot of folks use gyms as a social hang out just as people get memberships at the local country club to hang out with their buddies.  

Well built gyms often offer amenities to families (pools, child care, classes, etc).  So for these folks, spending the money might be well worth it.  

Mom and Dad can get some exercise in while the kids play in the pool with licensed gym staff.  

But…

… cancelling your gym membership will free up funds, time and hopefully bring some excitement back to your workouts.  

The biggest benefit (in my opinion) of moving workouts to a home gym set up is the freeing up of TIME.  

When I was younger I had a much harder time understanding the value of my time on this earth.  My perception was that I had all the time in the world.  Wrong.  

Fast forward several birthdays later, I feel much differently.  I have a desire to own as much of my time as possible.  Life’s too short.

Google “Memento Mori Chart” and fill one of those out if you really want the realities on the shortness of life.  

Balancing family, career and finding time for recreation can eat up most of the time in a day.  

Working out at a membership based brick and mortar gym certainly has it’s advantages, but it also has limitations which often go overlooked.

 

#1  Paying for something you don’t use.

A gym membership going unused or not being used on a regular basis is a waste of money.  

#2  Time.  

How much is your time worth?  

Time is our most precious commodity, and we can never get time back.  Drive time to and from, changing clothes time, waiting for equipment time, workout time, shower time, etc.  Big box gyms are a TIME SUCK. 

#3  Safe equipment.  

Most gyms still refuse to offer fitness equipment considered to be “taboo” or “dangerous” because it’s a liability for injury.  

So, the average big box gym is littered with fixed range of motion (aka:  artificial and unnatural range of motion cardio and resistance machines)

There’s a reason most people despise exercise…  because spending hours on these machines is uneventful and completely against human nature.  We were force fed the concept of exercising on fixed machines back in the 1960’s and 1970’s and somehow the concept survived to 2018.  

Those feelings of boredom while “ellipticalling” are real… and more importantly they are NOT WRONG.  Your body craves robust movement, exploration, change of direction, challenge.  

It took 8+ years for most gyms to offer kettlebells to clients for fear of throwing them through mirrors, dropping them on toes, or blowing out backs from poor technique.  All reasonable concerns.

To be blunt, if your gym isn’t offering and promoting alternative modalities of building fitness such as kettlebells, you’re missing out.

#4  Personal training is expensive

God bless personal trainers and their ongoing commitment to educating the public on the benefits of exercise.  

But personal training is expensive.

Personal training is expensive regardless if you’re training 1-on-1, semi private or in a group setting.  At $5, $10 or in some areas $70-$80 per session you could pivot and transition those dollars into one of many online training programs (probably starting with bodyweight based training like yoga or calisthenics) and gradually purchase some home equipment.

Start with a simple pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, maybe a suspension trainer.  These are three of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment on the market.  

Yes, I know barbell training is amazing.  But even in the year 2018, barbells freak a lot of people out.  I don’t know if their is data on this, but it’s anecdotal fact for me in conversations with people.  

So, do your homework on dumbbells, kettlebells or a suspension trainer.  

For the cost of one month of gym membership, you can buy one or possibly two pieces of equipment.  A kettlebell is a one-time purchase.  That kettlebell will outlast your life. 

The gym membership model succeeds and relies on signing up customers who don’t set foot in the door.  

I didn’t make this up.  

Listen, if I owned a gym I wouldn’t want all of my members to workout daily and tear up my expensive equipment.  

It would be a hassle and lost dollars for me to constantly fix broken down cardio machines, reface beat up barbells and weight plates, patch holes in benches, etc.  

No, no… if I owned a gym, give me your money and stay at home.  

Here are some great articles regarding gym memberships:

A snippet from the last NPR article:

“Joining a gym is an interesting form of what behavioral economists call pre-commitment,” says Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Wharton School. Volpp says we actually like the idea of being locked into a gym contract … at first, anyway. “They’re picturing the ‘new me’ who’s actually going to go to the gym three times a week and become a physical fitness machine.” We convince ourselves that since we have committed to putting down money for a year, we will make ourselves go to the gym. And then, of course, we don’t.

Working out at home is not for everyone. 

“Wait, I thought you just told me that…”

I did.

Before you cancel your gym membership, it’s important to understand your habits and personality.  

Cancelling a gym membership with intentions of working out at home, but never actually getting the home workout habit to stick is not good.  It’s a step in the wrong direction.

If you were exercising twice a week at a gym, but now exercising ZERO times per week after making the transition, this is not a good scenario.

While taking workouts into the home setting is loaded with advantages, a lot of people may find it difficult to stick to a workout regimen at home.

I’ve found that inability to make the home workout habit stick are pretty similar to the reasons a lot of people shouldn’t have a home-based career.  

The comfortable environment of the home setting can kill off motivation for physical exertion and breed complacency.  

The temptation to do anything but be productive and get work done is too great.

Before cancelling a gym membership, test the waters by bringing 1 or 2 workouts into the home.  Keep it simple.  Work some bodyweight sessions, play around with the space you’ve got and get acclimated.   

No equipment means no workout!

Survey says:  Wrong.  

A common perception is that quality exercise cannot happen without the presence of fancy fitness machines.  

Heavenly Father… what are you supposed to do without any fitness equipment?!

I can see how a person would have this opinion, I really can. But the reality is you DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.  

If you have these feelings, you’ve got to explore your options.   

Here are some ideas for you… 

Yoga, Animal Flow, KinStretch, gymnastics and calisthenics and resistance training are all INCREDIBLE forms of movement that can provide far more benefit for your body (looks, feel and performance) than any machine ever will.  

Listen, exercise machines have their place, but moving your body in a natural environment should be a primary goal.  Your body and the ground.  Start there.

What about walking?  

Walking, time and time again has proven to be potent form of daily activity.  Start with 10 minutes per day, every single day.  See what happens.  

The Economics of Building a Home Gym

Before buying home gym equipment there are two important points to consider:

  1. Quality gym equipment often isn’t cheap at time of purchase.  The upfront cost of purchasing the equipment will likely exceed what you were paying per month at your gym.  However, shift your attention to the long-term value instead of the short-term.  Most quality gym equipment should last you lifetime versus paying for monthly gym memberships.
  2. What’s the cost of not exercising across the long-term?  This question can be hard to wrap one’s head around, but seriously, in 10, 20, 30 years, what will be the cost you pay for not taking care of yourself physically when you had the chance.  

A badass home gym could be built by shifting spending habits for 6-8 months.  

Many people won’t buy gym equipment for the home because they don’t know how to use it.  In 1996, this was a valid concern, but not in 2017.  This little thing called the internet has created massive opportunities to learn basic technique of physical conditioning, all the way to movement mastery.  

Fitness is now digital.  The information is distributed through video, audio and the written word, there is education that appeals to all forms of learning.  A lot of it is given away for free.

Everything a person could want to know about fitness is on the internet.  

If you’re one of those anti-internet people… please stop.  Yes, the internet has some crap floating around but so does society.  

Take ownership, research, experiment, explore, refine, get curious, learn.  

I want this article to open your eyes to a different perspective on working out, where you do it, how you do it and a alternative view to transitioning your health regimen back to home base.  

Even if you don’t make the switch, it’s important to have the information.

Please let me comments or questions.

Check out some of these other topics of I’ve explored on the blog…  

All center around workout programs, workouts, exercises or equipment fully compatible with the home gym setting.

 

For now… cheers to you and building a home gym.

 

Kyle 

 

Workout Finisher: Kettlebell Swings and Burpees

Motion

Workout finishers (also known as metabolic finishers or conditioning finishers) are a short burst series of exercises at the end of a workout designed to complement strength based training.  

A workout finisher can be a single exercise, like a burpee, or a series of exercises strung together (squat, push up, pull up, etc).  Finishers typically take 1-10 minutes to complete, and can be organized into intervals or metabolic resistance training (think thrusters).  

A tough finisher will burn extra calories, boost cardio and work capacity while increasing the fat burning potential of the days workout.  

These days, I mainly string together several different exercises, using a variety of movement patterns and equipment.  From time to time, I’ll schedule a single exercise finisher, but it’s rare.  Burpees are a great exercise to use if you’re only going to do choose one.

Mixing Kettlebell Swings and Burpees

This post is all about one of the toughest workout finishers…

The word “burpee” makes me cringe. Burpees are a brutally effective exercise and I rarely program burpees into my own training simply because they are hard.

I shouldn’t admit that.

Burpees jack up your heart rate fast.  Few other bodyweight exercises compare to burpees for total body conditioning.  Burpees, though simplistic, are extremely functional.  Transitioning up from a low ground position to a standing position happens in sports all of time.  Maybe not for high reps like we program in a workout, but it happens.  

How do you make the burpee experience harder? Add in some kettlebell swings. 

This kettlebell swing and burpee workout finisher is brutal.  Back when my equipment arsenal consisted of 3 kettlebells, I gave the kettlebell swing/burpee finisher a go.

The combination fit the equipment and space I had available perfectly.   

I stopped twice on my first attempt. Not for extended periods, but long enough to consider throwing in the towel.  It’s hard to remember my finishing time, but I think it was less than 8 minutes.

I do remember the fatigue however, it was hard to gather myself.  I ate a pile of food that night and the following morning and the afterburn effect was potent.  

So I share this workout finisher with you. Keep it in your back pocket on the days where you’ve completed your skill work and strength training and still high on motivation.

Equipment needed… 

You’ll need one kettlebell and some space to for burpees. Ideally the burpees will include a squat jump each time (aka: full burpees), so take into account overhead clearance. Choose a kettlebell you can swing for 15-20 repetitions comfortably. It will be sub-maximal weight for the swings.

I recommend most males to swing a 24kg or a 28kg kettlebell and females to swing a 20kg or a 24 kg kettlebell.

Of course, you can swing whatever size kettlebell you want, the recommendations are just generalized suggestions.  A heavier or lighter kettlebell may be chosen based on your fitness level and experience with swings under extreme fatigue.

By design, this workout finisher has 100 kettlebell swings and 55 burpees.

Structure:

10 KB Swings + 1 Burpee
10 KB Swings + 2 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 3 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 4 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 5 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 6 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 7 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 8 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 9 Burpees
10 KB Swings + 10 Burpees

The kettlebell swing reps remain fixed at 10, while the burpees increase by 1 rep each round. When you finish the 10th burpee on the last round, you’re done.

When you’re doing this workout finisher, it’s easy to lose track of what round you’re on.  I’ve performed several rounds twice by mistake.

Modification and Variations

Decrease Difficulty

There are a ton of options to reduce the stress of this workout finisher, here some examples:

Decrease kettlebell swings to 5 reps each round
Swing lighter kettlebell (keep reps at 10)
Burpee with no jump (removing the jump makes burpees easier)
Burpee with no push up and no jump (again, much easier)

Don’t forget… take rest if you need it.  Resting is a simple way to decrease the difficulty of this workout finisher.  The goal should be to push through each round without rest, but if you need it and technique depends on it, take it.

Increase Difficulty

Careful here.  Having completed this workout finisher periodically over the years, I know how brutal it can be.

Before trying to make this harder, set a target finish time finish of 6 minutes or less. Anything over 6 minutes and there is no reason to make it harder.  You’ve got progress to make before increasing the difficulty.

If you finish in less than 6 minutes, consider sizing up the weight of the kettlebell or adding an extra round where you’ll complete 11 burpees in the final effort.

I don’t foresee a lot of people needing more intensity, but there are always options to do so.

Variations to the original…

Smaller Cycles w/ rest periods

Keep kettlebell swings at 10 reps but stop at 5 reps of burpees.

Round 1:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 1 Burpee

Round 2:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 2 Burpees

Round 3:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 3 Burpees

Round 4:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 4 Burpees

Round 5:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 5 Burpees

Above is an example of one round.  

Rest for 90sec-120sec after this round before starting the next round.  Complete anywhere from 2-5 rounds total.  This decrease the working time in half and give you a chance to rest before going again.  

Break up the Burpees into separate movements

Instead of performing a full burpee with a push up and squat jump, break it up.  Now you’ll be performing like so:

Round 1:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 1 Push Ups + 1 Squats
Round 2:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 2 Push Ups + 2 Squats
Round 3:  10 Kettlebell Swings + 3 Push Ups + 3 Squats

And so on…

Flip-Flop Swing and Burpee Reps

Switch around the kettlebell swing and burpee reps.  

Round 1:  1 Kettlebell Swing + 10 Burpees
Round 2:  2 Kettlebell Swings + 10 Burpees
Round 3:  3 Kettlebell Swings + 10 Burpees

And so on…

 

The afterburn effect of this workout finisher is HUGE.  If you’re pushing your boundaries, you’ll feel it for hours post-workout.  Personally, I like to position something like this after a strength training session where I know the next day is a rest day.  

Workout finishers are great for adding in a little work capacity and increasing the fat loss potential of a workout.  

Give this a try and let me know how you did. 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

The Many Ways to Use Animal Flow in Workouts

Animal Flow, bodyweight training, Motion

Scorpion

“Hmmm… Animal Flow looks a bit moving yoga. Then again, it also looks a bit like Capoeira. Well, maybe not. Maybe it looks like gymnastics. Yes, definitely gymnastics. Wait… there’s another yoga exercise, now it looks like yoga again.”

These are exact thoughts I had watching Mike Fitch demonstrating a movement flow several years ago.


Watching Mike flow seamlessly around the empty room captivated me. Even to the untrained eye, it’s unmistakable when you see someone who has complete dominance (aka control) over their body. When you see it, you know it.

I crashed head first into Ido Portal Method and Animal Flow at about the same time. Which makes sense now since they are both rooted deeply in bodyweight based movement. 

At the time, Ido Portal was growing at breakneck speed, but he had not (and still hasn’t) packaged his movement system into a product. Animal Flow did have a product, which it has now updated into Animal Flow 2.0.

Crawling patterns and primal movement were gaining traction as validated tactics to reset one’s body, improve strength, stability, core integration, body controls, yadda yadda yadda. In reflection, it makes sense Animal Flow caught my eye because Traveling Forms (Ape, Beast, Crab) are crawling locomotion patterns. For branding purposes, Animal Flow refers to these three basic forms as “animal-like” exercises which they are, but they are also crawling patterns.

Piggybacking the opening paragraph of this blog post, the most important point I could make about integrating Animal Flow into your workouts is this: Shape, mold and make it function any way that suits you.

Animal Flow is a hybrid training system constructed from many other movement disciplines, therefore it can serve you any way you need it to.

Cardio conditioning? Move fast, aggressive, lots of transitions, soft but quick floor contacts.

Recovery? Full range of motion, move slow, controlled, breathe deep, hold positions, find the stretch.

Pre-Workout Warm Up? Move through a full range of motion, activate hard at end range looking for expanded range, build the tempo up from slow to fast.

Animal Flow as the workout? Leverage lots of different tempos, explore many positions, make shapes, breathe, bring the heart rate up, lower it back down, improvise, etc.

Ground-based movement can serve an infinite number of purposes. How do you want it to serve your needs? That’s what I’d like you to keep in mind as you read through the rest of this article.

The purpose of this article is two-fold:

1) Share Animal Flow movement tactics with people who aren’t currently familiar.

2) Expand the application of Animal Flow exercises.

In we go…

I won’t pretend like it was love at first sight.

It took me a while to jump into Animal Flow. I was already working yoga steadily on non-workout days. Days when my body needed a rest but craved a sweat, range of motion, slow tempo and breath work. You know, the calming effect yoga is famous for.

Once I finally committed to mixing in Traveling Forms more seriously, I could immediately feel the difference. I felt more connected from my top half through my core to my bottom half. Shoulders opened up and felt more stable. General body awareness in space and control improved also. 

Stepping away from lifting is a major reason my body “opened up” and felt more fluid and connected. Pressing pause on lifting for several days if not several weeks (even months) is something that changed my entire perspective on daily physical activity. I recommend anyone who’s been a die-hard lifter to remove yourself from weight training for an extended period of time. Don’t stop exercising during this time, rather, seek out alternatives.

Animal Flow is a perfect place to start and explore.

Using Animal Flow exercises for Pre-Workout Warm-Up

Initially, I started by using Traveling Forms during my warm-up. Here is how I structured everything…

Pre-Workout Warm-Up (15-20 minutes)
Foam Roll + Thoracic Mobility Peanut Drills
Dynamic Stretching
Activation (using mini bands, wall slides, etc)
Animal Flow Traveling Forms (and maybe some jump rope)
The Workout

Yes, I still foam roll.  

After working through more traditional strength and conditioning stretches, activation and mobility, I’d start crawling for 3-8 minutes, sometimes followed by jumping rope, sometimes not.

In the beginning, 3 minutes of crawling patterns seemed daunting. After a month or so, I was crawling without rest for 8-10 minutes. Challenging? Hell yes, but the body acclimates quickly with consistent practice.

This pre-workout routine provided enough time to explore each of the three Traveling Forms in isolation. Isolating new exercises has always been my strategy. Isolating an exercise allows me to focus on the mechanics of the movement. 

Beast

Favoritism and familiarity lead me to practice Beast and Crab first. Beast is a prone crawling pattern (chest to the floor) and Crab is a supine crawling pattern (chest to the ceiling). Beast and Crab are essentially opposites, and therefore complement each other very well. The difference in body position changes the stress on the core and arms, front, back, and side of the body. Each movement also challenges active mobility differently.

Currently, my home gym allows for 12 feet of crawling in any one direction. Working with my training space, I would crawl 12 feet forward, reverse it and crawl 12 feet back. The first couple of workouts I programmed low volume and a much slower tempo crawl.

Beast – Crawl down and back 5 times (120 ft of crawling)
Crab – Crawl down and back 5 times (120 ft of crawling)

Start Workout.

From here, I ramped it up pretty quickly. I get antsy.

Combine Beast and Crab together, crawling down and back 6 times each without rest. This will take about 5-6 minutes to complete with a steady tempo.

Once I started to explore and understand Animal Flow Switches, I integrated them into my little Beast/Crab crawling medley…

Forward Beast + Under-Switch + Reverse Crab

Forward Crab + Under-Switch + Reverse Beast

Start Workout.

Rinse and repeat for time. This combination is simple and effective. Crawl down forward, switch, come back in reverse.

Next, I played around with longer duration for each Traveling Form, ramping it up to 1-minute per exercise before switching to the next…

Cycle 1-Minute per exercise of:
1-minute Beast
1-minute Crab
1-minute Beast
1-minute Crab

Start Workout.

… And so on.

I recommend working these patterns for as long as you like. Don’t overthink it. The risk of overdoing crawling is almost non-existent. Of course, if your plan is resistance training afterward, leave something in the tank for the training session.

Eventually, I introduced Lateral Traveling Ape to the pre-workout routine. Lateral Traveling Ape was my first real exposure to side-to-side locomotion. I struggled. What my mind’s eye thought I was doing was not what the playback on my iPhone camera showed. My technique was brutal. But the pattern was completely foreign.

I practiced Lateral Traveling Ape more incrementally than Beast or Crab, starting with two reps in one direction, two reps back to where I started. Rest and repeat. A smooth flowing Lateral Traveling Ape did not come easily for me.

Fast forward to current day, I’ll rip out pre-workout Traveling Forms almost in any structure I like. Lately, a medley I’ve been enjoying has been:

Cycle 8 minutes of:
Lateral Traveling Ape 16 ft
Switch
Beast Crawl 16 ft
Switch
Crab Crawl 16 ft

Start Workout.

Cycle through each of the 3 Traveling Forms for 8 minutes without rest. You’ll never feel more ready for a workout as you will after this effective little medley.

The badass thing about Animal Flow exercises is that your body will learn the mechanics quickly with diligent practice. Lateral Traveling Ape went from being an exercise I avoided to one of my favorites.

Personally, I think there are a lot of people dabbling with crawling patterns, which is great, but not including enough volume to see desired results. I’m not implying you’ve got crawl for a .5 mile every workout, but if you really want to get benefit from crawling patterns, play around with increasing the volume (without bending on technique).

A Tool for Recovery…

I love many aspects of yoga and typically feel great afterward, but I don’t always enjoy how stationary yoga is. Yoga sessions can feel rather restricting. Stay on the mat, you must never part with your mat.

Animal Flow takes features of yoga and transforms it into a dynamic practice. Essentially, you can move around the room until you’re ready to hold a pose or position.

Transitioning into an animal-like crawl to relocate or continue switching body positions to find the next hold.

Combining movement with elements of yoga creates a comprehensive training session pack with benefits from each.  Here is a simple recovery workout…

Lateral Traveling Ape x10 yards
Beast Crawl x10 yards
Downward Dog x 5 long breaths
Reverse Beast x10 yards
Downward Dog x 5 long breaths
Crab Crawl x 10 yards
Table-Top x 5 long breaths
Reverse Crab Crawl x10 yards
Crab with Reach x3 each side
*** Repeat the cycle for time or rounds***

This simple recovery workout seamlessly fuses yoga with Animal Flow. I’ve worked sequences like this for 20-30 minutes and felt absolutely fantastic afterward.

Or, give this more comprehensive recovery session a try, which includes drills from Kinstretch and Animal Flow.

Start with some basic Kinstretch drills to nourish the joints, finishing with some dynamic Animal Flow exercises to further open up and re-educate the body to cross-crawling patterns, reaching and positional switches.

Kinstretch:
Hip CAR’s x5 each leg
Spinal CAR’s x3
Shoulder CAR’s x5 each arm

… Followed by…

Animal Flow:
Beast Crawl x 10 yards
Reverse Beast Crawl x 10 yards
Crab Crawl x 10 yards
Reverse Crab Crawl x 10 yards
Lateral Traveling Ape x 10 yards
Crab with Reach x 5 each side
Slow Under-Switch x 5 each side
Scorpion Switch x 3 each
Slow Side Kick-Throughs x 3 each side
*** Repeat for 3-4 rounds ***

*** Sidenote: If you aren’t familiar with Kinstretch, check it out. It will change your life.

This will take 30 minutes of your time (or less). Move slowly through each of these exercises in descending order (top to bottom). Breathe deep with control, owning each movement.

This workout has a boatload of natural joint mobility and muscle activation work in it. Crab with Reach alone is a million dollar movement. If you’re activating extending the hips and reaching hard in the high position of each Scorpion Switch, there is likely to be some soreness the next day.

A gentle recovery workout like this helps to open up the joints, turn on important muscles, challenge multi-planar core stability and while getting a sweat without the beaten down feeling.

It might seem off-topic to list sweating as a benefit of a recovery workout, but considering the skin is the largest organ of the human body and sweating helps eliminate toxins from the body, support proper immune function and fight out toxin-related diseases.

Animal Flow and Kettlebells for Cardio

Virtually any exercise or series of exercises can be adjusted to create a cardio training effect.

Limiting rest, increasing the tempo and exercise complexity are all fantastic ways to further tax the cardiovascular system.

The recipe is simple: global bodyweight movements recruit more muscles plus higher intensity tempo with little or no rest in between elevates heart rate and respiration. Across time and with enough intensity, the body will head straight into oxygen debt. Huffing and puffing begin.

Ground-based movements are a total body experience. Combining various Traveling Forms (ape, beast, crab, lizard crawl variations, etc) and Switches creates a potent multi-planar training effect. 

Kick-Throughs…
Kick-Throughs are an excellent ground-based cardio exercise. Kick-Throughs, similar to any other Animal Flow exercise, can be scaled to suit any skill or fitness level. The explosive nature of faster tempo Kick-Through’s makes them ideal for cardio.

There are two primary variations: Forward and Side Kick-Throughs.

Many people will find Side Kick-Throughs to be a great entry into higher tempo ground-based movement.

Side Kick-Throughs how-to:
• Start in the quadruped position (static Beast), hands and feet on the floor, knees hovering an inch above the floor.
• Lift and slide one leg underneath your body as you pivot on the supporting foot.
• Reach with the sliding leg and open up the chest.
• Return to the quadruped position and perform the same action on the opposite side.

Gradually increase the speed of the kick-through to the point where technique remains intact but on the verge of “out of control”. 15-20 repetitions per side of Side Kick-Throughs will get the heart rate going. Another measurement of work is time. Anywhere from 30-45 seconds of exertion is a great place to start.

Kick-Throughs pair very well with kettlebells, as you’ll see below.

Select two kettlebell exercises and one variation of kick-throughs. Here are two great examples.

Workout A
Kettlebell Swings x8-10
Side Kick-Throughs x8 each side
Kettlebell Overhead Press x8 each arm
*Repeat for 6-8 rounds, rest for 45-70 seconds between each round.

Or…

Workout B
Kettlebell Gorilla Row x8 each arm
Forward Kick-Throughs x5 each side
Kettlebell Deadlift x10
*Repeat for 6-8 rounds, rest for 45-70 seconds between each round.

Or…

Mix and Match: Alternate Workout A and Workout B
Round 1: Workout A
Rest 60 seconds
Round 2: Workout B
Rest 60 seconds
Round 3: Workout A
Rest 60 seconds
Round 4: Workout B
*** Repeat for 8 rounds ***

Each round you’re performing 3 completely different exercises, using the same tool (kettlebells). If you’re tight on space, limited on equipment or looking to keep training simple and effective, this is a fantastic option.

Improvised Workouts Ground Based Conditioning Plus Animal Flow…

This is my favorite part of this article.

Animal Flow is a flexible movement discipline that can serve as little or big of a role in your training as you need to. In this section, I’ll talk about using Animal Flow as the workout, not just part of the workout.

Practicing many of the Animal Flow elements in isolation leads to stringing together longer pre-planned sequences, which eventually leads to the total improvisation of a workout or freestyle. This is the “flow” part of Animal Flow.

Flowing between various exercises for several minutes changed the game for me. It’s liberating to move around an open space without having a plan, just an understanding of knowing you can move in and out of many different positions, making shapes, increasing tempo, slowing tempo, etc. You’re in control of the session, your mind-body connection is communicating the way it was designed.

Very poetic.

Improvised flow is the highest form of training. It’s essentially movement play and exploration. I touched on this in my popular Ido Portal Method post.

I have no recommendations for improvised workouts, as they are improvised.  You make it up as you go.  Take what you know about Animal Flow: locomotion patterns, switches, transitions, etc… and build a sequence.  

There is no wrong way to flow, just start moving.  

Workouts like this can last as long as you’d like. I’ve improvised for 20-30 minutes, increasing the speed of movement sporadically throughout the session but constantly moving and changing positions.

Closing Personal Commentary…

Equipment free, ground-based conditioning has expanded my conditioning in incredible ways. I am a huge advocate of rowing ergs, airbikes, skiergs and the like, but conditioning on an open floor is entirely different than machine-based conditioning.

I’m not anti-machine.

I still use my Assault Bike and Concept2 Rowing Erg 2-3 times per week. Not for extended periods, but long enough to matter.

Taking a break from machine-based cardio will make you realize how mindless it is. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s difficult but mindless. The gears and levers of a cardio machine move through a fixed pattern/range of motion. How hard you push yourself on the machine is entirely up to you. It’s a mind game. It’s willpower.

The amount of energy required to crawl, bend, twist, lunge, reach, roll, sprawl, rotate, squat, press around an open floor intensely for an extended period of time is mind-blowing.  Especially if you are new to it.

—>  More details about Animal Flow 2.0

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle

Benefits of Animal Flow| Traveling Forms

Animal Flow, Motion

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Animal Flow is an innovative, gap bridging movement system built around fundamental bodyweight exercise, organized in a readymade package.  

The movement system is comprised of a wide range of exercise progressions to get a beginner flowing in their first workout, leading up to advanced movement mastery.

Animal Flow exercises and workouts are designed to help people improve strength, flexibility, body control and coordination.

At the end of the day, Animal Flow is a playful expression of what your body can do.

The most impressive aspect of Animal Flow is how well the movements and transitions fit together to create an artistic, fluid practice. 

For many reading this, starting up with Animal Flow may serve as a long overdue body reboot. The movements will ignite a re-discovery of what your body is capable of doing when it’s just you and some empty space on the floor.

The brilliance of Animal Flow is that it’s a melting pot of movement disciplines.  Instead of being locked into one movement discipline, Animal Flow draws the best from several practices like yoga, martial arts, parkour, break dancing, and gymnastics to name a few.

Training concepts taught in Animal Flow have become increasingly important as we learn more about modern-day physical activity, expanding movement capacity and improving movement I.Q.

Natural ground-based movement is as functional as it gets. The shift away from sets, reps and weight lifted represents the evolved, expanded idea of what it means to be “fit”.

Traveling Forms make up 1 of 6 components in the Animal Flow training system. 

What are Traveling Forms?

From the Animal Flow website:
“Traveling Forms are exercises that mimic the movements of animals. You’ll start with the “ABCs” – Ape, Beast, and Crab – to get you going on these full body conditioning moves. The traveling forms are essentially how we move like animals to improve the function of the human animal.”

Each of these moving forms has an emphasis on contralateral movement, which means the movement occurs across the body’s midline. For example, during Beast and Crab, the opposite hand and foot are going to move together. Contralateral movements are great for building body awareness and coordination.

Ape, Beast, and Crab are the “big three” Traveling Forms. These three exercises can be categorized as ground-based locomotion patterns. Locomotion, in laymen’s terms, means moving from one place to another. Walking, skipping, running, pushing a heavy sled, farmer walks are all variations of locomotion.

Traveling Forms are mainly performed in the quadrupedal position, with hands and feet interacting with the floor to create movement from one place to another.

Benefits of Animal Flow Traveling Forms?

Humans are bipedal creatures. We move most efficiently using our legs, placing one foot in front of the other to get where we need to go.

Practicing locomotion patterns with the body and head in unique positions other than upright walking position (head on shoulders, eyes forward, arms hanging at the sides, etc) challenges the body to re-orient itself to those uncommon positions.

Quadrupedal, animal-like movement patterns expand our movement capacities, making our body a more complete piece of machinery.

Sure, one could argue that life happens on two-feet and that’s partially true.

However, starting right now, pay close attention to how often you aren’t on two-feet. It’s a lot more frequent than you realize. Playing with your kids on the floor, reaching for an object under the couch or rolling out of bed are all simple examples of activities that happens in positions other than standing or walking.

One simple reason to supplement a training regimen with Animal Flow is to make life’s known and unknown tasks that much easier. A great goal of any fitness program should be to create a higher level of efficiency across a broader range of positions, whatever those positions may be.

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Practicing quadrupedal locomotion patterns doesn’t mean you have to stop being a bipedal creature and begin moving on all fours at work or around the house. Maybe you will, but I highly doubt it.

Traveling Forms articulate joints that rarely see any range of motion most days.  They also stimulate the provide a gentle loading for the upper extremities and demand the core musculature sort out new stimuli (cross-crawling)

Many people rehabilitating from nagging chronic dysfunction or acute trauma are often prescribed basic rolling and crawling patterns to re-establish movement integrity.

Other benefits of Animal Flow:

  • Establish neuromuscular links throughout the kinetic exercise chain.
  • Movements are multi-planar, preparing the body for different planes of motion.
    • Up and down
    • Side to Side
    • Transverse (rotational)
  • Flexibility through movement and the opening of fascial lines and slings.
  • Full articulation of joints to reinforce mobility.
  • Reconnecting the brain-body activity with contra-lateral movements.
  • Exposure of asymmetries and energy leaks as you move closer to the ground (versus standing).

Here’s another great reason to implement Animal Flow style drills… They aren’t boring.

Does this look boring?  


Yes, some might say it’s superficial to start a new exercise venture solely because it’s new and exciting, but we shouldn’t act like it’s a bad thing. If you’ve been going through the motions or near giving up on working out because you’re bored to tears, it’s absolutely worth exploring new training methods to re-ignite feelings of excitement.

Or, maybe your gut’s telling you there must be something other than counting sets, reps and chasing numbers in the gym. Trust your gut, it’s accurate. Traveling Forms satisfy the free movement craving quickly, which is often a much-needed breath of fresh air and departure from the traditional.

Let’s take look at each of the three basic forms taught in Animal Flow…

Ape

Of the three foundational Animal Flow Traveling Forms, it’s likely Ape will be the most challenge technique-wise. Timing, force absorption, core compression, and flexibility are all important to a smooth Ape.  

Traveling Ape Variations:
– Forward Ape
– Reverse Ape
– Lateral Ape

Beast

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Cross-crawling patterns have long been hailed as a re-calibration activity for rehabilitation specialists. But you don’t have to suffer an injury to reap the benefits of crawling. Beast, is an ideal crawling exercise for anyone and everyone. Beast is fantastic as a warm-up or as part of the workout. Traveling Forms like Beast are important for reinforcing and building reflexive strength along with connecting the left side of the brain with the right side.

Small space? No worries.

Beast is an adaptable exercise to fit the space you are training in. In my basement, I’ve got no more than 10 feet in any one direction. I make it work by perfectly by making more trips. Reverse Beast is a challenging variation because the eyes aren’t seeing where the feet are being placed, it’s all by feel.   

For people that find themselves traveling a lot, stuck in hotel rooms, Beast is PERFECT. If you’ve got 8-10 feet of space, Beast is in your wheelhouse.

Beast can be modified to suit a wide variety of training stimuli and goals. Ramp up the tempo for cardio, slow it down for movement control and an emphasis on core and joint stability.

I suggest practicing Beast crawling slow and controlled establish a familiarization with technique. But once you’re acclimated to the demands of Beast, ramp up the intensity to initiate a more potent cardio conditioning effect.

Traveling Beast Variations:
– Forward Beast
– Reverse Beast
– Lateral Beast

Crab

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The opposite of Beast is Crab, literally. Crab positions the front of the body toward the ceiling with arms supporting behind the back and inches in front of the glutes. Each hand placement is performed without sight and many will find out how good their shoulder extension is. Crawling in a modified supine position engages the backside muscles of the legs along with loading the shoulders in a unique extended position.

Crab is a unique exercise because of the way it engages the lats, traps and external shoulder rotators, opens up the anterior chain while simultaneously activating the posterior chain.
Of the three basic Traveling Forms, Crab is the most difficult to modify for higher intensity work. The mechanics of crawling fast in a modified supine position is not ideal. However, Crab serves a valuable purpose inside of Animal Flow, especially with flow workouts.

Traveling Crab variations:
– Forward Crab
– Reverse Crab
– Lateral Crab

Workout applications for Traveling Forms

Traveling Form exercises can be used as warm-up drills, recovery from the previous day’s training stress, included into a workout circuit or practiced inside of a flow for long durations. Because we are dealing with natural bodyweight movement you can practice these anytime. Warm or cold, go for it. Practice means progress and if you stick with it long enough, movement mastery.

Personally, I prefer to practice fewer skills in a “less but better” training format. Do fewer things but do them better. Early on, I practiced Ape, Beast, and Crab in isolation with extremely slow tempos to lock down motor control, a range of motion and timing.

Slowing down exercise tempo is a great way to reveal areas that need more attention, along with a simple assessment of ownership over the movement.

In isolation, I would work each basic form across 10-15 yards, mainly because that is the length of the space I had to work with. Many times I would slow the crawl to last 2-3 minutes across that distance. It’s brutally challenging and exhausting, yet great for building strength, stability, and endurance.

Traveling Forms can also be brilliant for improving cardio conditioning. Simply increase the tempo and intensity. Move faster. 

Take that slow Beast crawl I referred to earlier and speed it up. Don’t lose control of your technique or core. Aim for soft hand and foot contacts.

Change of direction, body position, loading the upper extremities, tension, crawling, sprawling will jack up your heart rate as fast as any other form of cardio. All without any equipment.

Expand Movement with Animal Flow

Currently, Animal Flow is now in version 2.0. The videos have been reshot, edited with a streaming format available. 

Animal Flow 2.0 includes 26 total exercises and 20 example flows.

The basic Traveling Forms we talked about in this article make up 3 out of those 26 exercises.

If you’ve been looking for the next realm of movement, Animal may be what you’ve been searching for.  I’ll continue to post updates over the coming months. 

I’ll continue to post updates over the coming months.  Exercise progressions, flows and other details about how I supplement Animal Flow into my own training.  

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Cheers, 

Kyle 

F.M.L. Burpee Workouts| 200 Reps in 20 Minutes (or less)

Motion, Workouts

Some of the toughest workouts I’ve ever tested involve fewer exercises and the least amount of complexity.  

One might think it would be the other way around, but it hasn’t been my experience.  

Simple… and brutal.  

Yesterday’s workout involved only one exercise and a simple goal.

[If you’ve read other posts on this blog, I am rarely an advocate for extremely high volume training, much less sky-high volume using only one exercise.  Overdone, I feel it opens the door to unnecessary injuries while leaving out a lot of really great movements which creates a more integrated total body training session.]

Here’s the workout…

Workout Structure

Exercise:  Full Burpees

Repetitions:  200 

Time:  20-minute time limit

Discussion…

Exercise

The guidelines for this workout is simple: each repetition must be a FULL BURPEE.  

What classifies as a full burpee?  

  1. Modified Squat
  2. Sprawl
  3. Push-Up (chest to floor)
  4. Jump Squat (aim for a consistent 8-12 inch of height per jump)
  5. Rinse and repeat…

Simple enough, right?

Full burpees.

Like any exercise, burpees have many variations.  So if you’re a gamer and want to take this workout for a test-drive but are inexperienced or not suited for full burpees, make sure you check out the alternatives to full burpees (which I will write about in another article).

There are plenty of burpee variations for EVERYONE.

Repetitions

200 burpees is A LOT of up and down, I am aware of this.  

However, this is the structure of the workout, so…

… get them done.  

200 burpees in 20 minutes assume a 10 burpee per minute pace.  Inside of this workout, you’ll find surges in energy where you may complete 20 reps in a row, followed by a measly 3-5 reps.  Reps are reps.  

If 200 reps are out of the question, adjust the rep/time structure.

Keep in mind, reps can be adjusted easily.  

If you must decrease the reps, I suggest staying firm with the intensity of the time limit.  You’ve got a have something to motivate you to keep a brisk pace.  

Here are some options:

  • 150 burpees in 15 minutes or less
  • 100 burpees in 10 minutes or less
  • 50 burpees in 5 minutes or less

Each of these alternatives demands a 10 burpee per minute pace, at the minimum.

Another motivating workout option is to select target reps and complete as fast as possible.  Record the time, as this sets the personal best for the next workout.  

Broken down further:

  • 1 burpee every 6 seconds or…
  • 10 repetitions per minute 

If you have no prior experience with higher volume burpee workouts, start with one of the alternatives above.  

The “50 burpees in 5 minutes or less” option is a nice workout finisher (post-resistance training).

Time

Challenge yourself to finish as fast as possible.  

The relationship between the number of repetitions and the time with which I am asking you complete them is most of what makes this workout a beast.  

Don’t flirt with the time limit just because you have seconds to spare.  Attack it.  If you can finish in 15 minutes, do it.  

Advice:  Don’t “become a victim” to the fatigue.  This is different from “falling victim” to the fatigue.  “Becoming a victim” is essentially folding when times get tough.  And believe you me, if you’re pushing it, this workout is tough.  “Falling victim” is the moment when you know you’re cashed.  

This is a fine line and each of us will interpret this moment differently.

Most people have a hidden gear they can shift into to neutralize fatigue, whether they know it exists or not.    

Remain mentally aware.  Stay engaged with what your physical self and mental self is doing, because they influence each other greatly under physical stress.

Mentally, reject limiting thoughts.  

Fatigue gives people crazy thoughts during conditioning workouts.  Your thought pattern will attempt to negotiate more rest, maybe even trying to persuade you to quit.

Don’t.  Attack the workout.

That’s all folks…

If you’re up for it, leave me a comment and let me know how you did!

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

Interval Workout| Lizard Crawl + 500m Row

20 minute Workouts, Ido Portal, Workouts

Mixtaping different disciplines of fitness to create unique workouts is a hobby of mine lately.  

Yesterday, I found myself short on time.  I had roughly 20 minutes to make some workout magic happen.  Assessing the previous day’s workout, I decided on two modes of exercise:

  • The Lizard Crawl
  • Rowing

The goal:  total body training effect (in under 20 minutes)

Short burst workouts are a perfect solution to time-restricted days.  Days where I’m tight on time, but high on motivation.  “Short”… not be confused with “easy”.    

Generally, shortening a workout means the intensity gets cranked up to offset the decreased volume and duration.

Lizard Crawling is a locomotion pattern popularized by Ido Portal’s movement catalog.  

 

It involves crawling forward (or backward) in a low prone position, much lower than a traditional bear crawl.  The Lizard Crawl is a total-body exercise, well worth learning and working through the progressions.  

Most people will feel limited by their upper body strength when Lizard Crawling.  The strength needed in this particular range of motion may need some acclimation. 

That being said, there are plenty of Lizard Crawl variations to accommodate any skill level.

Here’s an example:


The Lizard Crawl, though graceful and rhythmic when performed by great movers, sucks the life out of you across even moderate distances.  It’s a very complex and demanding pattern.

Rowing, on the other hand, is, well, rowing.  

The rowing erg is beautiful in its simplicity,  yet brutal in its ability to break a person’s soul at higher intensities.  Though machine-based, rowing is one of those near total body activities that I cannot recommend enough. Rowing is primarily a posterior chain, upper body pull/lower body push action.

A quality rowing erg will cost you some cash, but across the long-term, it is well worth the investment.  

Turns out, the Lizard Crawl and rowing compliment each other perfectly.  

I’ve created workouts in the past using short distance Lizard Crawls and 250-meter row intervals, but never beyond that distance.  The 250-meter is a fantastic distance for an all out sprint.

Today I increased the challenge a bit, bumping the row up to 500-meters.

Here’s how the workout was structured…

Lizard Crawl for 20 yards

+

500 meter Row

  • Repeat for 6 rounds.  
  • Rest for 60-90 seconds in between each round.  

That’s it.  Two movements and roughly 18 minutes of time to work with.

Warm-up with something, anything.  A jump rope or some simple dynamic movements will work fine.  I do not advocate skipping warm-ups all of the time, this situation is unique, an outlier.

A cheetah doesn’t ask a Gazelle for a chance to warm-up before pursuing it for nearly a mile, it’s worth considering a human may not always have adequate time to warm-up.  

Many times, doing less things, but doing those things better makes for the best workouts.

Aesthetics and performance are built incrementally, piece by piece, workout by workout.   

Thoughts and Suggestions…

Find a pace on the rower a few levels below your personal best.  I aimed for a 1:35 min/sec pace for the 500-meter intervals, knowing that my best 500 meter was roughly 1:27 min/sec.

Why do this?  Because you will not be able to maintain a personal best pace for 500-meters across 6 rounds, with incomplete rest periods and lizard crawling before hopping on the rower.  Setting a challenging pace just below your best will get the training effect you’re after and allow room for progression in the future.

After standing up out of the rower, expect your heart rate to be sky-high.  60 seconds of rest will not feel long enough, and it shouldn’t.  It’s incomplete rest by design.  Use every second to collect yourself before the next round.  Walk around slowly, stay upright and slow your breathing.  

Keep in mind, a 500-meter row is not an easy distance to row on its own.  Adding pre-fatigue in the form of a Lizard Crawl will zap you.

When rest comes to an end, force yourself into the Lizard Crawl.  You’ll want to rest longer in later rounds but don’t.  Stay strict.  When rest is over, settle your breath and start crawling immediately.  

Anticipate the first few rounds of Lizard Crawling to feel great, followed by a steep drop off.  

If the full Lizard Crawl is too aggressive, scale it back.  Head over to my YouTube page and search “Lizard Crawl”.  You’ll find a bunch of different Lizard Crawl options I’ve played around with. 

Or, simply go with a crawling pattern in higher, more manageable body position, such as Beast (Animal Flow).  

If you found this post while surfing the inter-webs, thank you for stopping by.  

Do me a big favor and try this workout today, tomorrow or the next time you’re in a pinch for time.  

 

For more about Ido Portal and some his training methods, check out this post:

 

Cheers to you, 

Kyle 

Try These Push-Up Variations

Animal Flow, Bodyweight Workouts, Ido Portal

Push-ups are one of a handful of premiere bodyweight-based upper body exercises a person can do. 

Being that push-ups are one of the greatest bodyweight-based upper body resistance exercises a person can do, it’s important (as with any other exercise) to explore the progressions and variations within the push-up category.  

The push-up is a fundamental human movement pattern effective for building athletic performance and improving aesthetics.

Calisthenic exercise solutions are HOT right now, and for good reason.  

First, bodyweight-based training is FREE.  You spend zero dollars to do something highly beneficial for your body.  So, for anyone tight on cash, bodyweight training is your best friend.

Second, bodyweight training is a natural form of movement.  No, not “natural” like the organic potato chips you just bought, but natural because your body can become a tool for working out by leveraging different movements, angles, time, etc.  Yes, I understand life often demands that we be able to lift, carry and drag objects, but these situations represent a very small percentage of our existence.   

Third, basic calisthenic exercises are a logical starting point for anyone interested in movement/fitness/exercise and probably should be considered a prerequisite to all else.  It makes sense that a person should be able to handle their body weight with exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, crawling and vertical pulling exercises pull-ups/chin-ups before external weight ever enters the equation.

Finally, at the bookends of life (babies and elderly) the ability to press oneself up from the floor (to do other things like crawl or walk, etc) helps us stay mobile and live life.  

Of course, we are not cavemen and cavewomen anymore, the conveniences of human evolution are all around us.  But, our bodies are wired for self-propelled movement.  Gaining mobility independence as a youngster is just as important as preserving mobility independence as we get older.  

Movement is freedom.

Traditional Push-Ups…

When someone says “push-ups”, a lot of people immediately picture a max set of pumping up and down.  And yeah, you’re right, these are definitely push-ups, but these are just one variation done in isolation, in one body position, to nausea.  

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional push-up, but you’re leaving out a lot of AWESOME variations if you stop exploring there.

It’s a reasonable thought that many people would find a renewed interest (and results) in controlled physical activity if they delved a bit deeper into the hundreds of different push-up variations that exist.  

The traditional push-up doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be the end of the road variation-wise, which is why I’ve had some serious motivation to share exercise variations lately.

That being said, pay your dues with traditional push-ups before departing for the “sexier” variations.  The basics are the fundamental pillars from which all other movement is built.  

The Often Forgotten “Secret”… 

There’s no special “secret” sauce in fitness, only what you know and what you don’t know.  

And you don’t know what you don’t know.  

If there is a “secret” to push-ups, it’s that they are often overlooked and forgotten during workout exercise selection.  Our eyes drift to objects of weight or other fancy gadgets instead of down at the floor where we can assume the position and start doing work in less than 2 seconds.  

It would seem that push-ups are perceived to be rudimentary, lacking effectiveness or “only for beginners”.

If you find yourself thinking about push-ups in this way, I once again encourage you to dig into this article (and future articles) to explore and try every variation I’m about to share.

I guarantee you’ll be humbled by the potency and cognitively stimulated during most of these variations.   

Adding weight to a push-up is a common strategy to improve upper body strength, and indirectly, improve core strength at the same time.

But what about pushing up in odd body positions?

Having fully adopted and integrated ground-based movements from both Ido Portal and Animal Flow, I’ve been exploring different variations of pressing up from the floor at known and unknown (improvised) times throughout a workout.

This post is all about some of the push-up variations I’ve been toying around with across the last 10-12 months.

Watch the video, read the short description then give it a try.

Explore what YOU can do.  

#1 Resistance Band Assisted One Arm Push-Ups

Resistance bands are a brilliant tool to make exercises like chin-ups/pull-ups, single leg squats or single arm push-ups more palatable.  The band reduces the amount of weight the working arm must move during the exercise, which is often enough to make the exercise manageable.  

I value eccentric-only variations, but there is so much value is being able to go through a full range of motion, with a little less weight.

#2 Lateral Push-Ups

Traditional push-ups are a great exercise and should be taken as daily medicine, but pressing up from a variety of positions will expand your body’s movement IQ. The traditional push-up is very linear and can become boring in time.

Lateral push-ups put your body in a squat position, which from the get-go is unique.  The “fall-out” requires rotation of the torso and soft hand placement.  

Lightly touch your nose to the floor, press back up into the start position.  Performed rhythmically and for long durations, lateral push-ups will tire you out.

Aim for 6-8 reps on each side, but don’t be scared to work these for even longer sets.

#3 Stationary Low Lateral Shifts 

The low lateral shift was my first personal experience with a hybrid push-up.  Hybrid, in the sense that there is no upward/downward motion, yet many of the same muscles involved in push-ups are being worked.

Considering most people find themselves weakest at the bottom of a push-up, this exercise will challenge you to the maximum since you’re hovering at that depth.

Cues:  Shift your body side to side without making ground contact, yet avoiding the imaginary “razor wire” above you.  If you’re familiar with “Archer Push-Ups”, you’ll notice the body position is similar.  The difference is you are not pressing in this low lateral shift, the tension is high and constant throughout the work set. 

Aim for 3 sets of 5-8 shifts side to side.

#4 Dynamic Low Lateral Shifts

I could have tagged this exercise as “Traveling Low Lateral Shifts”, but dynamic sounded more professional and the definition of dynamic fits perfectly:

– relating to forces producing motion.  Often contrasted with static.  

This exercise is a stationary low lateral shift but now you’re moving across space.  I would consider this an introductory exercise to Ido’s locomotion training, though still falling into the Isolation category.  

Cues:  Stay off the floor, but don’t rise too high.

Start slow, maybe traveling 5 yards down and back.  Work up from there, as far as you can handle.

#5 Beginner Lizard Crawl Push-Ups

Lizard Crawl push-ups are a great way to practice pressing in a non-traditional body position.  

The full Lizard Crawl is one of the best exercises I’ve added to my personal workouts in years.

Of all the exercises in this post, Lizard Crawl Push-Ups require the least amount of strength, which doesn’t mean they are easy peasy, but you’ll likely be able to work these for higher repetitions.  Anywhere from 10-15 repetitions per arm.

*** If you want a humbling experience, I do suggest you attempt a full Lizard Crawl to gain some perspective on how difficult the movement pattern is.  Normally I wouldn’t recommend this, but being a body weight crawling pattern performed 2-3 inches from the floor, I see no real danger in trying it.  You’re either going to have the strength, mobility, and coordination to do make it or you’re not.  

No equipment required…

With the exception of the resistance band for assistance on the one arm push-up variation, all of these exercises require no equipment.  

This gives you an opportunity to test these exercises in your next workout.  

If you travel frequently for work, congrats, you’ve got some new push-up variations to play around with your hotel room or the hotel gym.  

Don’t procrastinate, get after it.  

To learn more about Ido Portal and my interpretation of the Ido Portal Method, check out this post.

 

For now… cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Flow for Beginners

Motion

The Animal Flow training system is a PERFECT mixture of ground-based movement, yoga and elements from breakdancing and gymnastics.  

Sounds hybrid… and it is.  

Linear strength and conditioning exercises are still a very important part of my training regimen.  I’m hammering away on these every other day, definitely not letting go of that.

 That being said, mixing in some Animal Flow drills has increased my movement capacity quite a bit and helped a lot of my lifts.  

One the greatest results of working these Animal Flow drills is how quickly I’ve can gained confidence in body positions that were previously very unfamiliar to me.  

Most workouts lack twisting and rotational movements.  Mine certainly did.  

Rotational movements like Scorpions, Low Transitions, etc… have been very influential in building my ground movement skills (which still need a ton of refining).  

Below, are some examples of some simple beginner Animal Flow exercises and mini-workouts, which I also refer to as sequences.  

By Ido Portal Method standards, each of these are probably best categorized as Isolation.  

In other words, I am practicing Animal Flow movements in Isolation, removed from any kind of pre-programmed flow training, and definitely breaching the realm of Improvisation.   

 

I highly recommend exploring ground based bodyweight training.  If you’re worried that the movements don’t look like a tough enough workout, I will tell you flat out you’re mistaken.  

10-15 minutes of ground based movement training can leave you exhausted, particularly if you’re new to it and inefficient.  Soreness in the days after is to be expected.  Newbies to ground based movement training should consider implementing such training before more linear resistance training takes place, when the body is fresh.  

Training total body ground movements can improve all other areas of fitness.

If you want to learn more about Animal Flow, here’s a link to the official website.

Give these movement patterns and sequences a shot and let me know how you made out…

 

 

Cheers,

Kyle