The goal of this article is to expose readers to the idea of movement expansion using Animal Flow, a bodyweight-based, ground movement training system. I found Animal Flow as I was shooting videos for my YouTube page. The program shares commonalities with my own approach, but expands on them.
The premise of Animal Flow’s training encompasses the massive shift in training philosophy I’ve personally adopted over the years.
Keywords: discipline, create, fun, challenging, multi-planar, fluid, movement, ground-based, bodyweight.
The “your body is a barbell” is cliché statement, but a true statement about bodyweight training. Everywhere you go, no matter what the circumstance, bodyweight training is a tool to be leveraged.
Don’t stop at isolation…
A lot of people stop the bus at basic bodyweight training: push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, etc. I have nothing against basic bodyweight training because it’s brutally effective for improving performance, it’s free and it’s arguably the most functional form of resistance training.
However, as I mentioned in my post “Basics of the Ido Portal Method” think a lot of people have an innate desire to progress beyond isolation movements. Only scratching the surface with basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges… it can feel like a dead-end road.
Personally, this resonates.
In this situation, it’s common to feel like your workouts are being reduced down to numbers (quantified progress): more reps, sets, time, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with quantified progress. Quantifying physical practice is the best way to measure improvement or stagnation. Numbers serve to help make decisions on whether training is working the way it should.
But there is another realm, one where you’re moving without being restricted to reps and sets and time. You’re moving as a form of expression or as an assessment to find out what your body is capable of.
Yesterday, with no plans to do so, I gave tried this maneuver for the first time…
Movement influencers like Ido Portal and Mike Fitch (creator of Animal Flow) are carrying the torch, nudging people expand their movement training.
Smart bodyweight training can serve several important purposes: heightened mind’s eye awareness of where your body is in space (proprioception), unique body positioning (including extended and foreign range of motion), timing, progression, transition from one movement into the next, and flow.
Some of these body positions are common and familiar, some are not. Training uncomfortable positions helps prepare the body for unpredictable scenarios.
This is where the “magic” happens (in my opinion).
Movement capacity development. This is that time when you stepped off a ladder, misjudge the depth, started to fall heading toward disaster, but recover without panic, injury-free.
In this scenario, your body understood what it was supposed to do in order to avoid harm. It knows, in that split second, it’s capable of adapting.
Now, can we prepare for everything? No, absolutely not. Shit happens. But expanding the capacity to move will make a body more resilient.
Ground-based movement training benefits ANYONE and EVERYONE. Why? Because it is life played out through the movement lens. Everywhere you go, your body is right there with you.
So, to stop my carrying on any longer, here is Animal Flow…
- Anything is BLACK commentary from the Animal Flow website.
- Comments in RED are my interpretation and elaboration on those points.
What comprises the Animal Flow program?
“Animal Flow includes a wide range of exercises and movement combinations that are grouped into six components, each designed to elicit specific results. The six components can be mixed and matched in many ways, and you can incorporate one, some, or all of them in your workouts! The six components include:
“Wrist Mobilizations include a range of simple exercises designed to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrists, which is particularly important for any practice where you are spending a lot of time on your hands.”
– Although most of human life is spent either sitting or standing, training the hands/wrists/arms to tolerate a more robust range of motion and loading stress in various positions is important.
Our wrists and arms aren’t designed to hang at our sides or flexed up on a keyboard for all day every day. Hanging, brachiation, crawling, climbing are all activities humans should be able to do.
More specific to the Animal Flow program, wrist preparation ensures your body is prepared to handle the load stress.
“Activations are static holds we perform to connect the body before we start our practice. Examples include: Static Beast Hold, Static Crab Hold, and Limb Lifts.”
– Activating dormant muscles is helps protect our bodies against acute injury and chronic aches and pains. It boosts our ability to accomplish common daily tasks efficiently.
This is sometimes referred to as “pre-hab”. Again, cliché, but important.
It’s not necessary to suffer an injury to begin paying attention to muscle activation. Basic maintenance can keep a person functioning on a high level without pain or risk of injury.
Imagine how much better a squat would be if your glute muscles knew they were supposed to participate in the exercise.
Isolated activation exercises remind these muscles they’ve got an active role in the exercise to come.
“Form Specific Stretches are full body stretches that start in an animal form and then move through a wide range of motion. This increases your mobility and flexibility throughout the entire body. Examples include the Ape Reach, Beast Reach, Crab Reach and Scorpion Reach.”
– Stretching is not dead, so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Mis-directed, poorly performed stretches are dead. Stretching areas that don’t need to be stretched is dead.
Smart, intelligent stretching in combination with passive and active mobilization techniques are a smarter way to achieve a more function range of motion. Hello KinStretch.
Stretching is a tool, and like any tool, it be used for the appropriate job. You wouldn’t use a hammer to dig a trench.
“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.”
– The human body is designed to navigate many different forms movement.
The ability to handle your body while performing uncommon movement tasks (example: crawling) beyond standing and walking will serve you well across life. It gives quality to your years.
Crawling (and the many variations of crawling) is a major component of Traveling Forms. Yes, this is a similar crawling we do as infants. Funny how we regress back to our earliest forms of movement as a reset later in life.
Crawling is an under-estimated, challenging form of movement that trains the body to handle unique body positions, transitions, upper extremity loading and core activation.
The other, less scientific reason to crawl, is it’s fun. Plain and simple. Crawling is an uncommon activity that is fun. Life’s too short to not have fun.
Fact: a person is more apt to stick to training if there is fun involved. Prove me wrong.
“Switches and Transitions are dynamic movements that we perform one after the other, creating the “flow” of Animal Flow. You can transfer from one form to another, or repeat the same one as a drill. Examples include the many variations for Underswitches, Side Kickthroughs, Front Kickthroughs, and Scorpions.”
– Combining 2-3 exercises is a great way to create a training effect beyond what’s possible by practicing only one drill in isolation.
Transitioning from crawling, to kick throughs into hollow-body rocks will challenge your body to adapt to several different patterns and planes of movement and muscular stress.
Here’s an example: Animal Flow Workout – Long Cycle Ground Based Movement
These sequences can be practiced for longer periods of time to increase the demand on endurance, which is what my video link is demonstrates.
The workout becomes an experience at this stage. Switches and transitions is where people begin noticing they’re having fun.
“Flow: Your Flow is where the real magic happens. You’ll combine the Animal Flow moves by linking them together in a fluid sequence, seamlessly transferring energy from one move to the next. Flows may be a choreographed sequence practiced over multiple sessions, or may be created freestyle!”
No secrets here, it will take dedicated practice and patience to arrive at the “flow” stage. Those who stick to the plan will make the gains needed to begin moving freely, improvising each movement as you go.
Like words making a sentence, exercises stitch themselves together, “flowing”.
In sync, the mind and body connection is extremely powerful. Flow a physical demonstration of a mind that is free.
Bringing it home…
The benefits of exercise are already well established for health and longevity. I’m talking about the basics here, nothing special. Walking an extra 15-20 minutes per day has been shown to impact health in incredible ways. I’ve written about this somewhere.
A balanced approach of traditional resistance training, gymnastics and ground-based exercises can make a person dangerous. Each philosophy improves the others.
As the title of this article states, if you’re a fan of Ido Portal’s methodology, Animal Flow is a logical training system to investigate.
Ido hasn’t produced a product for the masses and I suspect he will never release a product.
The current options to train with the Ido Portal Method are: private training or attendance of a seminar. Not ideal. You could always cherry-picked drills from YouTube videos (as I have done), but you’ll never progress as quickly as if you were following a system.
Training systems are designed with an end goal: results.
If you’re interested in expanding your movement capacity, here is the Animal Flow Training System.
Thus, my recommendation of Animal Flow. It’s a first class training system for ground-based movement education to bridge the gap left by Ido.
Stay tuned for continued discussion on the potency of ground-based movements. I’ll scale the topics for beginners to elite, and everyone in between.
Cheers to you,