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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Basics of Animal Flow| The A-B-C’s of Traveling Forms

Animal Flow, Motion

Very few fitness programs are comprised of such unique, intelligently designed and progressive exercises as Animal Flow. 

Created by Mike Fitch, Animal flow is a bodyweight ground-based movement training system that integrates several training methodologies into one unique workout experience.  

If you look closely, you’ll see traditional and hybrid elements of yoga, ground-based locomotion, and various gymnastics drills fused into one flexible training system.

Animal Flow is made up of various Transitions, Switches and Traveling Form exercises, which are modeled after animal-like movements.  

Of particular importance to me, is the fact that Animal Flow is scalable to any fitness level.  

If only the really fit people can benefit from a workout system, what is the point?  And vice versa.

Well designed, scalable training programs have limitless possibilities for progression.  This translates into months and likely years of physical improvement.  

Talking with my wife the other day, I mentioned that practicing movement keeps people younger for longer.   

You’ve probably seen some of the movements…

Most people will be able to identify many of the traveling forms included in Animal Flow workouts.  Of the three main traveling forms:  Ape, Beast and Crab, only Beast has been more commonly referred to as “bear” or “bear crawling” in other areas of fitness.  

Here’s a translation chart:

Animal Flow -> Other Fitness Names

Ape -> Gorilla

Beast -> Bear

Crab -> Crab  

The really stuffy fitness crowd may be using terms like supine or prone, but for simplicity and memory of the Animal Flow movement catalog, animal names are best for identifying the patterns.

Adding Traveling Forms to my workouts…

Over the last few months, I’ve increased my weekly frequency of crawling and traveling forms from 1-2 times per week (only in warm ups), to almost daily and for much longer durations.  

I’ve posted several videos on the Meauxtion YouTube page demonstrating 5+minutes of traveling forms/crawling.  5+ minutes seems like a long time to be fixed in a crawling position but when you’re focused on soft interactions with the floor and body position, the time passes quickly.  

If you increase the tempo of the traveling forms (and transitions/switches) to initiate a cardio training effect, then yes, time drags on as it often does with other forms of cardio.

But crawling is an exercise thriving off of soft and controlled interactions with the ground.  There is virtually no impact force while crawling.  

Increasing the time spent crawling using it’s variation is more endurance related.  The limiting factor for long duration crawling might be hand/wrist conditioning, upper extremity 

How I use traveling forms…

When I’m looking to challenge my core and upper extremities with some loading but still engage in movement, crawling serves a valuable purpose.  Particularly on days where I wake up and feel residual fatigue or muscle soreness from the previous day’s resistance training or metabolic conditioning workouts.  

All three of the featured Traveling Forms have a couple variations:

  •  Fast or slow tempo
  •  Forward, Reverse or Lateral

If your new to Animal Flow exercises, slow and controlled tempo is a logical place to start, as it will allow for motor pattern education.  With practice, it will not take long to establish control in these positions.  

From there, the movements can be adjusted to a faster cadence in order to challenge your cardio. 

A is for Ape

B is for Beast

C is for Crab

Another “Why?” behind including more Traveling Forms… 

Here’s another reason for including more Traveling Forms in my workouts:  I find it interesting and I look forward to it.

With regard to training, I am a chronic justifier.  Meaning, in the past, I rarely train for the fun of it.  Every exercise, set and rep scheme, weight, duration could be monitored and justified to have a specific purpose.  

Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed the challenge of training, but I have never really stopped and thought, “Man, I am really having a great time right now”.  

Animal Flow Traveling Forms injected some fun into my training regimen.  

One of the secrets of maintaining a healthy relationship with your fitness is to partake in activities you look forward to.  The human mind is too weak to sustain a workout regimen you’re not looking forward to.  You’ll fizzle out on it in time.

Animal Flow and Ido Portal Method training re-ignited my interest in exploring my movement capacity.  I love a good physical challenge, and these bodyweight ground-based movement patterns provide it every single time.

Engaging in more locomotion-based exercises reminded me it’s possible to leave a workout exhausted but REFRESHED, not beaten into a pulp.  

Lizard crawling for 10-15 yards (Ido Portal Method) can leave your body feeling as if you’ve never worked out a day in your life.  This is largely because it’s new and you haven’t done it before, I get that.  But the challenge of such ground-based crawling, even shorter distances, can’t be denied.  

One big benefit to learning the basics of Animal Flow is it’s rooted in bodyweight based training.  

What does this mean?  It means…

… everywhere you go, no matter what the circumstances or limitations, if you’ve got a little time and space, you’ve got an Animal Flow workout in your back pocket.  

The anxiety relief in being able to workout wherever and whenever is HUGE.  It may be hard to understand until you’re in the situation.  

For more info, check out the Animal Flow website.

 

 

Cheers to the Basics of Animal Flow,

Kyle 

 

Animal Flow: Movement Training for Fans of Ido Portal Method

Animal Flow

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“Animal Flow is an innovative fitness program that combines quadrupedal and ground-based movement with element from various bodyweight-training disciplines to create a fun, challenging workout emphasizing multi-planar, fluid movement.”  

If you’ve been hunting for a movement system to deepen your understanding of Ido Portal’s locomotion exercises, Animal Flow is the system to follow.  

Animal Flow’s training methodology embodies the evolution my own fitness practice has experienced over the last several years.  

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.  

You can live a great life by hammering away on basic bodyweight movements.

However, as I mentioned in my post “Basics of the Ido Portal Method”, a lot of people have an innate desire to explore what’s beyond isolation movements.  

After a while, it’s common to feel like your workouts are being reduced down to numbers (quantified progress):  more reps, more sets, more time, etc. 

There’s nothing wrong with quantified progress.  Quantifying your workouts practice is a great way to measure improvement or stagnation.  Scanning your numbers can help you evaluate if your current training plan working the way it should.  

It’s not much different than following a recipe in the kitchen.

But there is another realm, one where you’re moving without being restricted to reps and sets and time.  

This realm explores your body’s movement capacity through space.  

Twisting, turning, reaching, pulling, pushing, shifting, transitioning, flowing.

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Some of these body positions are common and familiar, some are not.  Training uncomfortable positions is important to prepare the body for unpredictable scenarios.

Movement capacity development.  

 

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.  

Enter: Animal Flow…

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  • Anything in BLACK is information 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

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

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

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 bathwater. 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 functional range of motion.  Hello, KinStretch.

Traveling Forms

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.”

 

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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, a 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

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.

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Here’s an example:  Animal Flow Workout – Long Cycle Ground Based Movement 

These sequences can be practiced for extended periods of time to increase the demand on endurance and cardio.

A workout becomes an experience at this stage.  Switches and transitions is where people begin noticing they’re having fun. 

Flow

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…

A balanced approach of traditional resistance training, gymnastics, and ground-based exercises can make a person dangerous.  Each philosophy improves the others.

If you’re a fan of Ido Portal’s methodology, Animal Flow is a logical training system to look into.  

Ido hasn’t produced a product for the masses yet, and I suspect he will never release a product.  

The current options to train under the Ido Portal Method are private online training or attendance of a seminar.  Not ideal and both cost a small fortune. Ido is in high demand right now.  

You could always cherry-pick 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, check out: Animal Flow 2.0

 

Cheers to discovering your movement capacity, 

Kyle