Animal Flow| Scorpion

Animal Flow

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

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

Animal Flow is a ground based, bodyweight movement program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scorpion is one of many primary movements in Animal Flow.  

Here’s what Scorpion looks like…

The Benefits of the Scorpion exercise include:

  Lengthening of the hamstrings and lats

  Opening up and activating the hips

  Thoracic spine extension and rotation

  Shoulder performance

  Rotation core training

  Uniquely challenging multi-planar movement

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

Scorpion Movement Technique

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

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

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

Bottom Position

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

Cues:

  Eyes toward the hands

  Shoulders over the hands

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

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

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

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

Top Position

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

Cues:

–   Head between the arms

–   Keep anchored leg as straight as possible

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

–   Relax the jaw and neck (breathe)

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

Say what?   

Here’s what I’m talking about…

Scorpion feels…

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

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

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

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

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

How to Incorporate Scorpion into Workouts

As part of a Warm Up

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

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

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

2.  Ground Based Conditioning (Animal Flow)

3.  Resistance Training

4.  Cardio

5.  Cool-down

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

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

As part of a Lift or Cardio Circuit

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

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

A1)  Chin Up

A2)  Front Squat

A3)  Alternating Scorpion

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

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

3-5 rounds of:

10 Kettlebell Swings

10 Push Ups

10 Alternating Jumping Split Squats

10 Rows

3-5 Scorpions

—> Rinse and repeat.

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

As part of a Movement Flow

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

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


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

Do it all.  Flow around and explore the space.  

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

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

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

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

 Unique, Multi-Planar Movement Kicks Ass

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, I am a fan.

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

 

 

Cheers to you, 

Kyle 

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The 48 Best Exercises for Your Core

Animal Flow, Core Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of things to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go…

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

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

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

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

Beginner tip:  

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

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

Advanced tips:

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

2.  Turkish Get Ups 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Dragon Flags aka: Gymnastics “Candlesticks” 

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

Candlesticks are one of the my favorite core exercises. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Dynamic Plank Variations 

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Beast Crawl 

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

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

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

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

Real uplifting isn’t it?

5.  Lizard Crawl 

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

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

You’ll be tired.  

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

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

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

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

6.  Offset/Asymmetric Pressing and Holds 

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

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

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

7.  One Arm Push Ups 

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

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

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

8.  L-Sits (all variations)

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

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

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

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

9.  Arch Body Holds 

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

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

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

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

10.  Hollow Body Variations (rocking and static holds) 

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

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

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

11.  Toes to Bar

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

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

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

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

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

12.  Bridging and Rotation into High Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.  Landmine Grapplers

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

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

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

15.  Slosh Pipe Exercises

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

16.  Sandbag Training

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

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

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

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

17.  Slow Mountain Climber Variations 

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

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

18.  Weighted Plank Variations

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

19.  Tuck Planche 

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

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

20.  Stand Up Paddle Boarding

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

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

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

21.  Sleep

Zzzzzzzzzz.  

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

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

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

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

22.  Kettlebell Swings (variations)

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

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

23.  Dead Bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my new favorite “core” exercise.  

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

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

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

25. Overhead Loaded Squats

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

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

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

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

26.  Windmills 

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

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

27.  Janda Sit Ups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28.  Hanging Knee Tucks 

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

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

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

29.  Zercher Sandbag Squats

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

30.  Explosive Flexion Slams

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

31.  Rotational Throws

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

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

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

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

32.  Chops and Lifts

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

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

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

33.  Anti-Rotation Press Outs

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

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

34.  Single Arm Push Ups

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

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

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

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

Do it all.  Explore.  

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

35.  Atomic Push Ups

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

3-5 sets of 6-15 reps

36.  Core Smash

Core smash = intense core flexion contraction.  

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

37.  Arch Body 

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

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

Hammer the front side, hammer the back side.  

38.  Hollow Body High Plank or Push Ups

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

Beginner level gymnastics posture here.  Very humbling.  

39.  Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot

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

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

40.  Suspension Trainer Pendulums

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

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

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

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

41.  Core Compression Pulses

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

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

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

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

42.  Loaded Carrying Variations

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

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

Personally, I do not think so.

43.  Lizard Crawl + Push or Pull 

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

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

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

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

44.  Spinal Waves

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

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

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

45.  Standing Spine CAR’s

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

46.  Hip CAR’s

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

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

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

47.  Animal Flow Side Kick Through’s

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

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

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

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

48.  Animal Flow Crab Reach

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

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

In one shot, the Crab Reach accomplishes the following:

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

  Challenges and improves shoulder stability on the loaded working arm

  Opens up the hips anteriorly 

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

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

The end, finally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to you and the daily effort…

Kyle 

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 

5 Bodyweight Push-Up Variations

Animal Flow, Bodyweight Workouts, Ido Portal

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.  

Push-ups are a premiere bodyweight-based upper body exercise capable of building useable strength, endurance and sculpting a lean physique. 

It’s easy to get stuck doing the same variation of push-ups, which can make training dull and potentially lead to skipping workouts.  There’s a whole world of push-up progressions and variations worth exploring.  

The draw to bodyweight based training makes sense.  First and foremost, bodyweight training is FREE.  

Second, bodyweight training is natural movement.  How?  Why?  It’s just you managing your own weight against gravity, which makes this form of exercise pretty damn realistic for everyday life.  

Seems logical to improve one’s ability to handle their bodyweight in various positions and patterns.  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.  

Bodyweight training can be as advanced as a person wants, or going the other direction, scaled for any beginner. 

Push-ups, squats, lunges, crawling and vertical pulling exercises pull-ups/chin-ups are the foundation of before external weight ever enters the equation.

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

Animal Flow, Motion

Animal Flow is a ground-based, bodyweight only movement system that mimics various animal movements along with integrating some of the best elements of yoga and gymnastics.  

Sounds hybrid… and it is.  

Linear strength and conditioning exercises are still a very important part of any training regimen.  Exercises like squats, pressing, pulling and deadlifts are important to build  a functional base of strength.  

But the human body is designed to move!

Animal Flow drills can improve a person’s movement capacity also.  Improving your ability to interact with the ground, using nothing but bodyweight will help you as a mover, and probably make your traditional lifts better. 

One the greatest benefits of practicing Animal Flow drills is how quickly a person can build confidence in unique and unfamiliar body positions.  

A lot of people lack twisting and rotational movements in their workouts.

Rotation is a basic human movement action and training it consistently can provide some noticeable benefit with regard to performance and postural integrity.  It’s quite common to have people comment that their “mid back” (aka: thoracic spine) feels locked up, maybe even achey.  

Insufficient mobility at the mid-back region can cause excessive motion at the lower back, as the lower back tries to pick up the slack to make everyday movements possible.

Crab Reach is a great drill to reinforce mid-back mobility while opening up the hip flexors and activating the powerful glute muscles.  The stretch from the hip to the shoulder is incredible.  

Rotational movements like Scorpions, Crab and various transitions are multi-planar and bridge the gap that many lifts simply cannot fill.  

Some refer to this type of training as “ground based conditioning” or “ground based movement”.  

Animal Flow exercises and sequences can be scaled for beginners and progressed for elite movers alike.  

Sequences are a series of pre-planned movements fused together.  Like a movement sentence.

Using Ido Portal’s movement classification system, Animal Flow can be used in Isolation, Integration or Improvisation.   

Beginners to Animal Flow will want to start by practicing each movement in isolation to work on the mechanics and adaptation.  The range of motion can be modified to suit what you can comfortably handle, but this will improve with practice.  

The human body is a brilliant adaptation machine.   

Most of my early Animal Flow practice involved spending time focusing on 1 or maybe 2 movements in isolation.  I like to work new exercises with a “do less but do it better” type approach.    

As my movement efficiency improved, I began to string together 2, 3 even 4 exercises in a row, flowing and transitioning between each for reps or time.     

If you haven’t yet explored ground based bodyweight training, you must.  The benefits of training movements like you’ll find in Animal Flow will make you a better mover.  

If you’re worried the movements don’t look like a hard enough, you’re mistaken.  Every exercise has progressions leading up to mastery.  The tempo of each exercise can also be manipulated to ramp up the cardio training effect. 

Not a lot of people spend a lot of time crawling, or loading the arms using locomotion movements, so the training effect is quite profound.

Find yourself lifting weights a lot?  Great!  Keep that habit.  Strength is important.

But open new movement doors, develop movement efficiency and economy using crawling variations, switches, back bending, twisting, reaching.

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’d to learn more about how Animal Flow can improve your movement, here’s a link to the official website.

Otherwise, give a few of these exercise and sequences a try and let me know how you made out…

 

Cheers,

Kyle

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

Animal Flow, Motion

Animal Flow is a brilliantly designed bodyweight fitness program that can challenge a beginner or someone looking to develop true movement mastery. 

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