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

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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 

Try These Push-Up Variations

Animal Flow, Bodyweight Workouts, Ido Portal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movement is freedom.

Traditional Push-Ups…

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

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

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

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

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

The Often Forgotten “Secret”… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about pushing up in odd body positions?

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

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

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

Explore what YOU can do.  

#1 Resistance Band Assisted One Arm Push-Ups

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

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

#2 Lateral Push-Ups

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

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

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

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

#3 Stationary Low Lateral Shifts 

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

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

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

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

#4 Dynamic Low Lateral Shifts

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

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

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

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

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

#5 Beginner Lizard Crawl Push-Ups

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

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

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

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

No equipment required…

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

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

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

Don’t procrastinate, get after it.  

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

 

For now… cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Animal Flow, Motion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve probably seen some of the movements…

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

Here’s a translation chart:

Animal Flow -> Other Fitness Names

Ape -> Gorilla

Beast -> Bear

Crab -> Crab  

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

Adding Traveling Forms to my workouts…

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

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

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

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

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

How I use traveling forms…

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

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

  •  Fast or slow tempo
  •  Forward, Reverse or Lateral

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

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

A is for Ape

B is for Beast

C is for Crab

Another “Why?” behind including more Traveling Forms… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?  It means…

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

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

For more info, check out the Animal Flow website.

 

 

Cheers to the Basics of Animal Flow,

Kyle 

 

Animal Flow: Movement Training for Fans of Ido Portal Method

Animal Flow

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

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

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

The “your body is a barbell” is cliché statement, but a true statement about bodyweight training.  Everywhere you go, no matter what the circumstance, bodyweight training is a tool to be leveraged.  

Don’t stop at isolation…

A lot of people stop the bus at basic bodyweight training:  push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, etc.  I have nothing against basic bodyweight training because it’s brutally effective for improving performance, it’s free and it’s arguably the most functional form of resistance training.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movement capacity development.  

 

Ground-based movement training benefits ANYONE and EVERYONE.  Why?  Because it is life played out through the movement lens.  Everywhere you go, your body is right there with you.  

Enter: Animal Flow…

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  • Anything in BLACK is information from the Animal Flow website.  
  • Comments in RED are my interpretation and elaboration on those points.  

What comprises the Animal Flow program?

“Animal Flow includes a wide range of exercises and movement combinations that are grouped into six components, each designed to elicit specific results. The six components can be mixed and matched in many ways, and you can incorporate one, some, or all of them in your workouts! The six components include:

Wrist Mobilizations

Wrist Mobilizations include a range of simple exercises designed to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrists, which is particularly important for any practice where you are spending a lot of time on your hands.”

– Although most of human life is spent either sitting or standing, training the hands/wrists/arms to tolerate a more robust range of motion and loading stress in various positions is important.  

Our wrists and arms aren’t designed to hang at our sides or flexed up on a keyboard for all day every day.  Hanging, brachiation, crawling, climbing are all activities humans should be able to do.  

More specific to the Animal Flow program, wrist preparation ensures your body is prepared to handle the load stress.

Activations

Activations are static holds we perform to connect the body before we start our practice. Examples include Static Beast Hold, Static Crab Hold, and Limb Lifts.”

– Activating dormant muscles is helps protect our bodies against acute injury and chronic aches and pains.  It boosts our ability to accomplish common daily tasks efficiently.

This is sometimes referred to as “pre-hab”.  Again, cliché, but important.

It’s not necessary to suffer an injury to begin paying attention to muscle activation.  Basic maintenance can keep a person functioning on a high level without pain or risk of injury. 

Imagine how much better a squat would be if your glute muscles knew they were supposed to participate in the exercise.

Isolated activation exercises remind these muscles they’ve got an active role in the exercise to come.

Form Specific Stretches

Form Specific Stretches are full body stretches that start in an animal form and then move through a wide range of motion. This increases your mobility and flexibility throughout the entire body. Examples include the Ape Reach, Beast Reach, Crab Reach and Scorpion Reach.”

Stretching is not dead, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Mis-directed, poorly performed stretches are dead.  Stretching areas that don’t need to be stretched is dead.  

Smart, intelligent stretching in combination with passive and active mobilization techniques are a smarter way to achieve a more functional range of motion.  Hello, KinStretch.

Traveling Forms

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

 

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The human body is designed to navigate many different forms movement.

The ability to handle your body while performing uncommon movement tasks (example: crawling) beyond standing and walking will serve you well across life.  It gives quality to your years.    

Crawling (and the many variations of crawling) is a major component of Traveling Forms.  Yes, this is a similar crawling we do as infants.  Funny how we regress back to our earliest forms of movement as a reset later in life.

Crawling is an under-estimated, challenging form of movement that trains the body to handle unique body positions, transitions, upper extremity loading and core activation.  

The other, a less scientific reason to crawl, is it’s fun.  Plain and simple.  Crawling is an uncommon activity that is fun.  Life’s too short to not have fun.  

Fact:  a person is more apt to stick to training if there is fun involved.  Prove me wrong.

Switches and Transitions

Switches and Transitions are dynamic movements that we perform one after the other, creating the “flow” of Animal Flow. You can transfer from one form to another, or repeat the same one as a drill. Examples include the many variations for Underswitches, Side Kickthroughs, Front Kickthroughs, and Scorpions.”

– Combining 2-3 exercises is a great way to create a training effect beyond what’s possible by practicing only one drill in isolation.

Transitioning from crawling, to kick throughs into hollow-body rocks will challenge your body to adapt to several different patterns and planes of movement and muscular stress.

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

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

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

Flow

Flow: Your Flow is where the real magic happens. You’ll combine the Animal Flow moves by linking them together in a fluid sequence, seamlessly transferring energy from one move to the next. Flows may be a choreographed sequence practiced over multiple sessions, or may be created freestyle!”

No secrets here, it will take dedicated practice and patience to arrive at the “flow” stage.  Those who stick to the plan will make the gains needed to begin moving freely, improvising each movement as you go.  

Like words making a sentence, exercises stitch themselves together, “flowing”. 

In sync, the mind and body connection is extremely powerful.  Flow a physical demonstration of a mind that is free.

Bringing it home…

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

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

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

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

You could always cherry-pick drills from YouTube videos (as I have done), but you’ll never progress as quickly as if you were following a system.  

Training systems are designed with an end goal:  results.

If you’re interested in expanding your movement capacity, check out: Animal Flow 2.0

 

Cheers to discovering your movement capacity, 

Kyle