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 Benefits of Animal Flow’s Crab Reach Exercise

Motion

Animal Flow’s Crab Reach is ground based exercise loaded with benefits ranging from being a potent movement to activate the posterior chain, stretching/lengthening of the anterior body , thoracic rotation, shoulder stability and general body awareness in space using an uncommon body position.  

Benefits of the Animal Flow Crab Reach

The benefits of the Crab Reach are many, but here are some notables…

  • Posterior chain activation and hip extension
  • Active Thoracic Mobility
  • Anterior body stretch (hip flexors, quads, torso)
  • Shoulder stability/endurance emphasis in loaded shoulder
  • Trunk rotation
  • Right and Left Side 
  • Low-impact

A Tool to Off-Set Sitting Posture 

The Crab Reach is a great exercise to battle/off-set the negative effect long duration sitting.  It’s not the only tool or the “best” tool, but a good one to implement on a regular basis.   

Reversing aches and pains caused by primarily long duration sitting requires dedication, discipline and volume.  There is no quick fix.  

A quick hip flexor stretch, thoracic mobilization and glute bridge is not going to cancel out 8+ hours of sitting in the same turtle-like, wound up position.  

Body restoration takes time, effort, consistency and volume.  Lots of repetitions, likely lots of time and an aggressive mindset.  Assuming you’re doing everything right, expect improvements to occur steadily, but slowly.  

  Sitting for long durations often evolves into a slumped forward posture.  Despite how inactive sitting might seem, maintaining posture in a chair across 8 hours is not realistic.  

At some point, the head starts to migrate forward,  shoulders turn in and slump forward, the back rounds, the pelvis gets stuck in anterior tilt, the low back extends to make up for it, the powerful glute and hamstring muscles lay dormant as they are smashed into the chair, the anterior body often shortens (abdominals, hip flexors, quads, etc).  

Sounds depressing and it is.  Sitting when you’re body is tired of standing/walking and ready to rest in a seated position is normal.  Sitting because you’re job forces you to is another thing.  

Ok, so why is the Crab Reach a good exercise for helping with the negative effects of sitting?

Quite simply, the Crab Reach is the reverse position as slumped over sitting posture.  

Nearly every shitty side effect brought about by sitting is worked in opposition during the Crab Reach exercise.

The Crab Reach recruits the posterior chain to drive the hips up into extension, tilting the pelvis to a neutral or maybe a posterior position, the hip flexors open up, the back arches and extends through the thoracic region, torso rotates actively, the shoulders open up (weight supported shoulder stabilizes while free shoulder reaches diagonally), head posture is back and rotated, the hip flexors/quads fall into stretch while the torso elongates and rotates.  

Reading the above paragraph is a lot to take in, but in slang summary, the Crab Reach is the opposite position of sitting and a damn good tool to use every single day.  

The end range motion (the high position with arm reaching over the top) of the Crab Reach is an active position.  You have to be active to get to that high position and remain in that high position.  

  Making range of motion progress requires active involvement of the muscles.  Many popular mobility and flexibility drills are passive.  Static stretching is passive flexibility.  The muscle is elongated and maybe range of motion is increase, but very little of the gain is useable.  The downside to passive mobility and flexibility drills the range of motion gained isn’t necessarily useable, since the body wasn’t actively pursuing and “coding” in that range of motion, acknowledging the motion as “Yes, ok, I actively went here and I know I can go here safely again”.   

The Crab Reach is active the entire of the way.  

Uncommon Movement

The Crab Reach is an uncommon exercise.  

Including an exercise into your program simply because it’s “uncommon”  may not seem like a strong enough reason to practice a new exercise pattern, but ongoing exposure to progressive movement patterns and positions is an effective strategy for training the Central Nervous System, improving movement IQ, capacity and confidence.  

The concept here is simple: if we do what we always did, we will get what we always got.  

To make yourself a better mover means exploring movement.  So, when you’re body is craving an unrestricted, multi-planar approach to your next workout, feed it with some ground based conditioning.  

Practicing postures and movement patterns that are less common to daily life improves physical and mental confidence.  Improving strength, mobility and stability in uncommon movements makes everyday exercises feel easy.  Performing basic tasks around the house or at work becomes more of a game.  

Training Rotation

When we look at the average person’s “workout of the day”, it’s generally packed with linear resistance training and cardio. 

The objective for those who find themselves stuck in a linear dominant training program, should consider adding some multi-planar movement into the mix.  

The Crab Reach is a multi-planar exercise.

Each rep moves the body through the Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse Planes all in one shot.  

Most (not all) workouts are lacking rotation.  Lots of squats, upper body pressing, jumping, pulling, deadlifting… but very little deviation from linear exercise.  

Take quick audit of your training regimen.  Are you twisting, turning, rotating on a regular basis?  If not, integrating simple movements like the Crab Reach will fulfill the rotation element, effectively opening new doors to your movement training.  

Including an exercise into your program simply because it’s “uncommon”  may not seem like a strong enough reason to practice a new exercise pattern, but ongoing exposure to progressive movement patterns and positions is an effective strategy for training the Central Nervous System, improving movement IQ, capacity and confidence.  

Over time, if you’re like me, you’ll likely find yourself executing basic tasks with some creative flare, versus bending, squatting, reaching, twisting movements like it’s a pain in the ass. 

I don’t have all day to workout.  So, with the time I do have to train, I prefer leverage exercises that kill many birds with one stone.  Being a multi-planar exercise, the Crab Reach is an ideal pattern.  Every repetition activates the posterior chain and stretches the anterior body while reinforcing thoracic rotation, shoulder stability and breath.  

How to Incorporate the Crab Reach

Ground based bodyweight movement is extremely versatile, so don’t assume how I suggest using the Crab Reach is how you have to use the Crab Reach.  Use this article for ideas, or, maybe as the blueprint for your next workout.     

In the spirit of keeping it simple, there are several primary ways to start practicing the Crab Reach:  in the warm up, as part of a lifting session or as part of a flow sequence (organized or improvised).  

Of these three ways (warm up, workout or flow), the Crab Reach can be practiced in isolation or as a combination.  I always recommend practicing new movements in isolation to increase focus on technique while getting in tune with your senses while moving.  I believe isolating an exercise to better understand the mechanics and demands is best.  It allows you an opportunity to “feel all of the feels”, pay attention to breathing, tightness, etc.  

Isolated Crab Reach

For the intermediate or advanced, combining the Crab Reach with other Animal Flow exercises keeps training challenging and fresh.  

Here are a few worthwhile combinations:

Side Kick Through + UnderSwitch + Crab Reach

Crab Reach + Spider Man Stretch (aka:  Elbow to Instep)

Slow and Controlled Improvised Animal Flow Workout

Warming Up with the Crab Reach

Animal Flow exercises are perfect for pre-workout warm ups.  The movements are dynamic, full range of motion and take the body through just about every position.  Increasing the tempo raises core temperature and increasing respiration.  All great things.  

As part of a warm up the Crab Reach is an effective, low impact and full range of motion exercise.  Driving the hips hard recruits the posterior chain, diagonal reaching reinforces thoracic rotation while unwinding the spine into extension, the spinal erectors flip on to further arch the back, the loaded shoulder stabilizes the weight of the upper body all while the anterior body (quads, hip flexors, torso) gets a nice stretch.

Crab Reaches serve as a valuable closed chain movement drill prior to deadlifting, kettlebell swings or any other hip dominant exercises where expressing hip/thoracic extension and mobility is important to technique, strength and power.   

Crab Reach as Part of the Workout

Positioning the Crab Reach as part of a Tri-Set is a great way to isolate and practice the exercise while staying active/productive during a strength training session.  

Here’s an example a simple Tri-Set:

Exercise A)  Front Squats 

Exercise B)  Chin-Ups

Exercise C)  Crab Reach

The Crab Reach fits nicely in this Tri-Set and doesn’t take away from the Front Squat or the Chin Ups because, again, it’s low load complimentary to those exercises without sucking away valuable energy.  

Crab Reach Reps/Sets/Time and Practice Recommendations 

Starting out, I worked 6-8 reps per side and I tend to recommend keeping the reps lower in the beginning while focusing a slow and controlled tempo through the range of motion.  

After you are feeling good about the technique, increase the volume.  

Don’t be shy about bumping up the reps to 15-20 reps per side, or even setting the timer for 2-5 minutes and alternating the right and left side continuously until the timer sounds.  

The Crab Reach is a low-impact exercise with a very low risk of injury.  Adding more repetitions (volume) is a nice way to hone in on movement efficiency.  

Example… 

A small open space on the floor can provide hundreds of different options to organize a bodyweight based training session, even with no equipment available.  But I’ve found that acclimation to the mechanics of bodyweight patterns pre-workout warm ups or in combination with traditional lifts works best.  

Over time, I began practicing longer duration improvised flows using nothing but bodyweight movements, transitions, flows, locomotion, etc.   

Example… 

Flow Training with Crab Reach

Create a simple bodyweight flow circuit, emphasizing the Crab Reach periodically throughout the flow.  

Structure several exercises in a row.  Start with two main exercises separated by a switch to keep it simple.  The video above, “Side Kick Through + Underswitch + Crab Reach” is an example of a simple movement sequence.

For an added challenge, increase the number of exercises to 4, 5 or maybe 6.  Of course, doing this will make it more of a challenge to remember the sequence, but it will also challenge the body move through many different patterns.  Adding more exercises to create longer flows is great for the mind-body connection.  

The tempo of your thinking must match the tempo of your body’s movements.  

Whether you pre-program the sequence or improvise the flow, will likely depend on your movement IQ and knowledge of  basic options (exercises, transitions between patterns, etc).  

The ultimate goal of movement training is improvisation.  This idea was plucked right out of the Ido Portal Method.  Ido Portal Method teaches movement using the following hierarchy:  

Isolation —> Integration —>  Improvisation

Following this operating system will give your workouts a new purpose.  

Improvised Movement

Improvised, seamless movement, is the ultimate goal of physical activity.  

Moving however you want, whenever you want without thought is an amazing destination of ground based movement flows.  

Bodyweight flow workouts only need a plan if you want one.  

Otherwise, make it up as you go.  Be creative.  Explore the possibilities.  Move all around the room, explore positions.  

Do it all.  

Syncing thought processing speed with movement tempo is an integrated approach to building the human body.  You’re not just reading a book trying to absorb knowledge or pedaling a stationary bike for hours without thought, you’re bringing together the cognitive with the physical.   

Warning:  Expect to suck during the first couple of attempts at improvised movement flow.  It’s likely to feel and look sloppy and segmented, nothing like you pictured it.  Practice makes progress, volume makes progress.

Here’s another cool, unscientific benefit of practicing progressive improvised movement flows… 

… daily exertion starts to feel like a movement game.  

I’ve had this feeling playfulness toward physical exertion of any kind since limiting linear resistance training in favor of movement based training, and I know others have had similar an experience.  

The idea of moving sucks when you aren’t moving.  If you’re a couch potato, your body adapts to the lack of exertion and falls into the pattern of wanting to remain in that state.  But when you’re proactively practicing movement, making progress and seeing/feeling improvement, you begin to crave it outside of the workout as well.  

What’s happening during improvised movement progress?

I’m starting to get off topic, but real quick, here’s my take… 

Reaction time to various physical stimuli decreases and uncommon patterns and ranges start to become second nature.  It’s a pretty neat feeling to own more and more patterns, angles and positions without taking time to think if you’re able.  This constantly expanding approach to movement creates limitless possibilities.  

What do you need to do this?  If you have some open floor space or a yard, get creative and perform a variety of crawls, transitions, switches in any order for as long as your fitness can handle it.  Transition quickly and as seamlessly as you can.  

Inside of a flow workout like this, consider isolating the Crab Reach from time to time.  Hold the high position, dig in for more hip extension, more diagonal reach, relaxing the breath and the neck.   

I mentioned getting off topic a bit, I apologize for that.  The main message is that exercises like the Crab Reach are cash money when practiced in isolation, but they are also small (but valuable) puzzle pieces in a much larger movement picture.  

Programs like Animal Flow emphasize the value of each individual movement pattern, but clearly recognize the bigger picture.  The result is a human being that is more physically prepared.  

I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.

In Summary…

  • Bodyweight ground based movements are effective for building strength, mobility, endurance and movement IQ
  • Animal Flow’s Crab Reach a versatile exercise that can be performed anywhere and anytime.  
  • Benefits of the Crab Reach include posterior chain activation, anterior body lengthening, thoracic mobility, body awareness in space.
  • The Crab Reach is great include in warm ups, during the workout or as flow training.  
  • The Crab Reach is an effective exercise to help mitigate aches/pains from sitting, restore function.
  • Improvised movement flow is the end destination of all movement. 

Animal Flow

Naturally, Animal Flow is referenced throughout this article because the Crab Reach is an exercise within the Animal Flow program.  Animal Flow exercises are progressive, unique, and scalable for the beginner all the way up to folks who are seeking movement mastery.   I’ve written a few other Animal Flow related articles covering basic principles, exercises (and progressions) and flow combinations.  

Animal Flow is one of a only a few premiere fitness programs I’d ever suggest to anyone and I highly recommend seeing if it fits your fitness goals.  My YouTube channel is loaded with Animal Flow demonstrations.  

If you’re interested in bodyweight strength training, “Bodyweight Athlete” is worth your time. It’s another Mike Fitch creation (the creator of Animal Flow) and offered under the parent company Global Bodyweight Training.  “Bodyweight Athlete” goes in-depth on effective bodyweight strength training, which compliments Animal Flow’s ground based movement perfectly.  Read more about it here.  

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 

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