Beginner Flow Training: 5 Challenging Bodyweight Exercise Combinations

Motion

Natural movement flow is a key training element missing from most people’s fitness regimens.

Including movement combinations, ground-based exercises and sequences bridge the gap between linear resistance training and natural movement.

Practicing exercises in isolation essential for developing performance.  

What is isolation?  

Deadlifts, front squats, push-ups and pulling without the addition of any add-on exercises, using a work-then-rest format, is isolation.  

You’re isolating an exercise and performing it for a set number of sets, reps and rest.

In a separate blog post, I dove deeper into Ido Portal’s general training template, which included an overview of his methods following this approach:

Isolation 👉 Integration 👉 Improvisation

Walk into any gym, and you’re likely going to see people exercising in isolation.  

Perform a set of deadlifts, rest, check Instagram, a sip of water, then back to the next set of deadlifts.

This is the isolation phase of movement training.

Movement Flow

If you’re looking to add a fresh challenge to your workouts, combining exercises together to create movement flow sequences is a great way to do that. 

Several years ago, I started mixing and matching traditional movement patterns and non-traditional exercises together to create 2 or 3 exercise flow sequences.

Here’s an example:


Gym workouts and real-world movement can be very different experiences.  

While I value pursuing a mechanically perfect squat, do I ever stop to align my feet before squatting in a real-world scenario?

NEVER.

The modified squat I’m using in a real-world situation is often combined with 1 or 2 other movements.  

Squat down, lunge up, twist and carry.  

It’s rarely every just a perfect bodyweight squat in the real-world.

One goal of controlled environment training (aka gym workouts) is maximum transferability.

We lift and conditioning with the idea that it will enhance the physical moments (daily tasks, sports, and recreation, health, etc) help us improve the functionality of our body.

Yet, natural bodyweight movement is completely absent from most workout templates.

Crawling, climbing, rolling, navigating changing levels (laying to standing, fall training, etc), rotation or fusing exercises together in a pre-planned movement sequence or improvised movement work where you don’t know what’s coming next.

Practicing how to transition efficiently and effectively between two different body positions or patterns just makes sense to me.

Benefits of Movement Flow Training

👉  Improve movement IQ (confidence, dissipating fear of unexplored positions and tasks).

👉  Coordination and skill-building.

👉  Improving spatial awareness and how to transition between movements.

👉 Strength at more angles and positions.

👉  Injury mitigation via conditioning tissues to handle stress.

👉 Improve mind-body connection 

👉  Control over one’s bodyweight. 

👉  Fun, refreshing, never boring. 

Movement flow is very challenging for the mind, which to me, is one of the greatest benefits of flow work.

While you’re learning a flow, you really have to think it through to execute it properly and avoid getting twisted up, trips and falls.

“Ok, so my hand goes here, foot over the top, create tension, then relax, drop down, etc…”

The elevated thinking involved with a lot of ground-based movements is a major benefit.

Plus, introducing flow training is refreshing and fun. 

Hours in the gym working the same exercises, chasing the numbers (weight increases, more reps, more sets, faster finishing times) can get quite bland. 

Remaining excited every to move every single day is best for the long-term.   

5 Bodyweight Movement Combinations

#1  Parallette Bar Pass Through to L-Sit

Parallette Bars are inexpensive to buy and easy to build from PVC pipes.

Start in a push-up position, passing the legs through the middle of the parallettes right into an L-Sit.  

If an L-Sit is too aggressive, transition into a tuck position instead.

Hold the L-Sit for a 2-3 second count, then reverse the motion back to the start position. 

Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

No parallettes?  

Chairs, stools or yoga blocks a good equipment substitutes.      

#2  High Bridge Rotation to Lizard Crawl

A reasonable looking back bridge used to be impossible for me.  My body was stiff as a board and incapable of arching through the spine. My shoulders lacked mobility, etc.  

Using dedicated joint mobility drills really accelerated the process, expanding the positions I was able to get into and out of, but bulletproofing my joints as well. 

MyDailyMobility is my recommendation for mobility conditioning. 

Today, I practice some variation of back bridging in nearly every workout, either as maintenance or to make progress.  

High Bridge Rotations require an adequate amount of spinal extension, shoulder mobility, stability and strength, which is why I recommend adopting a mobility program to accelerate the process.  

From an exercise progress perspective, practicing basic back bridges is the starting point.  

Adding in the rotation will come after.  

Transitioning out of the high bridge rotation can be a dizzying experience.  Refocus your vision, lower down and crawl lizard-style. 

The lizard crawl is an amazing strength and conditioning exercise.  

Here is a variation better suited for beginners: 

  Alligator Crawl

  Hand Slide Lizard Crawl 

  Elbow Crawl

#3 Burpee Sprawl – Push Up – Squat – L Sit

Perform a push-up, hop forward into a deep squat position, place the hands on the floor slightly behind the butt cheeks as the legs extend and LIGHTLY tap the floor with the heels. 

Reverse the flow.  

Keep the sprawl motion soft and graceful. 

#4  Lunge to Pistol Squat Flow

Lower body training is essential for health and performance. 

Our legs need to be strong and well-conditioned, but also mobile and capable of expressing strength and stability throughout a large range of motion.

Especially the hips.  Hip mobility training has been a game-changer for me.

This combination connects two movement patterns:  lunges and squats.  

During the transition from front to back, do your best to avoid making contact with the floor.

This is one combination probably best executed for reps. 

3-5 sets of 6-10 reps per side will work. 

#5  Lizard Crawl + Low Scorpion 

This lizard crawl + low scorpion combination is a unique, high-value movement combination. 

There’s no beginning or end with this sequence, which makes it a great bodyweight-based cardio alternative.

This flow is relatively compact, making it perfect for a small home gym or other imperfect training spaces.  

Practice this sequence for repetitions or time. 

I like to set a timer and go.  Not having to keep track of reps allows me to focus on what my body is doing.  

Time-wise, I’ve used this flow for 5+ minutes continuous and it’s a challenge every time.

MOVEMENT20XX 

Fusing movements together to create flows is a great addition to traditional lifting and cardio, and is sure to bring a refreshing challenge into workouts. 

If you want to learn more about movement flow training, I highly recommend checking out the MOVEMENT20XX program from Vahva Fitness.

MOVEMENT20XX is one of the best movement-based products I’ve come across.  

Eero Westerberg did a brilliant job organizing and communicating the techniques of each exercise, how to create flows and leverage this method of training to build a high functioning body.

 

Related Blog Posts

✅ Basics of Movement 20XX| The A-B-C’s of Crawling Exercises

✅ 14 Exercise Total Body Warm-Up Routine

✅ A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part 1

Benefits of the Crab Reach Exercise

Motion

The Crab Reach is a great bodyweight exercise with a whole bunch of options of use before, during and after a workout.  

For a simple bodyweight move, this exercise offers a lot of benefits. 

Benefits of the Crab Reach

  • 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

Combat Sitting 

The Crab Reach is a great exercise to battle/off-set the negative effect of long duration sitting. 

It’s not “the cure”, the only tool or the “best” tool, but it’s 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 are 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 over time.

Most people slump like a turtle while sitting.  Sitting like a slouchy turtle for 8-10 hours per day, 5 days per week isn’t good for our bodies.

We become the positions we use most.  

Fill in Gaps with Movement Training

Strength and conditioning built from traditional resistance training can benefit greatly from practicing multi-planar movements like the crab reach.   

Deadlifts are great.  Chin-ups are great.  Rows, push-ups and rotational core training are all great.

These are fundamental movements to build a strong body.  

But there are movement gaps leftover from each of these exercises.  

Once you’re on the floor crawling, transitioning between locomotion exercises, you find out pretty quick there’s a difference between squatting up and down with lots of weight on the bar and moving gracefully through space.  

It’s humbling. 

Exploring bodyweight oriented movement is a key piece of the fitness puzzle that will improve your movement IQ and create a well-functioning body.  

What’s a well-functioning body?

Strong (proportionate to what a person needs to thrive in daily life), mobile, confident in many different postures/positions/patterns, conditioned, free of aches and pains. 

Ground-based conditioning is a great way to backfill any gaps resistance training is not designed to address.  

Free-flowing, multi-planar fitness. 

Practicing postures and movement patterns less common to daily life. 

Improving strength, mobility and stability in uncommon movements make everyday exercises feel easy. 

Rotation

Looking at the average person’s exercise favorites, it’s usually a shortlist made up of linear resistance training and a sprinkling of cardio. 

Break out of the linear matrix. 

Every repetition of Crab Reach moves the body through a multi-planar, active range of motion.  

Through the range of motion, the body will extend and rotate.  

The twist is visible from the hip flexor, moving diagonally through the mid-section to the loaded shoulder.  

How to Use Crab Reach in Workouts

Ground-based bodyweight movement is extremely versatile.   

Keeping it simple, here are a few different options to integrate the crab reach into daily fitness:

  •  In the warm-up
  •  Filler exercise during a lifting session
  •  As part of a flow sequence

Crab Reach can be practiced in isolation or as a combination. 

I recommend practicing new movements in isolation to increase focus on technique. 

Practicing an exercise in isolation is better to understand the mechanics and demands is best. 

Isolating the exercise will give you the opportunity to focus on the mechanics of the movement and spatial awareness.

Warming Up with the Crab Reach

Movement flow exercises are perfect for pre-workout warm-ups. 

These movements are generally dynamic, full range of motion exercises that require movement into and out unique body positions, angles and tempo.  

Crab reach can serve as a valuable movement prep before exercises like deadlifts or kettlebell swings.

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

Crab Reach acts as a non-competing exercise with the front squats and chin-ups. 

Flow Training

Crab Reach can be used to create a simple bodyweight flow.

Start with two exercises separated by a switch to keep it simple.  Here’s an example:

The video above is an example of a simple movement sequence.

For an added challenge, increase the number of exercises in the sequence to 4, 5, 6 and beyond. 

Adding more exercises to create longer flows is great for the mind-body connection. 

The ultimate goal of movement training is improvisation, which is essentially moving without a plan.

Improvisational movement is an idea I plucked from Ido Portal’s movement hierarchy, which looks like this:

Isolation —> Integration —>  Improvisation

Read more about Ido Portal Method here.

Reps/Sets/Time 

In the beginning, keep the reps low.  

6-8 reps per side is a good place to start.

Focus on a slow and controlled tempo through the fullest range of motion you can make happen.

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

Don’t be shy about bumping up the reps to 15-20 reps per side.  Setting a timer can be a nice option.  

Not interested in counting reps?  

Set a timer and go.  Alternating right and lefts for 2-5 minute timed sets can free’s you up from having to count reps. 

Summary…

  • Bodyweight ground-based movements are effective for building strength, mobility, endurance, and movement IQ
  • Crab Reach is 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 to 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.

Want to Go Deeper? Check This Out…  

Vahva Fitness has created a fully streamable bodyweight-based movement program called Movement20XX.

The movement curriculum in Movement20XX is progressive, challenging, and scalable for beginners, intermediates and all the way up to people seeking movement mastery.   

Movement training is easily scaled to suit each person’s skill level.

Movement20XX is one of a small number of hand-picked online fitness programs I support. 

 

Carpet Slide Push-Ups (with reach)

How-To, Motion

A pair of carpet slides is an essential tool for every home gym.

Carpet slides add a new training dimension to a boat load of exercises. Slides can be used with exercises like reverse lunges, lateral lunges, crawling drills, hamstring curls, core work, and in this particular case, push-ups.

Probably best of all, they’re incredibly economical at $2-$7 for a pack of 3-4 sliders.  How?  The carpet slides marketed for fitness purposes are dangerously close in design and functionality to the furniture sliders available at your local home improvement store.

In the past, carpet slides have received the most attention when incorporated with lower body training.  Think hamstring curls and reverse lunges.

But carpet slides are extremely useful for upper body training also.  Using slides to introduce new variations of push-ups can be refreshing, and brutally challenging.

Carpet slide push-up variations are amazingly challenging.  Not everyone is ready for the coveted single arm push-up, and for those of you that are, maybe you’re looking for a new variation.  Something you can integrate into a work capacity circuit or load up with a weight vest and grind it out.

This is it.

Progression-wise, the carpet slide push-up w/ reach exists somewhere between a traditional two-arm push-up and full-blown single arm push-ups.

Some (not all) of the load is from the moving hand does take on some loading during the exercise, although this can be limited by the exercisee.

Exercise Technique…

 

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-17-59-am

  •  Begin in the top position of a push-up, hands centered on top of the sliders.
  •  Slowly lower yourself to the floor, hugging sliding the non-working arm out in front of your body.
  •  Keep the elbow of the working arm pulled into side body
  •  Pause briefly at the bottom, working elbow at 90 degrees.
  •  Press up and repeat on the other side, alternate for scheduled reps.

Workout Integration…

  •  Rep range:  6-12 reps per side with bodyweight, beyond than add more weight.
  •  Load:  Bodyweight until 12 reps are achieved, then add weight.
  •  Sets:  This depends on goals, 3-5 sets is plenty.
  •  Tempo:  Slow it down on the descent to the bottom, 3-5 seconds on the way down.
  •  Technique break down = rest

Where does this exercise belong?

The strategy of building fitness progressively from the ground up is awesome.  Your current fitness level and past training experience will determine how and where you place this exercise into a workout.

For some, this will be a strength training drill, you’ll need adequate rest after the set.  3 simple sets of 6-8 reps will leave you drained.  That is fine.  Beat on it for a few weeks, aim for improvement.  Expect to be sore through the chest and tender around the obliques in the coming days.

For others, the carpet slide push-up will provide a delightfully saucy challenge in a short burst metabolic training session.  I’ve worked it into a long circuit or kept it simple as part of a 3-exercise burner.

Here’s an example of where this exercise could live within a total body workout:

Alternating Split Squat Jumps x 8 each side

***Carpet Slide Push-Up (with forward reach) x 8 each side***

Airsquats x20 or Goblet Squats x8 (load up here)

Suspension Trainer Inverted Row x10 or 1-Arm Bent Rows x 8 each side

Own the exercise from top to bottom to top…

I have to admit I’ve seen several YouTube videos of carpet slide push-ups.  85-90% of the people in the videos are dropping into the bottom of the push-up too quickly.  More like falling into it.

Address the concept of OWNING the eccentric descent in this exercise.  Pause at the bottom, stay tighter than a pair of skinny jeans, contract and push up and out of it.

Again, slooooooowwww down, spend more time under tension and focus on remaining as rigid as possible.

At most, the descent into the bottom of the push-up should take 1-2 seconds, with NO bounce out of the bottom.  Pause at the bottom, hang out there.  Press out.  Strict.

Core training?  This is core training…

Without sounding like a physique zealot, because I’m not, this exercise provides an unbelievable stimulus to the core.  All without any bells and whistles, just basic rigid body position, technique, and gravity.

You won’t be able to execute as full extension carpet slide push-up without activating the torso aggressively.  It’s self-limiting.

To help make my point on how much core is involved with an exercise like this, drop down into a push-up position, raise one arm forward in full extension, while the other supports the body.

Stay in this position for time.  Just remain in that position without changing posture.

Too easy?  Inch the feet closer to together, narrow the base of support.  Any exercise can be made harder.

The challenge to the core during the carpet slide push-up with reach will be intense, felt from the hip flexors, through the torso, up to the collar-bone.

There will be a tremendous anti-rotation stimulus while supporting the body with one arm. Think about it for a second… the other half of the body wants to sag toward the floor (damn you gravity). Even with the sliding arm providing some assistance, your core will be lit up.

Maintaining a rigid body from head-to-heel is a must. Stay straight. Creating rigidity will require adequate tension through the mid-section.

Progression: Make it harder…

To increase the challenge, gradually lighten the hand contact of the sliding arm, which will lessen the amount of assistance from the sliding arm while increasing the load of the working arm.  Removing assistance from the sliding arm also drastically increases the amount anti-rotation stress as the exercise inches closer to a true single arm push-up.

Increasing the difficulty can be accomplished several ways, but the most honest approach would be to lessen the contact to just the fingertips.  Start with all five fingertips, progress to three fingers, two-fingers (thumb and pointer)… etc.

Before you know it, you’ll need a weight vest, at which point you’ll begin from the bottom rung of the progression once again, with palm firmly on the carpet slide.

Regression:  Make it easier…

To decrease the challenge, wrap a band around your torso and anchor the band to a point directly overhead.  The band will assist you during the hardest point of the exercise when you’ll need help the most.  For most, the hardest point will be the bottom of the push-up.

No carpet?  

Carpet slides work on hard surfaces also.  I’ve used them on hardwood and cement floors with great success.  Of course, this will limit the lifespan of the carpet slides, so if you’re going this route, purchase cheap slides at your local home improvement store.  A pack of carpet slides at Menard’s near me costs $2.99.  Cheap.

A suspension training set to the lowest possible height (without making contact with the floor) will also work.

The other option tools like the Ab DollyHAVYK Sliders, or a more budget friendly option like Core Coasters.  All have wheels which make them ideal tools for hard surfaces.  These options cost significantly more than the carpet slides, but you’ll find a plethora of uses for each, making them a worthy investment.

Early in the article, I suggestioned using furniture slides as a viable alternative to carpet slides designed for fitness.  There is a slight difference in my experience, being that fitness specific carpet slides typically have a much better integrity.  The manufacturers know that these are going to be used frequently, the design is more durable.

Here are some fitness carpet slides on Amazon.

No equipment at all?

Worst case scenario, I’ve done these push-ups without any tools period.  Doing so requires minimal weight on the sliding hand, but it works just the same.

User beware, going this route is intense.  There’s going to be way more friction on the floor  without a slide.  This is ok, just be aware that it might be too aggressive.

The end…

That’s all folks.  I’ve written too much already, way too much.

Give this baby a try.  Mix it in wherever you see fit.  Ask questions as you have them.

 

 

Kyle