Beginner Flow Training: 5 Challenging Bodyweight Exercise Combinations

Motion

If you’ve dedicated time to training exercises in isolation, good.

What do I mean by isolation?  Training front squats using a work:rest type scenario is isolation.  Do a set of squats, rest, do another set of squats.  Most people will be familiar with this.    

Grinding on exercises in isolation is key to developing performance.  Celebrate the efforts.  

But, if you’re looking to add some flavor to your workouts, consider combining exercises together to create movement sequences.  

Creating bodyweight based “nano-flow’s” is a training tactic heavily influenced by Animal Flow and elements of Ido Portal’s ground based conditioning work.  I wrote an extensive article about Ido Portal’s training methodology, read here 

Movement in daily life rarely happens the same way twice (or for 3 sets of 10 reps) like it does in the gym.  We think it does, because it feels similar, but there are always subtle differences in every movement and motion that creates a unique physical experience.  

Practicing a series of movements with brief periods of transition between each movement is an effective strategy to prepare for the unexpected demands of daily life. 

Moving toward flow training improves a person’s movement IQ, confidence and aids in injury mitigation in by adapting the individual to impromptu traversing of obstacles.  Making split second adjustments to terrain, objects, trips and stumbles gradually become a skillset as the body adapts to quick decision making of the mind AND the body.    

Introducing a new physical  into the mix is refreshing and fun.  Hours in the gym working the same exercises, chasing weight increases, more reps and sets can get quite bland.  Staying excited about physical activity is important.  

Enough already.

Here are 5 bodyweight based movement combinations worth trying… 

#1  Parallete Bar Pass Through to L-Sit

Parallette Bars are a simple training tool and this combination makes great use of their design.  Begin in a push up position, immediately lifting the legs and “passing through” the middle of the parallettes into the L-Sit.  Hold the L-Sit for a 2-3 second count, then reverse the pass-through back to the start position.  

Don’t rush this.  Use a slower tempo, spend time under tension and focus on controlling every inch.  Embrace moving slow before moving fast. 

Obviously this combination requires a set parallette bars (aka: P-Bars) for this combination.  The parallette bars I’m using in this video are made of PVC, costing me roughly $6 and 10 minutes to cut, glue and assemble.  They work great. 

Could a person use chairs, wood blocks or something else?  Yes, absolutely.  But Parallette Bars will give you a better experience.    

 

#2  High Bridge Rotation to Lizard Crawl

I give credit to 3 different training programs for shining the spotlight onto the benefits of bodyweight based training:  Ido Portal Method, Animal Flow and Global Bodyweight Training. 

Animal Flow (ground training) and Global Bodyweight Training (strength) equipped me the movement tools that led to implementing the high bridge rotation seen in this video.  

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

High Bridge Rotations require adequate spinal extension, shoulder mobility, stability and strength.  Practicing basic static back bridging is a must to gain access to the rotation.  For many, back bridging will be unnatural (it was for me).  In time, the body will make the adaptation the static bridge, bringing the High Bridge Rotation closer.  

Once out of the high bridge rotation, refocus your vision, lower down and initiate the lizard crawl.  The lizard crawl is an amazing strength and conditioning exercise.  

As you can see, the lizard crawl is the dominating exercise here.  You can also see my range of motion is modified to avoid the wall and cardio machines.  

If you’re new to the lizard crawl, check out the following variations, which may be a bit more palatable.  

  Alligator Crawl

  Handslide Lizard Crawl 

  Elbow Crawl

 

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

What the hell am I supposed to name these movement combinations?  I realize it’s a mouthful, but technically, the name describes the sequence accurately.  I’ll keep it.  

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.  

Tip:  Keep the sprawl motion light and graceful.  This is designed to be a heart pumping, thrashing burpee exercise.  Control the kick back, be soft and quiet with the landing. 

 

#4  Lunge to Pistol Squat Flow

Lower body training is essential for health and performance.  So much of life takes place on two feet.  Strong, stable and mobile legs that are capable of performing a robust variety of movements is well worth the time investment.  

This combination binds together two fundamental patterns:  lunges and squats.  

Do your best to avoid touching the swinging foot to the floor during each transition.  

This is one combination probably best executed for reps.  Reps will vary from person to person, but 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps per side will work. 

 

#5  Lizard Crawl + Low Scorpion 


Like most people, I’ve got favorite exercises.  Not necessarily because I feel I’m good at them, but because of the value they bring to my workout time.  I don’t have all day to train.  I want exercises to give me big bang for my buck.

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

There’s no beginning or end with this sequence. It’s a cyclical flow perfect for a small training space.  

Practice this for repetitions or time.  I prefer the time option.  Setting a timer to focus on my movement quality versus having to tally repetitions and tripping over myself in the process.  Set the timer, start moving.  

Perform the initial phase of a lizard crawl, sweeping the unloaded arm forward.  Reach.  Once the hand finds the floor, transition your weight forward.  In a traditional lizard crawl, the trailing leg would articulate and relocate to the side of the body.

Instead of continuing the crawl, reach the trailing leg up and over the body.  Find the floor, step the other leg through, rinse and repeat.  

Got all that?  Just watch the video… hahaha. 

 

Closing it out.. 

Fusing movements together is a great way to further challenge the body and bring a refreshing challenge into workouts.  Maintaining interest in the contents of a workout is vitally important for long-term adherence.  Quite simply, I you’re bored and burned out, it’s easy to skip training day and make that the new habit.  

Not mentioned here are the cognitive benefits of learning new movements, skills and processing the transitions between those movements/skills.  The “mental gymnastics” involved in sorting out unfamiliar movement is incredible for the brain.  It keeps a person young and sharp with processing and solving movement riddles.  

 

 

Cheers to your efforts,

Kyle 

Movement Training for Beginners

Animal Flow, Motion

Movement training for beginners is MAGIC.

While the physical challenge is new, gains generally come quick.  The early

It’s my experience that the best approach to (if there is one) casting a wide net to capture and practice many different movement training techniques, ideas and methods

Mixing the better elements of yoga, gymnastics, locomotion/crawling, natural movement methods and bodyweight efforts.

Examples of Beginner Movement Patterns

  •  Crawling
  •  Reaching
  •  Twisting
  •  Balancing
  •  Rolling
  •  Climbing
  •  Jumping
  •  Movement Sequences
  •  Improvised Movement

 

Beginner Movement Training

First, “movement” can mean a million different things.

Sneezing, walking, scratching an itch and scraping ice off your car’s windshield is all “movement”.

Movement will be described for the purpose of improving physical fitness.

I’d like to share ideas for the beginner who’s looking to upgrade their workout beyond lifting weights, sets/reps/rest, racing the clock, WODs and treadmills.

Ground based conditioning, or ground based movement is how I categorize equipment free bodyweight training.  I’m not looking to pioneer any new classification of exercise by describing it this way, they simply make sense to me.

So when I refer to a piece of the workout pie as ground based conditioning, I immediately think of crawling.

Crawling is an essential part of early human development, but revisiting basic and progressively difficult crawling patterns yields many benefits as an adult.

As a Dad, I watched my daughter move through the following progression:

Helpless laying 👉 Helpless sitting upright 👉 Quadruped Rocking 👉 Crawling 👉 Standing with assistance 👉 Walking with assistance 👉 Walking independently

Obviously this is a jargon-free description of her development, and each phase overlapped the other, but in general, this was her path to independence bipedal locomotion.

One interesting thing about my daughters timeline, is even though she’s hauling ass a round the house at 18 months of age, if she trips and falls, it’s a guaranteed face plant.

And there are quite a few stumbles, face plants and tears these days.

This leads me to believe the next phase of her movement development will likely be variations of gait (skipping, running, etc) and improving her ability to catcher herself during a fall.

As a guy who writes about physical fitness, movement, etc…

… one of the most incredible experiences is having an front row seat to a baby learning how to use their body from the very beginning.

It pried my eyes wide open and gave me a whole new appreciation for the process that we adults have overcomplicated.

Ground-based movement training is missing from the average person’s workout regimen, and it’s a key element.  

Ground based training is natural movement.  Free of gadgets.  Just you and your body moving through space as efficiently as possible.

Squatting on uneven surfaces, with a staggered stance.  Pressing up from the floor, stepping through to initiate walking.  Rotation.  A lot of workout plans do not address rotation, or limit rotational training to anti-rotation exercises to improve force absorption qualities.

You’ve got to be able to PRODUCE and ABSORB force.

Injuries.  People often get hurt when the stress to a given structure is beyond the structures tolerance.

Progressively expanding movement training by introducing palatable patterns and positions can help reduce injuries.

Supplementing resistance based exercise and natural bodyweight movement with a progressive mobility focused regimen just might be gold standard in injury prevention.

With this concoction, you’re gaining strength, movement IQ and useable range of motion of the joints.

Movement Training For Life

On one hand, I believe in general physical conditioning versus attempting to mimic the exact movements of daily living.

On the other hand, conditioning the body for common everyday movements makes a ton of sense.

Exertion is daily life often doesn’t look like the average gym routine.

There are no symmetric barbells, chalked up kettlebells or dumbbells waiting to be lifted and move.

Real world movement is less predictable.

We fall into and out of weird positions, often requires a on-the-go improvised movements and body positions in environments with uneven surfaces and odd shaped objects.

This is not to say barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells are bad.  There are FANTASTIC tools to leverage.  But at some point, you’re no longer in the gym, you’re no longer pistoning a barbell up and down for robotic reps.

And how about that gym perfect, flat backed, technically sound bodyweight squat?

1 out of every 50-60 squat looking movements in my life looks resembles an air squat.

Squatting in my life looks like something else entirely.  A hybrid combination of movements and transitions.

Maybe you’ve got to navigate moving from the floor to standing without the use of your arms.

The imperfections and contortions that exist in everyday real world movement start to become more and more obvious once you know what you’re looking for.

Interestingly, years of pounding on movement patterns didn’t make me a more efficient mover in the real world.  I mean, to some extent it did, but I started to encounter a lot of different scenarios where I felt weak, uncoordinated and immobile.

We cannot train for every quirky experience in life, but I strongly believe supplementing resistance and cardio training with movement rich tasks, challenges and ground based conditioning would help a lot of people increase their

I find myself squatting out of mechanical alignment, twisting, bending, reaching, rolling, lifting and moving objects with a technique that most gym fanatics would consider unacceptable.

Picking up heavy, awkward shaped, slippery sh*t from the garage requires a creative approach, which is rarely addressed in a structured workout.

Fully flexing the lumbar spine while assuming a modified lunge stance, driving off the forefoot while my feet slide inside of my Crocs.

This is life.

 

Sometimes I’m moving by fusing 2-3 of those patterns at one time.

When it’s time to perform in life, it’s time to perform.  Sometimes we get to step up to a heavy object, get situated and lift similar to our gym lifts.  Most times, this is not the case.

Much of movement in daily life is reaction-based, rarely planned and happens quickly.  There’s no time to externally rotate the hands, pull the shoulder blades down and back, tuck the rib cage, etc.

Real-life movement is unpredictable, deviating from “flat neutral spines”, perfect posture and ideal foot placement.

It’s life.

The human body is designed to move.  

Ground-based movement drills improve a person’s movement capacity and address a lot of these in-between life moments that a barbell squat or deadlift simply doesn’t.  

Improving your ability to interact with the ground, using nothing but bodyweight will help you as a mover, and probably make your traditional lifts that much better. 

And to be completely honest, engaging in movement-based training is as fun as it is challenging.

One great benefit of practicing movement based drills is how quickly a person builds confidence in unique and unfamiliar body positions.

We knowingly (and unknowingly) avoid activities we know our body isn’t suited for.  After a few months of movement training, this starts to shift.  You begin to look at daily tasks differently.  Situations you used to avoid become worthy challenges you’ll meet head-on with a new-found confidence in your abilities.

Twisting and rotational movements are absent from most workouts.

Walk into a membership-based gym and 95% of the people exercising are going to be grinding away on cardio machines, bicep curls, and bench press.

Why Don’t Fitness Magazines Write About Movement

Linear fitness activities are constantly promoted by mainstream fitness media.

We’ve got to bring this to light.

The fitness articles being written in Men’s and Women’s Health are nearly exactly the same as the articles that were written when a young and impressionable subscriber back in 2002.

Why?

Well, a big reason is consumers keep gobbling up the minutiae.

“Oh, no wonder I’m not 5% body fat.  The new training tip on the sidebar of the latest issue of Men’s Health says adding 2 additional reps to my favorite arm blaster circuit I’ve been working 2 days a week for the last 2 years will change everything”.

The writers at Men’s Health are not great movers.  They’re muscular, free of acne, great hair, STIFF and one-dimensional.

Picture perfect bilateral squats and not a prayer with any other movement outside of that.

I USED TO BE THAT GUY, SO I CAN IDENTIFY THESE PEOPLE WATCHING THEM MOVE.

Fitness magazines have also done a superb job at convincing people they need to to “look” a certain way.

The aesthetic industry is alive and well.

Write a creative yet informative article about movement training and how it can build a resilient, strong, lean and athletic body is challenging.

These magazines know what most guys and gals want:  minutiae over the best or newest techniques to build muscle, lose fat and get lean.

I’d shred my chest and core by ramping up the volume of lizard crawl versus laying lifeless on a bench while pressing weight up and down… ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

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 on their spine feeling “locked up” or “stiff”.

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.

Rotational drills are great for training 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.  

Injecting multi-planar and multi-joint exercises into a workout regimen can (and will)_ bridge the gap that many traditional compound lifts simply do not address.  

More examples… 

Movement 20XX 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, Movement 20XX programming can be used in Isolation, Integration or Improvisation.  

Isolation:  Resistance Training, bodyweight strength, reps/sets, etc.

Integration:  Combining strength, flow and locomotion elements into movement pre-planned movement sequences.

Improvisation:  Moving freely about a space without a plan.

Learn more about Ido Portal here.

If you’ve never engaged in quality ground-based movement training, start by practicing drills in isolation.  Eero does a great job advocating this, but it’s worth mentioning in this post.  

Training patterns in isolation is best for learning movement mechanics and allowing the body to adapt properly.  The range of motion of each exercise can be modified to suit what you can comfortably handle at this moment and will improve with time and consistent practice.  

The human body is a brilliant adaptation machine.   

Most of my early ground-based movement flow practice involved spending focused time 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.     

 

Every exercise has progressions leading up to mastery.  I cannot stress this enough.  Movements can be progressed for YEARS.  

Interested in getting a cardio conditioning effect from the workout?  Great.  Increase the tempo of each exercise or add time to the work set.  Flowing around a room for 8-10 minutes will elevate your heart rate as much as traditional cardio.  With the added benefit of training more movement patterns and improvisation to increase the brain’s processing speed.  

Crawling is great for loading the upper extremities, core, and sequencing.  Extremely slow tempo crawling remains one of the most eye-opening physical challenges for people.   

10-15 minutes of ground-based movement training will leave you exhausted, particularly if you’re new to it and inefficient.  

Are you going to be sore all over from this?  Yes.  Expect soreness in the days that follow.  

Newbies to ground-based movement training should consider implementing such training after the warm-up, but before resistance training in the day’s workout.  

Movement 20XX

Movement 20XX

Movement 20XX is a program I’ve become a huge fan of across the last year.

Eero Westerberg and I have a lot of similar ideas and approaches to building physical freedom, exploring different avenues of exercise and how to integrate those methods into a pre-existing regimen.

Practice these skills when the body is fresh.  

Training total body ground movements can improve all other areas of fitness.

For more information about Movement 20XX and how it can take your workouts to another level, check out the Movement 20XX website.

Watch for more posts sharing exercises, combinations, and flow!

 

 

Cheers,

Kyle