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Animal Flow Fitness

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Animal Flow Fitness

Improve how you move with this dynamic, body-weight workout.

Want to build strength, in-crease mobility and balance, and boost your endurance? Tap into your inner animal. That’s the idea behind Animal Flow, a dynamic body-weight workout system that gives new meaning to the phrase “beast mode.”

The movements — named in honor of such crawly creatures as crabs and apes — encourage participants to drop to all fours and get moving.

“Most people don’t spend their workouts on the ground, and they probably haven’t moved around like an animal since they were kids,” says Mike Fitch, NSCA-CPT, a longtime personal trainer in Miami, who created Animal Flow. “They’re usually really surprised at how challenging this is.”

Fitch has practiced parkour, hand balancing, circus training, and break-dancing, and he applied their common elements to develop the Animal Flow protocol. It emphasizes both a variety of animal-inspired, ground-based movements and the concept of flow, a seamless linking of movements that’s similar to a vinyasa yoga sequence.

“Quadrupedal movements present a full-body task,” says Fitch. They “encourage the shoulders to work synergistically with the hips as well as the muscles that stabilize and move the spine. Everyone can benefit from this.”

The payoffs are as much mental as physical. Working from your hands and knees quite literally changes your perspective of the world around you and how your body moves within its environment.

“Moving with both the arms and legs challenges you to truly be aware of how your body is functioning,” Fitch explains. “You can’t just tune out and go through the motions.”

Because they’re equipment-free, Animal Flow exercises offer a portable, travel-friendly workout you can do in any open space, whether it’s your backyard or your favorite gym.

The movements are also versatile. They can serve as standalone stretches in your warm-up or be worked into supersets with strength exercises. The Side-Traveling Ape, for instance, complements the differing plane of motion of a Romanian deadlift. The Underswitch pairs well with a bent-over row, adding a multiplanar, rotational element.

Or combine a series of movements for a challenging and fun body-weight workout, such as the circuit that follows.

“The movements are about restoring connection and stabilization throughout the entire body,” says Fitch. “The goal is to make people better movers.”

The Animal Flow Workout

Perform three sets of each movement for the suggested number of reps, striving to maintain correct form throughout. “If your form begins to break down, stop,” advises Animal Flow creator Mike Fitch. “There is no benefit to practicing a faulty movement pattern.”

In other words, if you can complete only eight good reps when the workout recommends 10, forgo the last two. Over time, your strength and mobility will increase, and so will the amount of work you can do.

Once you’re comfortable with the exercises, try linking them together to achieve the full Animal Flow experience.

“The ‘flow,’” says Fitch, “is where the magic happens.”

Safety note: If you have spinal or joint injuries, consult with your doctor before attempting this workout.

1. Crab Reach

 

Crab-Reach

Why We Love It: This exercise is the antidote to tight hips and poor posture.

Instructions:

  • Begin in the Crab position, with hands and feet on the ground, feet about shoulder width apart and fingers pointed away from you. Lift your hips about an inch off the ground.
  • Raise one arm up in front of your face so you are balancing on one hand and both feet.
  • Press your hips up by pushing through the heels and squeezing your glutes, then extend the raised arm behind you. In the full position, the reaching arm is relaxed, not locked out, and framing the head. Return to the start to complete one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per arm, holding the stretch for three to five seconds per rep.

Pair With: Pushups

2. Loading and Unloading Beast

Loading-and-Unloading-Beast

Why We Love It: This movement combats tightness in the wrists, shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips, knees, and ankles.

Instructions:

  • “Load the beast” by assuming a modified child’s pose, kneeling on the ground with heels underneath hips, knees slightly flared open, and arms extended in front of you with elbows straight. Let your head fall between your arms, and lift your knees an inch off the ground.
  • Next, “unload the beast.” Keeping your elbows completely straight and your knees an inch from the ground, begin to shift your hips forward. Continue to push forward until your shoulders are in front of your wrists. Return to the start to complete one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions, holding each loaded and unloaded position for two to six seconds.

Pair With: Squats

3. Side-Traveling Ape

 

Side-Traveling-Ape

Why We Love It: The hand-balancing component improves shoulder stability and core control.

Instructions:

  • Start in a deep squat. Plant your hands on the floor in front of you, with your right hand in front of your left foot.
  • Press your hands into the ground and jump up, traveling to the left.
  • Allow your trailing foot (your right foot) to land first, lining it up behind your left hand.
  • Once your left foot also lands, pull your hands off the floor and sink back into a deep squat.
  • Perform three sets in each direction, traveling 20 to 50 yards. Stop at the first sign of degraded form.

Pair With: Romanian deadlifts

4. Forward-Traveling Beast

 

Forward-Traveling-Beast

Why We Love It: This full-body movement looks simple but really challenges the upper body, trunk, and legs.

Instructions:

  • Start in an elevated crawl position, known as the Beast, with your hands and feet on the ground and knees hovering.
  • Step forward, moving opposite hand with opposite foot. Keep your hips low and your knees about an inch off the ground.
  • Perform three sets for distance, traveling 20 to 50 yards per set and stopping at the first sign of degraded form.

Pair With: Pull-ups

5. Forward-Traveling Crab

Forward-Traveling-Crab

Why We Love It: This exercise improves stability and coordination, and it challenges the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and upper back.

Instructions:

  • Start in the Crab position, with hands and feet on the ground, fingers pointing away from you. Lift your hips about an inch off the ground.
  • Step forward contralaterally, moving opposite hand and foot. Keep your hips low.
  • Perform three sets for distance, traveling 20 to 50 yards per set and stopping at the first sign of degraded form.

Pair With: Bench presses

6. The Underswitch

The-UnderSwitch

Why We Love It: This move requires total body rotation, posing a serious challenge to nearly every joint.

Instructions:

  • Start in the Beast position, with knees slightly elevated.
  • Simultaneously lift your left leg and right arm, then rotate your body to the right so your leg travels under your body.
  • Continue to rotate until you are facing up and you can plant your hands and feet in the Crab position.
  • Lift the same limbs and rotate your body to return to the starting Beast position to complete one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions per leg.

Pair With: Bent-over rows

WEB EXTRA!

Animal Flow: Bonus Movements

Try these moves to progress your Animal Flow workout.

 

Side Kickthrough

Why We Love It: The Side Kickthrough takes the Underswitch to the next level by extending your leg into a kick position.Animal-Flow-Web-Extra-1

Instructions:

  • Begin in the Beast position and simultaneously lift your right leg and right arm.
  • Rotate your body so your leg travels under your body.
  • Land in a modified Crab position with your leg extended as if though you’re kicking it out and away from your body.
  • Reverse the movement to return to Beast.
  • Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions per leg.

Front Step

Why We Love It: This explosive movement adds an element of power and dynamism to the Loaded Beast position. This is an excellent addition or substitution for other plyometric movements, like squat jumps or burpees.

Animal-Flow-Web-Extra-2

Instructions:

  • Begin in the Loaded Beast position by kneeling on the ground with heels under hips, knees slightly flared, and your hands walked out so your head falls between your arms. Shift your hips back and stretch into a child's pose so your arms are straight.
  • Lift your right leg and step forward, quickly lifting your right hand so your foot can land in its place. Your elbow will be raised with your hand near your face.
  • Reverse the movement by driving the hand down to the ground and stepping the foot back.
  • Perform three sets of 15 to 20 reps per leg.

is Experience Life’s senior fitness editor.

Illustrations by Kveta