If you’re looking for a way to mix up your exercise routine and try something new, consider Animal Flow. In case you haven’t heard of it, Animal Flow is an exciting new exercise program that uses movements that mimic the motions of animals to create a challenging workout with a unique focus on functional fitness. Animal Flow not only increases strength the way traditional weights workouts do, it also can increase your mobility, balance, stability and flexibility. Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds, pick up some muscle, increase your range of motion or add a little bit of extra oomph to your basketball game, Animal Flow has something to offer you.
The Basics of Animal Flow
Although animal-based movements have been around for a long time, the Animal Flow program was developed by Miami fitness trainer Mike Fitch. Fitch, who had studied parkour, capoeira, acrobatics, gymnastics and breakdancing, created Animal Flow as a fusion of the things he had learned about fitness in each of these unique forms of body-weight exercise.
The main idea behind Animal Flow is that, instead of working the muscles in isolation through artificial movements, if you copy animal movements, you use your body’s muscles together. By mimicking primal movements, you can engage muscles that you may have practically forgotten you have.
Most weights workouts today emphasize discrete, single-plane movements. For example, if you’re trying to exercise your biceps, you’ll probably perform biceps curls either on a machine or with dumbbells. This exercise consists of isolating your biceps, working the muscle by flexing and extending your arm against resistance. Only one set of muscles is being used, and the motion is very simple: straight up and straight down.
Contrast that with an animal-based movement like the bear crawl. If you perform a bear crawl, you’re using just about every muscle in your arms, neck, core, legs, shoulders, hands and feet, and you’re using them together, which gives you greater coordination between those muscles. Even better, you’re also developing your sense of balance. And although isolation is the watchword of many weight-lifters, coordinated muscle effort can be very challenging too. If you don’t believe it, try doing a bear crawl for even just 10 yards!
What’s more, some doctors suggest that primal movements, while obviously challenging, may take less of a toll on the joints than some other forms of exercise. According to Dr. Jeffrey Rosen, in this sort of movement, “you tend to use your whole body as a unit. It’s more natural.”
Animal Flow Moves to Try
There are whole workouts built around Animal Flow movements, but if you’re looking to just get your feet wet, here are some exercises you can try.
Vertical Frog Jump
To perform a vertical frog jump, stand comfortably with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Squat deeply and rest the palms of your hands on the ground between your legs. Push off and jump as high as you can, swinging your arms overhead. Land in a squat with your hands on the floor as softly you can. Stand up again. This is one repetition. Try doing two sets of 12 reps.
The crab reach is a dynamic motion which hits a lot of different muscle groups. Start in a crab position, as if you were going to play crab soccer in junior high P.E. class. Your hands and feet should be flat on the floor, your chest should be up, and your buttocks lifted. From this position, push your hips up into a one-armed bridge and reach over your head with the other arm. Try to perform 10 reps with each arm.
Assume a gorilla-like position, with your hands and feet on the floor. Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-width, and angle your toes out. Your hands should be placed to your right, so your right hand is away from your body and your left hand is near your right foot. With your hands pressed into the ground, jump your feet to the right. Land with your left foot between your arms. Your left leg should be bent, and your right leg straight. Shift your hips to the center and place your hands to your right again to finish one repetition. Complete two sets of six reps on each side.
Full Animal-Flow Workouts
If these few exercises have whetted your appetite for Animal Flow workouts, or if you’d like to see Animal Flow in action, check out the videos available at Global Bodyweight Training’s Animal Flow website. There are short videos available for free, and workout-videos available for purchase. If you really want more, search online for Animal Flow classes in your area – and go wild.