Now, more than ever, we are bombarded with many different types of fitness regimens.
With more equipment available and options to choose from, maybe it’s time to go back to basics — simply using your body as your equipment. There are many qualified professionals who say that machines and external weights shouldn’t be used until you can move your own body weight with precision.
There is a certain form of body-weight exercise that has helped me in my own career as well as helping my clients reach their fitness goals: Animal Flow, a form of body-weight training that has been around for hundreds of years, has gained in popularity quite recently.
Fellow trainer and colleague Mike Fitch created one particular form of Animal Flow that I follow closely. As a combination of yoga, gymnastics, parkour, breakdancing and martial arts, it can be considered the highest form of body-weight movement. Each of these disciplines uses quadrupedal animal movements in one way or another:
“The flow component, which was also inspired by the different disciplines, is all about how the body transfers, dissipates and communicates ‘energy’ or force,” Fitch says, “whether that’s the force of your own body weight and gravity or it’s the energy that’s coming back into the body from the ground or an external object.”
Benefits of Animal Flow
Animal Flow (AF) is a constant practice to become a more fluid mover, transferring forces and energy seamlessly. If we can make the body communicate better, then we can make it more functional in every capacity. The fact that you have to be more consciously aware and connected to your system in order to perform the movements is one of the biggest benefits of AF. Plus, since your hands and feet are in contact with the ground, it's a rich environment for proprioceptive information which encourages your body to communicate better with itself.
|A foundational Animal Flow drill: “Static Beast”
The Program Components of Animal Flow
Animal Flow is compromised of the following basics:
- Wrist mobilizations
- Form specific stretches
- Beast & Crab progressions
3) Traveling forms
4) Switches and Transitions
- Scorpion Switches
- Side Kickthroughs
- Front Kickthroughs
- Combination of two or more warm ups, activations, traveling forms, switches and transitions, and traveling switches/transitions
- Free flows which combine some or all components of Animal Flow, in longer and more complex series than the combos.
As with most exercises, these poses can be easy or difficult depending on the effort you put into them. My recommendation is to focus on your breath in these poses and let that dictate the time under tension.
|One of my favorites, the “crab to crab reach"
Demonstration of Animal Flow
Video shot at PurLife Fitness Center in Delray Beach, Florida
How to Incorporate Animal Flow
“Everyone who practices Animal Flow does it for different reasons,” Fitch says. “Some people use it as a restorative modality to repair and down regulate their bodies. Others may make a more intense practice of it, which they use to improve performance. The way in which you use it is completely up to you… It is a constant practice to become a more fluid mover, transferring forces and energy seamlessly.”
The vision of Animal Flow was never for it to be a stand alone, to where you only do Animal Flow. Although it certainly can stand alone, it is envisioned being an adhesive that brings all other exercise modalities together. So, if you're already lifting a lot, it can help you become more mobile, flexible and fluid, or if you're already doing some sort of flexibility practice like yoga, Animal Flow can give you more speed, power and dynamic stability.
And lastly, and possibly most importantly, you just may have a little fun!
For more information on Animal Flow, please visit www.animalflow.com.
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