When I first discovered Animal Flow I was intrigued, but I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes a bit at first.
No, there’s no “accessing your inner tiger” or weird growling noises involved.
It is a bit weird, though. Good thing I happen to like weird.
As you might know by now, I’m a big fan of natural movement. (No big shocker there.) I also know that crawling around and moving on the ground is a big piece of primal movement most of us aren’t getting enough of.
As I said, at first, I was a bit skeptical. The animal style movement thing clearly resonates with people tired of doing boring, gym-style workouts. But the way it’s presented can often be a little cheesy or over the top.
I mean, scorpions, crabs and beasts put into a yoga-like flow? That can easily veer into gimmick territory.
But, since I was curious, I decided to put aside my biases and try it out. I started with the online training program they offer, which is great for doing at home, or in a park. I started by going through all of the movements one-by-one.
Some of them were familiar, like the quadruped crawl or crab crawl, which Animal Flow refers to as the “traveling beast” and “traveling crab.” Some were new to me, like the scorpion reach which is a 360° movement, and the beast wave, a really great spinal movement.
Novelty is one of the big things I’m always talking about that we need more of. So this scored some points for me. Bonus points for lots of spinal movement, which we almost never do, except for hunching over at the computer, which as you know, isn’t the best.
I also like that it includes a good amount of deep squatting, another foundational movement I think everyone could use more of.
The flow in Animal Flow
The novelty of the movements, and the ability to put them into flows I found to be the coolest part. While I was used to a good amount of the movements, but I hadn’t thought about stringing them together into fluid movements where one links into another.
Check out this video of the founder, Mike Fitch doing some of the movements. I have to admit, it’s pretty epic and gets you excited about mastering the movements.
What’s inside the Animal Flow program
First, let’s talk about what exactly it is.
Animal Flow is a structured series of animal-style movements that can be linked together to form flows (similar to yoga). It’s good for building mobility, strength and developing motor control (something many programs are missing).
The way I like to think about it is similar to learning chords or riffs on a guitar. Once you learn enough of the notes (movements), so you can string them together and play fun, interesting songs (or flows with your body).
Let’s look at the components that lead you into being able to flow.
The Animal Flow system is broken down into a few distinct categories:
- Wrist Mobility Drills. These are movements that help strengthen the wrists and prepare you for moving on the ground. Since most folks aren’t used to crawling on the ground and putting weight on their wrists these help a lot with preparing your body for the movements ahead.
- Form Specific Stretches. These are mobility drills that help you own the positions you’ll be using in the flows. They’re great for stretching out tight areas, like the front of the body, and strengthening weak areas, which is typically the back of the body for most people.
- Traveling Forms. This is where the movements start getting put into motion. They consist of the traveling Ape, Beast and Crab, which make up the “ABCs” of Animal Flow. I have to admit, the ABC thing is pretty clever. It certainly make it easier to learn the basic movements when you might be overwhelmed by all that you’re getting into.
- Switches and Transitions. These are the movements that help you transition from one position to another, and begin to create a flow. Without the switches, you’d just end up with a bunch of isolated movement patterns. This is where Animal Flow really shines over other bodyweight training programs.
- Flows. These are pre-made flows that combine the Ape, Beast, Crab and other movements, like the Scorpion and Side Kickthrough. A ton of pre-built flows are included in the online training program, but the goal is to eventually get creative and starting making your own flows.
Side note: For those of you not familiar with the “beast,” this is pretty much a bear crawl. I’m not sure why they decided to rename it to beast, since it kind of confuses people, and it wouldn’t break the “ABC” structure. The “ape” is essentially a deep, flat-footed squat.
What makes Animal Flow really shine
The thing I found most unique about the Animal Flow system is that it encourages flow and creativity. The goal isn’t to do the movements as fast as possible and simply tire yourself out. While that’s not a bad thing necessarily, you want to own each of the positions before you try to speed them up.
At the teacher training workshop I attended our instructor Clif kept telling us “slow and own” before you try to speed them up.
I like this approach a lot, and it’s something I teach in my own classes. I want my students to be able to do something very slowly, to totally own the position before they try adding speed or changing tempo.
This also makes the program very accessible to beginners. If you are having trouble with the moves, you can always try to do them slower and with more control to find the edge you need to work at.
My favorite part? The crawling patterns
Personally, I love the crawling/traveling movements most in Animal Flow. These are basic developmental positions that we learn as babies to develop motor control and the ability to coordinate our bodies in a fluid way.
Going back to these movements is a great way to heal your body and correct imbalances you might have developed over the years (which we all get!).
I’ve spent a lot of time in quadruped positions (beast and crab as they call them in AF) to help me rehab my shoulder and hip injuries, after years of trying to do crazy gymnastics moves I wasn’t ready for.
Let’s just be honest, if you don’t have enough stability to control your body on the ground without tipping over, you probably have no business doing muscle-ups and planches. Not that I would know anything about that… 😉
Bottom line: the focus on developing motor control and full-body joint stability is what makes Animal Flow different than a lot of bodyweight programs out there.
An Animal Flow inspired routine for beginners
I created this routine to show you a bit of what you can expect with Animal Flow, and the types of movements you’ll find in it.
This is a good routine to do as a movement break during work. If you’re willing to look a little weird in the conference room, that is. Remember, the ones not moving are the weirdos.
Who is Animal Flow for?
I think Animal Flow is a good fit for anyone looking to have spice up their training and create more control in their movements.
It’s also very scalable for all fitness levels. So whether you’re just getting back into training, or have been moving for a long time, you’ll find something interesting in it for you.
Once you get past the silliness of the names, the system is really quite great. You can tell by the way it’s structured that a lot of time and thought went into developing the program.
I mean, why not aim for something more than just being able to do harder variations of pushups?
My final call: I recommend Animal Flow for anyone wanting to have more fun and creativity in their training.
Full disclosure: If you click on the link above and purchase Animal Flow, I will get a cut. This helps me make more awesome videos and tutorials for you. I only promote products I’ve personally used and tested, so you can be sure they’re top notch. Thanks for helping out!