I found animal flow and ground movement training a few years ago, frankly, by accident. I was working with another kettlebell coach and she began doing animal movement patterns and ta-da, which opened my world to animal flows. In this blog, we're going learn what is animal and how to get started if you're interested.
What is animal flow and how did it begin?
The biggest question I get is what is animal flow? It's actually not as new of a concept as people believe, although the idea and program specifically under the animal flow umbrella is as recent as a few years ago. However, the creator of animal flow, Mike Fitch, combined the ideas and movement patterns of other areas of movement, and admits, he didn't create animal movements. However, animal flow goes beyond standard locomotions.
Animal flow ground movement is comprised of six different components including wrist mobilizations, activations, form stretches, traveling movements, switches/transitions, and flows. You can train with each of these components individually or mesh patterns together for complete mobility workouts.
These movements combine elements from different bodyweight disciplines such as breakdancing, parkour, gymnastics, and hand balancing with animal locomotion patterns.
Some of the foundational movements in animal flow are Ape, Beast, and Crab, otherwise known as the ABCs of animal flow.
This practice is backed by science in terms of the benefits of bodyweight and increasing mobility and muscular coordination and endurance. Animal flow has been shown to decrease back pain, improve cognition, and more.
The cool thing about animal flow is that, while there are some levitations including handstand practices, it is primarily low impact and great for beginners.
What are the benefits of animal flow workouts?
We've already mentioned some of the benefits of animal flow movements above, but we'll dive a bit deeper into that now.
Animal flow is lower impact than weight training or plyometrics. So it really is a great place to start even if you are a beginner. The hardest part I think when it comes to animal flow movements is if you aren't mobile quite yet, this will take some getting used to. Another thing I'd like to note is that it might be uncomfortable on your wrists at first. We crawled as toddlers, but chances are the majority of use don't use our wrists like that anymore.
I have had wrist surgery years ago and do want to note, some days if I warm up my wrists really well I am okay. On other days I have to back off. You should always listen to your body. I think in the most recent years as I've increased the amount of time practicing animal flows, I have had less days where my wrists feel sore so I can tell they are strengthening.
Animal flow is also proven to decrease back pain because it strengthens the muscles in the back and along the spine and increases back flexibility. This helps to protect the back region.
What do I need to begin practicing animal flow?
Animal flow is great for beginners and all levels because it simply requires body weight. I would highly recommend performing the movements on a hard surface with a yoga mat to prevent slippage (just like with yoga practice).
You can perform animal flows just about anywhere as long as you have plenty of space to perform transitions and crawls.
If you want to get started, try the beginner animal flow workout below by the founder, Mike.
Can I do animal flow in addition to my regular workouts?
Absolutely! Animal flows will make a great addition to any workout you are currently doing. The thing is, just like with yoga practice, you need to combine this style of training with strength-based training and higher-intensity workouts. While you can certainly get a great workout with animal flows on their own, I think it's important to realize that one single style of working out is never as beneficial as combining multiple styles of training to ensure you have a balanced routine.
I say the same thing about kettlebell training. I don't (typically) train with kettlebells 5 or 6 times a week. I take rest days, work on my mobility, or I really enjoy boxing and jump rope and will throw in a workout once or twice a week. You need to realize it isn't one-and-done. It's about balance.
How does animal flow go with kettlebell training?
Kettlebell training and animal flows might seem worlds apart. And they are in a way, which is why they benefit one another. Stay with me here.
Animal flows improve core musculature which is going to support your kettlebell training techniques. A great way to pair the movements is to alternate throughout your workout between an animal flow move and a kettlebell movement. Personally, I will do this, but I much enjoy full days dedicated solely to one or the other. If I am holding a class though, I may throw in a basic animal movement at the end of each circuit.
The bodyweight in tangent with the strength training, are really hitting and challenging the body in different planes, styles, and overall ways. I am a big believer that we can get in a solid workout using just our bodyweight. But this is an additional way we can increase our mobility that is deeper than yoga and more fast-paced.
Where can I find an animal flow instructor near me?
If you are looking for an animal flow instructor near you, there are roughly 99 certified instructors in the USA and only a handful of Master Instructors. You can do a search directly on the Animal Flow website.
If you hang tight, you'll also notice I am practicing animal flow more frequently lately. I have a workshop coming up and am working towards a Level 1 Animal Flow instructor. I want to ensure I am more knowledgeable before I bring it to you folks, but stay tuned. I will be including animal practice in my live class schedule and our on-demand workouts.