Most of us probably wouldn’t want to go back to the days when we had to kill our own food and worry about being eaten by a saber tooth tiger. But there is one huge advantage our prehistoric relatives had over us: they never had to go to the gym!
Leaping, running, squatting, sprinting and a score of other movements were just the price of entry if you wanted to survive in the hunter-gatherer society. And while we’ve evolved over the eons into a more civilized society, when it comes to being in touch with our bodies, we have most definitely devolved.
As our lives have moved from naturally active to mostly sedentary, we have to consciously incorporate movement into our lives. Because when it comes to overall wellness, the old adage of “move it or lose it” definitely applies.
So we run, cycle, swim, weight lift or hike to combat our daily lives as modern-day desk jockeys. And while all of these activities are great as part of an overall fitness program, they have a couple of very big drawbacks.
First of all, they only work the body in one plane of movement, which usually is forward. And secondly, they’re repetitive and often focus on only one muscle group, which can lead to injury. Or even worse, they can lead to boredom, which could stop you from working out altogether. I mean, does anyone really want to spend their life doing nothing but push-ups?
So, what’s the answer to our modern-day dilemma? How do we become more like our fit forebears and avoid turning into Jabba the Hutt? According to cutting edge trainers, the answer is tapping into our natural mobility through Animal Flow, which integrates the 7 Primal Movements.
So What Are Animal Flow and Primal Movement?
Animal Flow is a low impact, total body exercise program that uses movement patterns based on animals and young children. Instead of focusing on only one muscle group at a time, it combines crawling, rolling, jumping, rotating and crouching to work various muscle groups and explore multiple planes of movement at the same time.
With names like Beast, Bear Crawl, Duck Walk, Lateral Ape and Frog Jump, it may sound incredibly silly. But when it comes to getting you in shape, Animal Flow is no joke.
Animal Flow takes what is known as the 7 Primal Moves and integrates them into a playful, full-body workout. So what exactly are the 7 Primal Movements, and why are they so important?
The 7 Primal Moves
If you’ve done CrossFit or any other type of functional training, you’ve already been exposed to what are known as the 7 Primal Moves:
- Locomotion (gait, as in running, walking, etc.).
Primitive humans had to use these moves to survive in their environment. They might not have a kettlebell or barbell, but they still got a good workout in. For example, bending to lift stones, pulling prey, squatting to hide, rotating to check out a noise, etc.
Even in our modern world, babies use every single one of these moves as they’re developing. (Pushing to lift their head, twisting to turn over, pulling to pull themselves up, etc.) And without them, they’d never learn to stand upright and walk across the room.
The problem is that as we get older, our moves tend to get rusty due to our mostly sedentary lifestyle. Yes, we still need to bend over to pick up the laundry or push a grocery cart. But how many of us actually squat or lunge outside of moving day? Because these seven moves are less obviously linked to survival, they tend to atrophy.
We may even take pain, stiffness and a lack of mobility as a natural part of getting older. But according to proponents of Primal Movement and the fitness industry in general, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. In other words, if you move it, you may not lose it. Or at least not as quickly.
Combining fluidity with a mix of controlled and explosive movements helps unlock the full range of motion that the body is capable of, and can make you stronger, more flexible and even help you avoid injury.
The Benefits of Animal Flow
And this is where the benefits of Animal Flow come in. This approach to exercise takes the 7 Primal movements and combines them into a low impact routine with a mix of fluidity and control.
As a result, it helps to unlock the mostly forgotten range of motion that the body is capable of, and can make you stronger, more flexible and even help you avoid injury.
Let’s break down all the reasons Animal Flow is great for you:
Animal Flow Builds Strength
Many of the moves in this workout require you to push your own bodyweight off the ground or sustain it through various animal poses, which means you can strengthen various muscles without having to use added weights.
The Crab Walk, for example, is great for your core. But it also strengthens the shoulders, hips and back.
Explosive moves like Frog Jump, where you have to jump from a squatting position, are great for the hamstrings, glutes and core.
Animal Flow Increases Flexibility
Most of us may think of static stretching when it comes to flexibility. But with Animal Flow, your strengthening and gaining flexibility at the same time. Moves like crouching, for example, open the hips and help them and the rest of the lower body to regain mobility.
The same thing goes for other joints and muscles in your body. The more you move them, the more flexible they become.
Animal Flow Helps Your Balance
One of the keys to finding your balance? Having a strong core. But the core doesn’t just consist of the abdominal muscles. It also includes the hip abductors, hip flexors, the pelvic floor and the lumbar spine, all of which are worked with the compound movements of this type of training.
Animal Flow Improves Coordination
Coordination goes hand in hand with balance. These compound movements require a good bit of dexterity, which improves your overall coordination the more you practice them.
Not only that, but these primal movements are also good for your brain. The Bear Crawl, for example, relies on all four limbs to propel you forward. A challenge for your body and a challenge for your brain because of the coordination it requires.
Animal Flow Can Improve Your Cardio Conditioning
The beauty of Animal Flow is that you can adjust it to your own pace. Practice the moves slowly, and you’ll build strength and flexibility.
Or, you can combine various movements in a type of circuit workout to get your heart rate going. A minute of Crab Walk, a minute of Kangaroo Jumps and a round of Bear Jacks will have you sweating in no time!
Animal Flow Helps to Prevent Injury
Traditional training approaches often use repetitive movement to work a specific muscle. And while you can build strength this way, it sometimes creates an imbalance in the body if we focus too much on some muscles and not enough on others.
Over time, those kinds of imbalances can lead to injury.
On the other hand, Animal Flow recognizes the body as a system of joints, muscles, tendons and bones that need to work together to achieve total fitness. Complex moves that force the body to use various muscles and move through different planes provide a more balanced approach to fitness, which in turn helps to avoid injuries.
Animal Flow Can Be Done Anywhere
One of the best things about Animal Flow is that you don’t need a gym or any extra equipment. All you need is some room and your own body weight. You can do it at home, in your yard, the park or even on the beach.
So if you need to break the rut of going to the gym every day but still want to get your workout in, Animal Flow could be a great way to vary your routine.
Animal Flow is Fun
Boredom might just be the number one threat to fitness. Slogging through the same old routine of bicep curls, squats and the spin bike may have its benefits, but it can also feel like sheer drudgery.
What makes Animal Flow so appealing is that it’s meant to be fun. Moves like Lateral Ape, Rabbit Walk and Beast not only get you in shape, but they also help you connect with your inner child.
Remember those days when exercise was more of a game? When you hopped like a bunny, crawled around on all fours and imitated monkeys? With Animal Flow, working out can feel like playtime once again!
Some Keys Moves In Animal Flow
Now that you know all the benefits of Animal Flow, you may be itching to jump in and give it a try. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a group of basic exercises to unleash your inner beast.
First and most importantly, you’ll want to warm up properly. And not just your legs and arms. Animal Flow also activates your wrists and ankle joints - two areas we might not emphasize when we’re getting ready to exercise.
So be sure to cover these areas with the rest of the body before you dive in.
Now that you’re warmed up, it’s time to unleash that inner animal.
Standing Beast is one of the key positions in Animal Flow and leads into the compound move called Beast Reach (as well as other moves). You start this move on all fours—palms of the hands and the toes of each foot on the floor. The knees, on the other hand, are off the floor.
Here’s a quick video to help you master this basic.
The Crab Walk is another basic of Animal Flow and later leads into more advanced moves like the Crab Reach and Dancing Crab. But let’s start with the beginner’s version, which will work your abs, shoulders, arms and back.
Let’s Take a look.
Crawls are another basic in Animal Flow. In Bear Crawl, you start with the palms of your hands and the toes of each foot on the floor, like in Beast. You can then lift the knees off the floor slightly and do a low Bear Crawl, or you can move the body into a more triangular position to do a high Bear Crawl.
Move forwards, backward and sideways in both Low Bear Crawl and High Bear Crawl.
Here are two quick videos that will show you how it’s done:
Starting with Low Bear Crawl.
And now for High Bear Crawl.
When you hear “bunny hop”, you probably think of that ridiculous dance that drunk people did in the 50s. But this is actually a simple but effective workout move where you spend a lot of time in an active squat position.
This video shows the beginner and intermediate versions.
Side Traveling Ape
Did you ever like to imitate monkeys when you were a kid? Well, here’s your chance to relive the good old days while you’re getting a killer upper body workout. So simple, yet so effective.
Looking to work those thighs? We guarantee you’ll feel the burn with this move.
Of course, in Animal Flow, you don’t just focus on a single move. Once you have your base positions down, you start to transition between the various moves, often with what’s called an “underswitch.”
Here’s an example of how to move from Beast to Crab with this type of rotation.
Five Minutes of Flow
Now that you’re a little familiar with the basics of Animal Flow, here’s a 5-minute routine to give you a little inspiration.
Unleash Your Beast
As you can see from the videos, Animal Flow takes the seven basic Primal Movement patterns and combines them in a playful, fluid routine.
Not only is it fun, but this more natural approach to working out can make you stronger, more flexible and could even boost your confidence. And if you want to throw in a little roar every now and again, we say let her rip!
You might also be interested in: What Is HIIT? [A Beginner's Guide To High-Intensity Interval Training]