Article updated June 2023.
When you first watch an Animal Flow workout, the graceful, end-range movements, blended into a seamless flow of athleticism and control, are somewhat mesmerising. Don’t be deceived if the person you’re watching is making these movements look easy – this workout style will test your end-range strength, balance and mobility to the max.
So, What is Animal Flow?
Combining quadrupedal (that is, using all four limbs), ground-based movements with elements from a number of bodyweight disciplines, Animal Flow® is designed to be used as either a stand-alone workout or group training format. Requiring a deep connection between mind and body, the training modality can be treated as a practice, similar to yoga or martial arts, while still delivering serious physical benefits. While the “Animal” part of the name refers to the type of positions and movements you put your body into, the “Flow” part reflects how the movements are sequenced together. Animal Flow includes movements that are grouped into six categories, or “components”. Each component is designed to produce specific results and can be integrated in several ways, so they can be incorporated into workouts.
The Animal Flow training method was launched in 2010 and hit Aussie shores as a hot new trend in 2015. Founder, Mike Fitch developed the program when he saw the need for functional, challenging, multi-planar bodyweight programming that could challenge even the most experienced exercise buffs. The beauty of his creation is that it can be performed anywhere, anytime without the need for equipment. Despite years of experience lifting weights, Mike realised his body wasn’t happy.
“I didn’t move well, I didn’t feel well… and I thought, ‘if I feel this bad at 30, then how am I going to feel when I’m 50 years old?’ So I started asking myself, what if I trained to last, rather than just beating the hell out of my body for now? And so I came up with the idea of trying the exact opposite to what I’d been doing”.
After researching different forms of exercise including, gymnastics, parkour and breakdancing, Mike was inspired to come up with what we now know as Animal Flow®.
The Six Components of Animal Flow®:
- Wrist mobilisations:
Since much of the Animal Flow style requires you to support some level of your bodyweight from the ground, healthy wrists are crucial. These movements are aimed at improving range of motion, strength and stability through the wrists.
Designed to create a conscious connection between the mind and the body, the activation movements require you to focus on how your body interacts with the floor.
- Form Specific Stretches:
With a goal of improving mobility and stability throughout the body, these stretch movements are designed to build strength through motion.
- Travelling Forms:
Floor based movements such as “Ape”, “Beast” and “Crab” require flexibility and whole body activation to move in different directions.
- Switches and Transitions:
These dynamic movements can be linked together in endless combinations and are used in Animal Flow to move from one exercise to the next, while serving as a standalone functional movement.
The Flows are the end goal for someone practising Animal Flow® and can take a newbie some time to learn. Once each movement is mastered, they are linked together in a predesigned sequence, which creates the Flow.
What to expect when trying Animal Flow for the first time:
Part of what makes Animal Flow so challenging is that many of the movements are new to adults and challenge both the brain and the body. Mike Fitch says, “Not only should you not feel bad, you should enjoy being new at something again… we don’t experience that as adults, we have a tendency to do what’s easy.”
Part of the training philosophy is being barefoot. By ditching shoes, it allows you to work on your balance and stability by firing up the sensory receptors in your feet. The connection between the ground and the body in Animal Flow® workouts requires your proprioception in both your hands and your feet to switch on and send that neurological feedback to the brain that helps with balance and stability.
Plenty of people who are confident in lifting heavy weights are sceptical that they will be challenged by a bodyweight workout. Prepare to find it harder than it looks, when you switch your training style over to Animal Flow®.
“Our body is really good at making big dynamic movements, but when you get to the smaller, eccentric, meticulous movements, it really has to connect; and that’s what this program is about” explains Mike. “I’m an advocate of the philosophy that when you leave, you should feel better than when you arrived. You can have a great workout, but also it can be rejuvenating at the same time – movement medicine, I call it.”
Is Animal Flow suitable for beginners?
The workout regime is able to be tailored to all fitness levels. If you’re harbouring mobility issues due to injury or other health conditions, it’s best to speak with your certified Animal Flow® instructor to determine if it’s going to be suitable for you. In many cases, the benefits this movement style offers in improving range of motion and mobility could be exactly what your “problem area” needs. There are situations, however, particularly in the case of some wrist conditions, where this isn’t going to be the most suitable form of movement.
Animal Flow Certification in Australia:
There are different levels of certification available for fitness professionals who want to offer Animal Flow® for their clients. Level 1 Certification is a 2 day intensive course, which will teach 29 different Level 1 movements, including regressions, progressions, and variations for skill levels. Participants get to explore how and when to use each movement individually, as well as how to link them together into flows of their own design.
After completing Level 1 certification, fitness professionals can go on to become Level 2 certified with an additional day’s training, learning 10 more moves, as well as progressions and advanced concepts.
You can learn more about upcoming Animal Flow training workshops in Australia here.
A big advantage for gyms and PT’s in offering this style of programming is the ability to meet different needs without the need to invest in expensive equipment. It can be sold as a great cross-training option for traditional gym-goers and its low-impact, controlled style can be appealing for people recovering from injury. The Animal Flow movements can be a 15 minute add-on to a PT session or group exercise class, or run as a complete 45-60 minute workout by themselves.
Clients tire from the same offerings over and over again. With an emphasis on core strength and flexibility, Animal Flow is a complimentary adjunct to any existing training style and acts as a quality foundation for improving overall physical performance. The complex nature of the movements and the need to concentrate can have great mental health benefits too.