Back in the spring, when Best Health participated in Nike’s Air Society five-week wellness program, we were introduced to a new kind of workout that made us sweat and pant after the first two moves: Animal Flow.
The training session, led by Jennifer Lau, Fitsquad Principal and Nike Master Trainer, had us moving on the ground in ways we weren’t used to (like animals, essentially) and worked muscles we didn’t even know existed.
One flow consisted of going into child’s pose, with our knees off the ground, and then exploding into a deep lunge, before going back to the initial position. Lau made it look easy — her transitions between each movement were both graceful and powerful at the same time. Meanwhile, the majority of us (myself included) struggled through the motions. It was a humbling experience, especially since this was a group of some of the most fit women in the city. (This workout will make you rethink how you’ve been exercising.)
So what exactly was this workout with silly names and positions (“Ape,” “Beast” and “Crab,” to name a few) that left us sore for days? Below, the down-low on Animal Flow.
What is Animal Flow?
Created by Mike Fitch, Animal Flow is a trademarked bodyweight program that’s centered largely around ground-based work. It features animal-style movements that encourage core stability and strength, joint strength, and body awareness — all without any fitness equipment.
“If yoga and Capoeira were to have a baby, it would look like animal flow,” explains Lau. “The idea behind animal flow is it develops mobility as well as power.”
The workout features a structured series of animal-style movements that are linked together to form a flow. These exercises are grouped into six different components: wrist mobilizations (simple exercises to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrists), activations (static holds performed to connect the body before starting practice), form specific stretches (full body stretches that start in an animal form and then move through a wide range of motion), travelling forms (exercises that mimic the movements of animals), switches (the dynamic movements that create the “flow”) and flow (everything is combined into a fluid sequence).
What are the benefits of Animal Flow?
What sets Animal Flow apart from other workouts is that challenges the body through multiple planes of movement that it may not normally be in.
“It works everything,” says Jay Agustin, founder of Wall St. Fitness, who teaches a Hot Primal Flow class at Bolo Toronto, which uses many elements of Animal Flow. “There are certain things that you don’t use day-to-day, even in your regular workouts. It just shows you what your body is capable of… it’s conscious movement. Your muscle endurance increases your strength, increases your flexibility, mobility, literally everything.” (Here’s how to find your optimal heart rate for the workout.)
Lau agrees. “It’s beneficial for everybody and you don’t have to be super mobile to do it,” she says. “You can work within your range and the more you practice your flow, the more mobility and range of motion you’ll get.”
Who can do it, and how can it be incorporated into your training?
Both Lau and Agustin say that virtually anybody can do animal flow, from athletes looking to incorporate some complementary aspects to their regular training programs to elderly men and women looking to improve mobility.
“For people who are always working out, we have such power output from being able to get down low in those ranges,” explains Agustin. “And for everyday life… I have clients who can’t get up off the toilet. If I can get somebody in their ‘80s to be able to move like they’re supposed to move, it changes their entire life.”
The best part? Since it requires no equipment, it can virtually be done everywhere.
So, should you try it?
All signs point to yes. Sure, it’s a little bit intimidating at first, but it’s a cool and unique way of moving your body and it’s a really good workout.
For those still weary to try, Lau advises to “just have fun and let go of any inhibitions you might have.”
“It feels silly at the beginning, but everyone’s there for the same purpose,” she says.
Agustin has similar sentiments. “It’s fun, it’s challenging, it keeps your mind off things. It serves like a meditation not only for me, but for others as well.”
Want to try it out for yourself? Check out this Animal Flow workout (complete with how-to videos) by Jennifer Lau.