If you have recently tuned in the Fitness world, you may have noticed that Bodyweight Training is back to the top; and there’s a simple reason for that: we don’t know how to move properly anymore.
Most of us are spending way too much time sitting behind a desk, in a car and on the couch as soon as we get home. Then, we go for long runs or hit the gym to lift heavy weights. How do you think your body is going to respond to this drastic change? Let me give you a hint: physiotherapy, massage or chiropractor… Yep, that’s where you’re most likely to end up with niggling or sharp pains, locked back, muscle tear, tendinopathy, chronic headache and more. We need to rethink what movement is about and how it applies to our physical activities. Bodyweight Training, such as Animal Flow, allows you to gently load the different body joints and move in all three different planes (sagittal, frontal and transverse) to get a physical and neurological response that improves strength, mobility, flexibility, stability and is extremely complimentary to any other sport or activity.
Benefits and science behind Animal Flow:
Animal Flow focuses on multi-planar and functional movements using body leverage, tempo changes, form specific stretches, transitions, activations, traveling forms and eventually flows. It is a great assessment tool that can highlights postural asymmetries, strength deficiencies, muscle tightness and weaknesses but also allows the participants to reconnect with their bodies. Each step has a progression/regression mode so you can work towards your own goal while still having fun. This discipline combines ground-based elements from various bodyweight trainings (yoga, parkour, breakdancing, martial arts…) to create a fun and challenging workout that takes the participants through multi-planar fluid combinations.
I was hooked as soon as I saw a video of Mike Fitch (the creator of Animal Flow) demonstrating a Flow. He looked so light and effortless yet he was twisting, kicking, arching, bending his body and even adding handstands. I just wanted to try so I enrolled in the first instructor certification in Australia and I left feeling stronger, more flexible, challenged and eager to practice.
Taking it back to our roots:
Since you spend a lot of time in a quadrupedal position (all four limbs touching the floor), gravity is now pulling the body in a different way, which challenges the neurological system. In this bodyweight type of training, you are constantly connected to the ground by at least one limb, moving and pushing your body around it. It is called a closed-chain exercise. The benefit of closed-chain exercises is a greater motor unit activation and synchronisation. You move multiple joints throughout multiple planes, which creates a more functional exercise that recruits more muscles and decreases the risk of injury. The hands and feet are packed with sensory receptors so closed-chain exercises stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) in a very unique way that makes this type of training extremely functional for normal daily activities and sports.
The different moves and poses also offer a unique stretch and load on the body’s fascial web. Fascia is a connective tissue that holds us together and has 10 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles. For this reason, the changes in positions, tempos and anchor points during the Flows provide great benefits for improving the way we walk, stand, run or move. I have already introduced some moves to one my trainees who is 72 years old and she told me she stands taller, has better balance and feels more flexible and stronger.
How Animal Flow can help you:
The practice of Animal Flow is complimentary to what you are already doing. If you think you have reached your limit in a squat then try the loaded Beast to increase hip movement. If you are tight through your chest, abs and hips then try the Crab Reach pose. If you’re back is tight or you need more stability in your shoulders then throwing some side kick-throughs will make you feel better. Saying that, the real fun starts when you put all these moves together and create your own Flows; the possibilities are endless. At the moment I’m working with a trainee who it coming back to run a half marathon after a big knee issue. Last week we played with the Forward Traveling Beast to increase his core activation while improving his arm-leg sync, which is beneficial to avoid energy waste while running.
Animal Flow can be used for stretching, warm up, cool down but when used in a very dynamic training (HIIT, plyometric), study shows that exercises using both upper and lower limbs require more energy expenditure and therefore burn more calories than training techniques using one or the other.
If you are curious about trying it or want to know how it could benefit you, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where the nearest class (group and one-on-one) takes place.