The Animal Flow Workout: Is It Worth Trying?

Maybe you’ve seen some cool Animal Flow Workout videos on YouTube or Instagram and you wanted to learn more. Or perhaps you saw them and thought, “There’s no way I could ever do that!”

Whatever your initial thoughts were about Animal Flow, the fact that you’re reading this now tells me that you were intrigued, and let me just say, I LOVE THAT ABOUT YOU!

I’ve been practicing Animal Flow for over a decade and using it with my clients for years, so I’m the perfect person to help you decide if it’s worth giving it a shot. If you’re looking for a unique and fun way to make movement a habit in your life, then you should definitely consider giving Animal Flow a try.

Let’s dive in!

A class of flowists performing an Ape Reach

What is Animal Flow?

Animal Flow (AF) is a ground-based movement practice that combines elements of breakdancing, gymnastics, hand balancing, and animal movement patterns to create a workout that is like nothing you’ve experienced before.

Many people see Animal Flow and think it looks like yoga. While there are some components that can resemble Yoga, they aren’t really that similar at all. I like to say that AF is Yoga’s super-energetic younger cousin who can’t stay on their mat!

The Animal Flow Workout is a dynamic and exciting alternative to traditional workouts that breaks you out of the repetitive slog of sets, reps, and isolated movement patterns and thrusts you into a world full of exploration, challenge, and most importantly, FUN!

Animal Flow completely changed the way I look at exercise and I think it could do the same for you. Now let’s dive a little deeper.

Animal Flow Instructor teaching Side Kickthrough

The History Of Animal Flow

Mike Fitch created Animal Flow in Miami, FL around 2010. After years of lifting weights and building muscle mass, Mike realized he couldn’t move all that well and he didn’t feel as good as he should as a fit 30-year-old.

That’s when he decided to drop the weights and focus solely on bodyweight disciplines. He started taking gymnastics classes and getting into Parkour, breakdancing, and hand balancing. It was exciting being a total beginner and “sucking” at all of these new things.

As he got deeper into these practices he started to realize there was some overlap between all of these disciplines. They all incorporated animal-type movements and the idea of flow. It was then that Mike started to create a system of learning and performing these movements that would be accessible to anyone so that more people could benefit from them.

Thus, Animal Flow was born!

The first class was in Miami in 2010, they released a workout DVD in 2011, and since then Mike and his business partner, Karen, have taken the practice all over the world. They’ve certified thousands of instructors and created a global community of movers who stay connected in person and over social media.

The AF community is truly an amazing thing to be a part of and I’m so lucky that I stumbled across an Animal Flow video on Pinterest in early 2012. Now, let’s dive deeper into the practice.

The ABCs of Animal Flow

ABC stands for Ape, Beast, and Crab. These are the base positions of Animal Flow and most flows start and end in one of these positions. When you start learning the system, you start by learning Ape, Crab, and the Beast position, and then you learn how to travel in these positions.

When I use AF with my training clients I always start by teaching them how to do Beast. Just holding this position, which would be called Beast Activation, is quite difficult and a very good place to start. It’s similar to a bear crawl position that you’ve maybe seen or done before.

Mike Fitch in the Beast Position
Mike Fitch in Static Beast pose

The Components Of Animal Flow

AF focuses on six components to create a well-rounded system of movement. You can think of these components as the ingredients of Animal Flow. Each one of these components can be used individually or combined together in a variety of ways to accomplish different goals.

Here are the 6 components.

Wrist Mobilizations

Animal Flow workouts should always start with wrist mobilizations. Flowists spend a lot of time on their hands, so it’s important to warm up and prepare the wrists for the demands that we put on them.

The movements are meant to warm up and stretch the wrists. These are not only great for AF, but anyone can perform wrist mobilizations to create stronger and healthier wrists

Animal Flow wrist mobilizations

Activations

When you perform activations it doesn’t look like you’re doing much, but when you’re in it, they’re actually really tough. They’re used to “wake up” the body to prepare for the rest of the workout.

They are performed in the beast and crab positions and it helps your body to start communicating with itself in preparation for the challenges you’re going to throw at it later.

Form Specific Stretches

The Form Specific Stretches take the base positions of AF and start expanding upon them by bringing more motion into the positions. They encourage fluidity, flexibility, and stability and can be used on their own or incorporated into flows.

They have names like Beast Reach, Scorpion Reach, Ape Reach, Crab Reach, and Wave Unload. Form Specific Stretches are one of my favorite and most used elements in my AF practice.

AF Instructors in a Beast Reach

Traveling Forms

For the traveling forms, we take the ABCs – Ape, Beast, and Crab – and add locomotion to them. This is the part of AF that most closely resembles the movement of other animals.

By mimicking other animals we’re able to build flexibility, stability, coordination, and strength to improve the function of our own bodies.

That’s the main goal of Animal Flow. It’s not just about acting like other animals, it’s about using their movements, and movements like theirs, to improve the overall function of the human animal.

Switches and Transitions

These movements are where Animal Flow really starts to get fun. They are dynamic transitions that can be used to connect different movements into flows. They can also be used on their own as drills to build strength, speed, and coordination.

They’ve got names like Side Kickthrough, Front Kickthrough, and Full Scorpion. The switches and transitions are what make AF look like break dancing.

AF Instructor in a Side Kickthrough

Flows

We then take the switches and transitions, along with the other components, and combine them with each other to create flows. These flows can be choreographed ahead of time, they can be improvised, or they can be called out movement by movement.

Flows can range from beginner to advanced and everything in between and beyond. They can look really difficult, but they don’t have to be.

The flow aspect of Animal Flow is what attracted me to it from the beginning. I grew up dancing and that was my main form of exercise. Flowing is the closest to dance that a workout has ever gotten me.

Flows are challenging, but so rewarding, and flowing with a group of people is a feeling you don’t get in most other workouts.

The Benefits Of Animal Flow

AF challenges the body in so many different ways. It’s very different from traditional gym workouts that don’t have you move much at all. When you compare a squat press to a flow workout, they couldn’t be more different.

The ground-based movements that make up the Animal Flow system benefit you in a number of ways. Let’s take a look at some.

Three flowists in a loaded beast position

Mobility

Animal Flow is great for increasing hip, shoulder, and total-body mobility. The emphasis on multiplanar, functional movements moves the body through ranges that you just don’t find in other disciplines.

Power

Many of the switches and transitions are explosive, like the Front Kickthrough. The tempo changes and force required to complete these movements help to increase overall power.

Coordination

By requiring coordination between the upper and lower body, as well as balance and body control, AF helps to develop and improve overall body coordination. One of the best things about Animal Flow is that you can’t space out. Your mind is in the workout as much as your body and this helps to improve coordination over time.

Flexibility

Animal Flow requires you to challenge your body in ranges of motion that you’re probably not used to. This helps to improve total-body flexibility.

Strength

The explosiveness and stability that AF requires help to increase strength. There are times when you’ve got your entire body weight on your arms. This is not easy and, combined with movements that engage multiple muscle groups, this helps to build full-body strength.

Endurance

Flows can be as long as you want them to be and they use your entire body which can be very tiring. Flowing can get your heart rate up pretty fast, pretty quickly and if you can sustain that intensity for longer periods your endurance will respond accordingly.

A group of flowists flowing together

Who Is Animal Flow For

They like to say that Animal Flow is for everybody and EVERY body. It might look too hard when you see someone performing an advanced flow, but you have to remember that those flows are a combination of individual movements and those individual movements can be performed on their own.

Many of the individual movements can be performed by practically anyone. I’ve had clients in their seventies with multiple body issues perform some of these movements.

One of my proudest moments as a trainer was when one of my 70-something clients told me that he used an Underswitch to get out of a difficult position when he was doing some home repairs. It made my year!

How To Start Practicing Animal Flow

There are many ways you can start your AF journey. The first thing you can do is try this beginner flow workout for free on YouTube. Mike Fitch will take you through a complete, 27-minute beginner class which will give you a good introduction to what it’s like to build a flow.

A screenshot of a complete Animal Flow Workout

You can use their Instructor Directory to find classes, an instructor near you, or someone you can work with online.

You can check Facebook to see if there are any flow groups in your city and get connected that way.

The best way to start, in my opinion, is with their On Demand channel. For a very reasonable subscription fee, you can stream tutorials, flows, and full classes on the device of your choosing.

Screen Shot of the On Demand Channel

AF On Demand is truly remarkable as far as online fitness platforms go. They have detailed tutorials for every movement and classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced flowists.

Note

One of my favorite AF On Demand features is the Flow of the Week. Every week there is a new flow broken down by Mike or one of the Master Instructors. It’s fun to work on that flow all week and see how you can improve it over 7 days. After that, there’s a new flow ready and waiting.

Should You Try Animal Flow?

That’s the main question you clicked on this article to answer. If it hasn’t become crystal clear at this point, my answer is a very loud and very excited YES!

The Animal Flow Workout will change the way you look at movement and fitness. It did for me. So much so that I’ve gotten emotional a few times while writing this article.

I move better, I feel better, I finally enjoy exercise, and I’ve met people from all over the world because of this movement practice.

Animal Flow Instructors In a Front Step

We could rehash all of the reasons that I listed above that prove how beneficial it could be for you, but I think the best reason is that it’s fun. IT’S SO MUCH FUN! And in a world where most people view working out as a chore and something they don’t want to do, the fact that it’s fun is the most important thing in my humble opinion.

With that said, I’m going to go get my flow on. You should join me!

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