Isn’t it funny how we’re so focused on improving our bodies so we can have all this fun and do all these activities, yet we don’t actually know how to use our own bodies that well? When Mike Fitch, creator of the bodyweight system of a movement called Animal Flow, set out on his journey to help other people develop better relationships with their bodies, he did so at the ripe age of 19.
Like most, Mike dabbled in many different disciplines of fitness before finding his own unique expression. Some of you may not know this, but he even likes to bro out a little bit. I’m not exactly saying I saw him do a bicep curl once, but it’s been rumored he has touched a barbell before. But really, he has trained in multiple disciplines of fitness — kettlebells, Olympic weightlifting, and hypertrophy training — but he soon realized that while he was moving these external loads, he was losing his ability to move his own body efficiently. He then decided to go down the rabbit hole into bodyweight training, exploring arts such as break dancing, parkour, gymnastics, and hand balancing. From there he eventually developed Animal Flow.
What Is Animal Flow?
Animal Flow is a system dedicated entirely to bodyweight training and backed by scientific research. It utilizes your body in a ground-based, closed-chain environment, focusing on functional movements. Through this bodyweight education system, you’ll be empowered with the education for assessments, regressions, and progressions for each step of each movement in the Animal Flow system.
While it may seem silly or even rudimentary to do a bodyweight course in a world that champions fancy workout equipment, Animal Flow is far from basic. In fact, you will most likely be challenged physically, neurologically, and mentally in ways, you never have before. The movements may look beautiful and effortless, but you’ll quickly find they’re quite challenging and require a tremendous amount of strength, mobility, coordination, and agility.
How Is Animal Flow Useful?
How much time have you spent on your hands and knees since you graduated from crawling to walking? My guess is not much. Prior to being bi-pedal animals, we were quadrupedal animals first. This means our shoulders and our whole anterior chain (the muscles that make up the front of our body) were under considerably more tension than they are today in an open chain environment. This also means we’ve essentially forgotten what it’s like to travel and move on our hands and feet, leaving our anterior chain — more commonly known as our core — weaker than it was before.
While we’re not promoting you crawl everywhere from here on out, we are encouraging you to do it more often. Try this for me: Start on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under your feet and press down through your hands and toes to lift your knees just an inch off the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Now, shake it out and take a break. While this may not have been impossible, I am sure it was much, much harder than you expected.
Now try this. In that same four-point-of-contact position with a flat back that could balance a glass of water on it, lift your left foot off the ground just an inch. Put it down, now do the same with your right. Repeat the same with your left hand and then your right.
Did you have to change the orientation of your body to maintain your balance and keep from toppling over?
Here’s another challenge: try picking up your left hand and right foot at the same time. Repeat with the right hand and left foot. Consider how hard this was — and we haven’t even moved in space yet.
Once you start adding in switches and transitions of Animal Flow to other positions, you will soon realize how hard it is to control your own body performing relatively simple bodyweight tasks. I think it’s silly that I can squat 400 pounds and deadlift 500 pounds, yet I can’t sit in a deep bodyweight squat for more than 60 seconds without collapsing over because my ankle mobility is shitty. I’m also the type of person that likes to be good at a lot of things, but I don’t get to the point where I shut out everything else to get better at something. I love that I’ve had various different chapters of fitness in my life, and I love even more now being able to combine them into one style of training that is unique to my experiences. My goal has always been to collect tools for my tool chest so that I can add the most value to anyone’s life that I happen to encounter.
If you’re skeptical of this, I totally get it. My first lens of fitness was powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and Strongman competitions. I was all about progressive overload, mechanical stress, and periodized programming. The thought of a bodyweight movement that looked like a breakdance would have seemed weird to me too. But as I have grown in my career, I now look through a more holistic lens that doesn’t have dogma towards any particular style of training. Everything has its place and its positives and negatives. I have come to the point in my career that I want people to find something that resonates with them, and do it because they enjoy it and it excites them. If that’s ground-based bodyweight training or geared powerlifting, it doesn’t matter. Just do something with your body that you enjoy.
What Is the Animal Flow Workshop Like?
As someone who has attended a continuing education seminar, workshop or conference at a minimum of once a month for the last four years, I must say that Mike Fitch is one of the best presenters on the planet. His ability to help coach a room full of people of whom the majority don’t have the mobility requirements necessary to make Animal Flow effortless — and make them successful — at his course is impressive. He is precise and diligent with his words, yet his personality and passion still shine brightly through. While he doesn’t make you feel like you’re sitting in an anatomy and physiology class, he does deliver a message for both the everyday enthusiast understands and the coach who is looking for evidence-based research to validate his education.
You’ll go through the basic, fundamental movements in Animal Flow, such as Traveling Ape, Beast Wave Unload, and Side Kick Through, with Mike guiding you through each of them. By the time you get through the library of extensive material, as well as some guided flows by Mike, you might feel as though your brain is going to explode. And your hips will really be feeling it. In the end, you’ll get together with a small group and come up with your own Animal Flow.
The Final Word
Even if you don’t enjoy bodyweight training or see yourself making it a big component of your programming, I would still encourage you to attend this course. Doing something different from what you normally see value in can provide great perspective to a bigger picture.
I can’t say enough great things about the experience you will receive from attending an Animal Flow workshop or experience, but what’s even better is their community of coaches. It’s one of the best out there.. It’s a place you can go for collaboration, networking, homework, coaching, accountability, and friendship. I have been a part of the Animal Flow Community since 2015 when I attended my first Level 1 Workshop. So in addition to getting top-of-the-line education, you will join a community of coaches that spans a wide number of countries across the world.