Animal Flow for Fighters

April 14, 2017 | Author: tdlsu777 | Category: N/A
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Animal Flow for Fighters: Train Like a Beast By Mike Fitch, Creator of Animal Flow with chapters by the original team of Animal Flow Master Instructors: Kathy Donatto Chris Flores Clifton Harski Richard Scrivener Edited by Karen Mahar Published by Global Bodyweight Training, LLC October 2014 Miami, Florida Professional Photography provided by: Cover photo by Philip Haynes Interior photos by Karen Mahar and Interior photos by Ricardo Ramirez Copyright © 2014 by Global Bodyweight Training, LLC All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the expressed written permission from Global Bodyweight Training. Please don’t steal or distribute our work without asking permission. We worked really hard on it. Also, piracy and copyright infringement isn’t nice or legal. More cool resources about Animal Flow and bodyweight training:

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DISCLAIMERS By undertaking any of activities in this book, you acknowledge that you have read and understand the following: 

Inherent Risk: The activities in this book may be dangerous if performed incorrectly or if you are not in sufficient medical or physical condition to perform them. You should know, understand, and appreciate the inherent risks of participating in exercise. Exercise requires physical exertion, which may involve strenuous and/or sustained movement, which can severely tax the cardiovascular, muscular, and joint systems and/or may cause physical injury. Additional risks range from minor scrapes, pulled muscles, strains, sprains, joint injuries, and bruises to significant injuries such as broken bones, eye injury or loss, concussions, paralysis, serious neck and spinal injuries, brain damage, and even death. You take full responsibility for your own safety and should know your own limits.

Medical Guidelines: You should consult with your physician before beginning this or any exercise program. In particular, you must discuss this program with your physician if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity or any of the movements described in this book. You should also consult a physician prior to starting any exercise program if you have been sedentary, have high blood pressure or other medical conditions, and/or if you are overweight. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out if you have a medical condition or are overweight ‐ indeed it may be particularly important and beneficial for you – but your specific situation needs to be discussed with a medical professional to make sure exercise is appropriate for you and to determine whether you have any limitations.) If you experience any lightheadedness, dizziness, or continued shortness of breath while exercising, stop the movement and consult a physician.

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  Limitations of Information: The information contained in this book is provided for educational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice. None of the authors are physicians or medical professionals! If you desire medication or nutrition advice, consult a physician. Additionally, this information is meant to supplement a comprehensive physical fitness training program. We recommend you work with a fitness professional in designing or changing any of your fitness routines.

Your Abilities: Stay within your own capacity, experience, and skill and fitness level when using the information in this book (or with any exercise program.) Make sure any equipment you use is well‐maintained. Don’t perform any exercise without instruction,. Know your body and STOP when necessary. Don’t push yourself if you are fatigued or injured. And, as you’ll hear us say in all of our material, STOP if your form is starting to break down! You can get hurt, and it doesn’t help you to train faulty patterns anyway.

Short Version:     

Listen to your doctor Know your limits Don’t do anything stupid! You can get hurt or die if you aren’t careful. All the risk and responsibility is on you!

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INTROS Disclaimers


Table of Contents





How to Use this Book CHAPTERS Chapter 1

Intro to Animal Flow

Mike Fitch


Chapter 2

Animal Flow Basics

Mike Fitch


Chapter 3

Strength and Conditioning

Richard Scrivener


Chapter 4

Aerobic and Anaerobic Conditioning

Kathy Donatto


Chapter 5

Accessory Training Clifton Harski (Swinging & Brachiation)


Chapter 6

Movement Prep and Injury Prevention

Chris Flores


APPENDICES Appendix A References


Appendix B Meet the Authors


Appendix C Additional Resources


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Welcome to Animal Flow® for Fighters! If you are new to Animal Flow, then I’m glad that you’re going to give it a try! And if you already practice Animal Flow, I’m sure you’ll get something new from our take on applying it to MMA training. Animal Flow® was born out of my own journey exploring the many disciplines that fall under the “bodyweight training” umbrella. At age 30, after years of training with all kinds of weights and fitness modalities, I decided to make a major change. While I would have been considered to be incredibly fit by most people’s standards, the truth was my joints ached, I was constantly compensating for new pains, and my body just didn’t move like I wanted it to. So I put down the dumbbells and entered the world of bodyweight training. I haven’t touched a weight since, and I love what it has done for my body and the way I feel. I explored a wide range of bodyweight disciplines, including gymnastics, parkour, hand‐ balancing, circus arts, strength training, and even break dancing (humbling!) . As I studied each sub‐discipline, I was struck by how each has its own variations and “rules”, yet all come back to the same foundations: using movement, leverage, and gravity. I was also struck by the power and stability I saw in quadrapedul movement. I was reminded of how important crawling as children is in our development. I thought a lot about movement. And then I put all these awesome elements together into an integrated program.. I encourage you to think of Animal Flow® as a practice, rather than as merely a workout. Much like a martial art, it is a discipline that requires perfect practice to achieve perfect results. Even once you feel like you have a solid grasp on the basics, you will always benefit from going back and repeating them, with the goal of performing them as fluidly and efficiently as possible. Let’s get started!

Mike Fitch, Creator of Animal Flow Page 5 of 88   



HOW TO USE THIS BOOK The chapters in this book are written by our Animal Flow Master Instructors, with each focusing on their particular area of expertise. 

In the first two chapters we’ll cover some basics about Animal Flow.

In the next three chapters we’ll talk about three different types of training, starting with an overview of how it ties in to MMA specifically, and then offering some exercises, drills, and workouts using Animal Flow to integrate into your training. Those chapters are broken into: Strength and Conditioning Aerobic and Anaerobic Training Accessory Training (Climbing and Brachiatrion – aka swings)

And in the last chapter we’ll talk about the all‐important movement preparation and injury prevention!

Note that the specific exercises and workouts are at the end of each chapter. I think you’ll find a lot of valuable information in each chapter and definitely recommend that you read through them all. However, each one can stand on its own in contributing to your fitness routine. If you are reading this book, chances are you are already engaged in some type of fitness training, in particularly something focusing on skills‐specific training. The workouts in here are not meant to replace that. Rather, these are supplements to your training. You can use some or all of them according to your own need.

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What this book will do: 

Introduce you to the philosophy and science behind Animal Flow

Provide basic instructions for many of the Animal Flow exercises and forms that you can incorporate into your training

Provide sample workouts for incorporating Animal Flow moves into your existing training routines

Explore the importance of strength training within an MMA training routine, and provide examples of how Animal Flow moves fit into this structure (Chapter 3)

Explain both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, including how to use Animal Flow drills to train for both (Chapter 4)

Discuss the benefits of climbing and brachiation (swinging) for MMA training (and fitness training in general), with detailed instructions on exercises and drills to use. (Chapter 5)

Talk about Injury Prevention for MMA athlete and provide examples of excellent preparation exercises from Animal Flow (Chapter 6)

What this book will NOT do: 

This book won’t teach you how to design Flows. You’ll be learning the elements that go into a Flow, but the details of understanding how to put them together into the fluid flows would take much more space than we have here! Try the full Animal Flow Workout video if you’d like to get started on flows.

You won’t be certified to teach Animal Flow to others. We cover enough that you’ll be able to start using the moves in your own practice, but learning to effectively coach others requires much information about assessments, corrections, regressions and progressions. To become a Certified Animal Flow Coach, check out one of our workshops! More Info: Page 7 of 88 


Chapter 1    Introduction to Animal Flow    INTRODUCTION TO ANIMAL FLOW Animal Flow® was created by fusing elements of multiple bodyweight training disciplines, along with exercises that actually mimic the movements of animals. The resulting workout incorporates quadrupedal and ground‐based exercises in multi‐planar, fluid movements. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all levels can realize significant benefits from the practice, including increased mobility, flexibility, stability, power, endurance, skill and neuromuscular communication. Easily tailored to individuals of all fitness levels, Animal Flow is an incredibly versatile workout that makes a great addition to any trainer’s arsenal of fitness tools. It can be utilized as a stand‐alone workout or as a group class format, and can be integrated into existing fitness routines by utilizing various components for dynamic warm‐ups, interval training, circuit training, and skills building. And I definitely believe it should be a key component of any MMA training routine! WHAT IS ANIMAL FLOW? Fusing Bodyweight Disciplines A lot of people ask “What is Animal Flow® based on?” The answer is that is draws upon multiple bodyweight training disciplines. You may recognize hand balancing in the static frogs; break dancing in the crocodile rolls; gymnastics in the rolling patterns; parkour training in the traveling apes; yoga like movements in the scorpion reaches, the list goes on. Of course, animal movements (along with many of the other bodyweight training disciplines) have been used for thousands of years to improve health and vitality. So, I by no means take credit for creating animal movement exercise, and I recognize the valuable contributions from other practitioners who have developed programs.

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Chapter 1    Introduction to Animal Flow    Martial artists, gymnasts, traceurs, b‐boys, yogis – bodyweight athletes from all kinds of backgrounds all recognize part of their own training in Animal Flow® movements. Additionally, the “flow” component, where the moves are linked together in continuous flows of energy. What makes Animal Flow® unique is the way in which these elements are synthesized in a new way. The program that we’ve come up with at Global Bodyweight Training presents our own take on the age‐old practice. You’ll find that it certainly shares a basis with other movement‐based programs, but that the technical details vary on the execution of the moves, and that many of our specific exercises are unique. We also take a different approach to teaching the format in a systematic, progressive way. THE DESIGN OF ANIMAL FLOW The Animal Flow® workout certainly evokes a sense of fun and creativity, but it is still at its heart based solidly in science. It draws upon multiple, proven concepts within exercise science and kinesiology to formulate its overall approach to fitness and movement in general. The program is structured around several factors that contribute to its grounding in scientific research: 

It is entirely bodyweight training based, using closed‐chain exercises to achieve goals. Closed‐chain exercises can lead to greater motor unit activation and synchronization (NASM), and controlled studies have documented enhanced performance when utilizing closed‐chain form of weight training compared to open‐ chain (Augustsson et al 1998; Brindle 2006). The biomechanics of closed‐chain exercises mean that multiple joints and multiple muscle groups are worked at once, making them a “functional” form of exercise likely to produce superior results.

It emphasizes multi‐planar and functional movement focused on anatomical chains and slings. Multi‐planar aspects can produce greater kinesthetic awareness (NASM 2012) and are functional in nature.. More functional, dynamic exercises are recommended over static exercises, such as planks (Shinkle et al). Going even farther, triplanar movement, which incorporates all three of the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes of motion, is considered a particularly progressive form of fitness Page 9 of 88 


Chapter 1    Introduction to Animal Flow    training (Quelch 2007). Multi‐planar, functional exercise attempts to reproduce the movements that the kinetic chain undergoes during normal activities of daily life and sport. 

The exercise techniques and body positions utilized in Animal Flow® are designed to evoke specific biomechanical and neuromuscular results. Everything from the starting body position (ie. Beast Position, or Four Pillar Stance), to the movement/landing techniques, to the regressions and progressions is based upon scientific principles: See Chapter 3 for more details and citations

Quadrupel movement, where all four limbs are connected to the ground, is beneficial. Lee Burton and Gray Cook (2012), developers of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), emphasize the importance of what they call “primitive movement patterns,” (i.e. rolling, pushing, quadruped, and crawling) in providing a strong foundation for developing effective functional movement.

Finally, one cannot overlook one incredibly important scientific fact: individuals are more likely to continue exercising when it is fun. We’ve definitely got that one down!

Animal Flow is also easy to work with as a program, because it is designed to integrate into a range of fitness program designs and resistance training models. You don’t need to change your entire program to embrace Animal Flow ‐ you decide where and how it fits in!

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Chapter 1    Introduction to Animal Flow    BENEFITS OF ANIMAL FLOW One of the most important aspects of Animal Flow® is that with so many movements and combinations, it can be altered to achieve specific results. It can be utilized in a multitude of ways tailored to your own needs and training style. One of the themes you’ll find running throughout this book is how Animal Flow can specifically increase and/or improve your:       

Mobility Flexibility Stability Power Endurance Skills Neuromuscular development

(We’ll go into all of these in more details in the chapters!)

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Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 


THE SIX COMPONENTS OF ANIMAL FLOW Animal Flow includes a wide range of exercises and movement combinations that are grouped into Six Components. You can use one, some, or all of them in your workouts! Following is a brief overview of each of the Six Components, which you will see referenced in the following chapters. We include some basic instructions with photos of example exercises within each component. When these moves are used in training programs or drills within the chapters, you will also find links to videos with examples of someone performing a couple reps. 1


Wrist Mobilizations include a range of simple exercises designed to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrists, which is particularly important for any practice where you are spending a lot of time on your hands. The basics of wrist health with the Animal Flow practice is really about ADAPTATION. Just like with anything, our bodies are designed to adapt to any consistent challenge. We can help the adaptation process by being diligent with wrist mobilizations before, during and after your AF practice. I can speak from experience that even now, if I don’t dedicate specific time for wrist mobs as prep, active rest and cool down, that I’ll start to feel some issues creep up. Once you start that inflammation cycle, it’s very tough to continue your training. A couple of minutes of prevention sure beats having to take a week or two off to heal.

WHERE you’ll find them in this book: 

These are part of Injury Prevention (Chapter 6), although we only go into detail in the section below.

But we still recommend doing them before, during and after any workout. 

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Wrist Mobility Stretches

In this YouTube video, I provide detailed instructions for each of the Wrist Mobility variations listed below.  

Variations  Wrist Rolls  Wrist Waves   

Lateral Wrist Stretch Sagital Shaka Transverse Shaka

Wrist Relief Position The “wrist relief” position should be your Go‐To position for relief between Animal Flow movements. Whether you are performing Animal Flow or any practice where you are on your hands, this stretch will help relieve and prevent discomfort. We made it the largest picture in this section because it’s REALLY important!

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Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 




The activations are all about “setting the system”. They can be used to gather information or assess the body’s ability to stabilize. Not only are they great assessment tools, but also can be used as part of a corrective exercise strategy. You’ll notice the activations are intimately linked with the chains and slings that make movement possible. Of particular importance is how the Static Beast and Static Crab activations absolutely complement each other. While the Static Beast focuses more on flexion chain and anterior oblique sling, the Static Crab focuses more on the posterior chain and posterior oblique slings. These are both incredible sources of power for MMA athletes. Activations are also a go‐to tool for, shoulder, spine and hip stabilization, pre/post rehab, active rest, or even as antagonistic movement to a resisted push or pull (static beast with a resisted pull or static crab with a resisted push). WHERE you’ll find them in this book:

Chapter 6 – Movement Prep & Injury Prevention



Kneel on all fours, placing hands shoulder width apart, and knees and feet hip width apart. Then “Activate Your Beast:” Keeping the elbows fully extended and the core active, lift the knees one inch off of the ground and hold. An opposite limb lift (contralateral) is an intense progression. Keeping both elbows completely straight, lift one hand and the opposite foot, just high enough to slide a piece of paper. Minimize any additional movement, like shifting or rotating in order to maintain balance. Page 14 of 88   

Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 




Form Specific Stretches are used in Animal Flow in multiple ways. Think of them as full body movements that explore your body’s available ranges of motion. This would include flexion, followed by extension, or internal rotation followed by external rotation. The Form Specific Stretches are linked back to our Animal foundations. Each movement starts in one of the Animal forms. These stretches or “reaches”, should be perform slowly and with control. The end points can be held for greater time in order to make it more of a static, or moved in and out of as an active/dynamic. The way that you program them is up to you. Holding any one of these reaches as an isometric is great for postural distortion or balancing the joints. If dynamic flexibility or conditioning is your goal, they could be performed for multiple reps.

WHERE you’ll find them in this book:

Chapter 3 – Strength & Conditioning

Chapter 6 – Injury Prevention

APE REACH From a squatting position (“Deep Ape”) with knees open, you alternate stretching your arms out wide facing up and then back together again. It’s a great mobilization (active stretch through full range of motion) for the shoulder girdle, and the entire spine and hips. It feels fantastic if you’ve been hunched over a keyboard all day.


Push your hips back towards your heels as you press your hands down the ground. Drop the head between the arms. Bring your weight as far forward as you can, while bringing one knee past the outside of your elbow. The back leg should be extended. Page 15 of 88   

Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 



Begin kneeling on the ground with heels underneath the hips and hands forward with head between arms. Push down with the arms, lifting knees an inch above ground. Shift hips forward. Push the body forward until the shoulders travel in front of wrists, untuck chin and look up.

CRAB REACH The Crab Reach is both a great stretch and an exercise that opens up all of the muscles in the front of the body, while activating (or flexing) all of the muscles in the back of the body . Start in a crab position with your fingers pointing away from the body and your hips an inch above ground. Reach on arm up and over towards the ground as you push the hips as high as you can. Look towards the ground and keep the upper arm is completely relaxed, framing the head.

SCORPION REACH Start by bringing one bent knee passed the opposite wrist, the back leg should be slightly bent. Lead the heel in a circular motion outside of the body and up towards the sky. Continue to rotate through the spine as you push your body away from the ground with your arms. Keep head between arms.

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The ABC’s of Traveling Forms: Traveling forms are incredible for full body conditioning, warm up and active rest. These exercises mimic the movements of animals, starting with Ape, Beast and Crab (ie the ABCs). The traveling forms are essentially how we move like animals to improve the function of the human animal. They can be used as opposing patterns to make sure that the exerciser is working in more than one plane of motion or direction. This helps create more of a balanced program and cuts down on the potential of injury that could be brought on by pattern overload. Traveling forms are also great for coordinating the communication between the shoulders and hips. The more efficient the body can communicate, the better it will move over all.

WHERE you’ll find them in this book:

Chapter 3 – Strength & Conditioning

Chapter 4 – Aerobic and Anaerobic Training

LATERAL TRAVELING APE Lateral Traveling Apes introduce a “hand balancing” component to exercise, since you must balance as you transition from one rep to the next. Start in a deep Ape position. Reach across the body with back hand landing in front of the front foot (left foot if traveling left). Press down into the ground as you raise your hips and swing your legs laterally, pulling knees toward chest. Kick out the lead leg and allow the trailing leg to land first, transfer low.

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FORWARD / REVERSE TRAVELING BEAST The Forward Traveling Beast is a crawling movement, with all four limbs on the ground and knees just a few inches above the ground. This full body movement looks simple but really challenges the upper body, trunk and legs. Start in beast position, and step forward left foot & right arm (contra lateral). The stride should be equal distance with leg and arm, with trunk tight and knees and inch above ground.

FORWARD / REVERSE TRAVELING CRAB The Forward Traveling Crab is the complementary movement to the Traveling Beast and challenges the exact opposite muscles used by the Beast. Start with the fingers pointing away from the body with hips an inch above the ground, equal distance from hands as they are to the feet. Step forward with the right foot and left arm (contra lateral). The transfer from one side to the other should be slow and controlled .    

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Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 




We use the terms Switches & Transitions interchangeably. While they have multiple uses, their primary function is to perform the movements one after the other, comprising the “flow” in Animal Flow. The goal is to create a flow with a seamless transfer from one move to the next, usually at a slow to moderate speed, allowing for perfect fluidity. These Switches and Transitions could also stand alone as drills.

WHERE you’ll find them in this book:

Chapter 3 – Strength & Conditioning

Chapter 4 – Aerobic and Anaerobic Training

SCORPION SWITCH The Scorpion Switch is a combination of the underswitch and scorpion reach . Start in a Crab position and begin to perform an Underswitch by raising opposing limbs and rotating the body around the traveling leg. The leg will continue upward, into a scorpion position. The spine will continue to rotate until the leg pulls the same side arm off of the ground. The traveling leg will land in a bent knee position while the opposing leg is straight. Draw leg back in to reset the crab.  

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Chapter 2    Animal Flow Basics 



Just as the name implies, the traveling leg will always be moving UNDERNEATH the body. Begin in either the Static Crab or Static Beast position. (In the pictures we are starting in a Static Beast.) To perform a Left Leg Underswitch, simultaneously lift the left leg and right arm. As they both pull in towards the body, begin to rotate. Drop the heel in order to stop the rotation and set yourself in the crab position. Once stable, the traveling arm and leg can come down to connect with the ground. If starting from Crab position, lift the hand and opposite foot. Then lift the base heel to begin the rotation. As you approach the Beast position, drop the traveling hand and foot simultaneously.

Variation: Jumping Underswitch With the jumping version, you are going from crab all the way around to crab again. You begin by jumping off of the ground, and then using your momentum to float your arm over the body while pulling your legs under the body. The floating momentum arm lands just before the opposite leg plants. Continue to rotate until you’re back in a crab position and simultaneously drop the arm and leg back to the ground. It’s a great full body movement requiring a lot of control.

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Similar to the Underswitch, the Side Kickthrough is a killer rotary exercise. Begin in the Static Beast position. To perform a Right Leg Side Kickthrough, simultaneously lift the right leg and left arm. The right leg travels underneath the body (just like an Underswitch). However, when the toes line up with the direction we are kicking towards, you’ll drop the base heel to stop the rotation and kick the leg. As the leg extends, the opposite elbow will pull the other direction. The kick leg should be extended at the knee, toes pointed and leg externally rotated from the hip. Reverse the movement to get back to Static Beast. The full extension of the leg is graceful and powerful at the same time. It is an intense cardiovascular exercise with the entire body working together, and can be made even more challenging by treating it as an explosive movement and/or varying the speed.

Variation: JUMPING SIDE KICKTHROUGH With the jumping version, you are going from one side to the other. Start in a Side Kickthrough position with the kicking leg fully extended about an inch above the ground, and opposite heel flat on the ground. Forcefully pull the kicking leg back under the body as you pull the hips up and transfer with the legs tucked under the body. Land with the previous kicking leg as you shoot the new kicking leg through into your new Side Kickthrough position.

Variation: LEVITATING SIDE KICKTHROUGH With the levitating version, you want to get your hips stacked over the shoulders during the transfer from side to the other. Hold it as long as possible. The goal here is control.

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FRONT KICKTHROUGHS The Front Kickthrough is a versatile exercise that really challenges the abdominals and inner thighs. You begin with all four limbs on the ground in the loaded beast position, and spring forward, landing one foot ground while shooting the kicking leg all the way through. The full extension of the leg is graceful and powerful at the same time. You then forcefully bring the extended leg back under the body, using your momentum arm to swing yourself back into loaded beast position. It is an intense cardiovascular exercise with the entire body working together, and can be made even more challenging by treating it as an explosive movement and/or varying the speed.

FRONT STEP (Front Kickthrough Regression)

Begin in a Loaded Beast position. To perform a Left Leg Front Step, drive out of the legs, pulling the ground underneath with the upper body. Quickly lift the left hand so the left foot can land. It’s important to land with the foot either in front of where the hand was, or directly to the side of where the hand was. The elbow will be outside of the stepping leg, with the hand by the face. Then drive the hand down to the ground while simultaneously moving the foot out of the way and back to the Loaded Beast position.

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The Flows are a combination of the entire program. The various moves are linked together in a fluid sequence. Flows can be used as choreographed sequences that the client may practice over multiple sessions or even weeks; or performed as “call outs” where somebody calls out a routine that is completely random to the mover, requiring excellent focus and reaction time. In this book we don’t get too much into flows, as we focus more on the individual components that you can easily learn and incorporate into your existing training routines. Learning how to create your own flows is a next step that is beyond the scope of this ebook. That doesn’t mean that Flows wouldn’t be an incredible addition to your training. If you are interested in taking it to the next level and getting some flows going, we recommend you try out the Animal Flow Workout video, sign up for some lessons with a Certified Animal Flow Coach, or even enrol in one of our Certification Workshops if you want to get deeper and learn how to coach it! More info on the video and workshops here:

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Chapter 3    Strength and Conditioning for MMA   

Strength and Conditioning for MMA About the Author: Richard Scrivener, our London‐based Master Instructor, loves studying fitness and nutrition so much that you might call him a bit of a “fitness science geek.” His degrees include an MSc in High Performance Physiology and a Sports Science degree, and he still never stops reading and learning. Here he combines all that knowledge with his 15 years’ experience in health and fitness to teach us something about strength, movement, and the science of becoming a great MMA fighter! The explosive popularity of MMA in recent years has led to an enormous uptake of the combat sport amongst competitors of all levels. Clearly the technical, tactical and technique components from the array of martial art disciplines which contribute to an MMA fighters arsenal deserves and receives substantial coaching. However, the wealth of information now available on the importance of physical preparation for sports performance means that MMA competitors are now looking much more closely at what a well‐built strength and conditioning program can do for them, in addition to their regular coaching. These physical preparation programs compliment, support and enhance the existing technical combat training carried out with coaches. This chapter reviews the strength and conditioning needs of the mixed martial arts competitor and is broken up into three parts: Part 1:

Training MMA Movements not Muscles

Part 2:

Bio‐motor Abilities for MMA

Part 3:

Building an Effective MMA Strength and Fight Prep Plan

In this chapter, strength and conditioning refers to the resistance training component of the overall weekly/monthly training undertaken in a structured program. The energy system training (otherwise known as fitness training or conditioning) is another very important part of the MMA competitor’s physical preparation, discussed elsewhere in this book. Page 24 of 88   

Chapter 3    Strength and Conditioning for MMA   

PART 1: TRAINING MMA MOVEMENTS NOT MUSCLES Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a hybrid combat sport which integrates techniques such as striking, take‐downs, grappling and submission holds from a number of art forms including Kickboxing, Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, Judo and Brazilian Jujitsu, amongst many others. The very fact that MMA pulls from such a wide variety of disciplines suggests that a large repertoire of both offensive and defensive manoeuvres utilizing all the major movement patterns (and combinations of these) are likely to be seen in any given bout or tournament. The major movement patterns that are often discussed within training and strength and conditioning circles are:      

Push Pull Rotate Bend/hinge Squat One leg/lunge

(e.g. press/drive to escape) (e.g. pull into a clinch to load a trip) (e.g. O‐Goshi hip throw) (e.g. flying knee or bridge) (e.g. finishing the double leg take‐down) (e.g. push kick)

When it comes to making comparisons between traditional bodybuilding style training and movement pattern training; the relevance to the MMA fighter becomes obvious. He or she will never/rarely look at an opponent and say to themselves : “I'm going to use the left glute and right hip flexor, as well as the stabilizing muscles around my hip and knee, like my tensor fascia latae, to help deliver this kick to the lead leg of my opponent”. In the time taken to try and isolate the activation of those muscles, the fighter would no‐doubt be taken out; game over! Instead, consider the statement: “The body knows only movement, not muscles.” Throughout the years, training programs, even within some sports, have often typically been organized around a “body part approach” where the body is divided into its major muscle groups (chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms, core/abs) and trained accordingly. This Page 25 of 88   

Chapter 3    Strength and Conditioning for MMA   

arrangement has been an easy, understandable way to break up training to allow for good muscular development (or hypertrophy) because tension or stress from lifting weights is concentrated within the muscle/s to be trained—and has brought good results, especially when applied in a bodybuilding program. A lot of people swear by “More plates, More dates” and, of course, “No pecs, No sex.” But still, bulky muscles might put you up a weight category, but they aren’t going to do much for your speed and agility in your ‘around the world’ ground technique. For the MMA figher, this approach can be counter‐productive and disadvantageous for several reasons: 

The human body works to produce movement, and these movements are controlled by the Central Nervous System. The body makes every attempt to move in the most effective and efficient way, so as not to waste energy, and therefore uses muscles in concert to generate skilled movements

MMA (and life in general for that matter) demands that the body moves freely through space, not within the confines of a machine or some restricted range of motion.

The majority of joints in the body move in three directions or planes: 1. Sagittal plane: flexion/extension or forward and back 2. Frontal plane: lateral flexion, ab/adduction etc. or side to side 3. Transverse plane: internal and external rotation Most traditional hypertrophy or strength routines heavily favour the sagittal‐ plane in a training environment that promotes one‐dimensional movements. These factors can undermine the body’s ability to move effectively in any given direction, and, in many cases, may lead to joint dysfunction, energy wastage, pain and time out from training!

Once the importance of training movements (not muscles) is established and appreciated, an additional piece of the puzzle can be put into place by building upon the principles of multi‐directional movement training for MMA fighters.

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FASCIA So, we know that groups of muscles work intricately together; but what else aids and optimizes the many striking and grappling movements good fighters rely upon? Let’s talk about FASCIA! What exactly is fascia? Just for a second, visualize the film or wrap that you cover your food up with when it goes into the refrigerator; what happens when the two sides accidently touch? It can be an impossible task trying to pull this stuff apart when those two surfaces stick to each other! This wrap is also very similar in principle to fascia within the body. Fascia forms a whole‐body, continuous three‐dimensional matrix of structural support around our organs, muscles, joints, bones and nerves. This multidirectional, multidimensional fascial arrangement is also what allows us to move in multiple directions. As another example, imagine walking straight into a giant spider’s web which encases your whole body and clings perfectly to your shape; this is what fascia does. And be sure to hope that giant spider is on a holiday; the fact that fascia connects all regions of the body together will send those vibrations straight to our fury friend; lunch is on you! If you’re really interested in learning more about fascia, see Myer’s pioneering book Anatomy Trains (2001). The figures on the following page illustrate how this fascial web weaves around the body, connecting all limbs together:

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If you imagine this line to be an elastic band, to load/stretch/energise it, you would need to arc/reach backwards, pulling the ends apart


If you imagine this line to be an elastic band, to load/stretch/energise it, you would need to bend/hinge forward, pulling the ends apart

LATERAL LINE FASCIA If you imagine this line to be an elastic band, to load/stretch/energise it, you would need to arc/reach sideways, pulling the ends apart

SPIRAL LINE FASCIA If you imagine this line to be an elastic band, to load/stretch/energise it, you would need to rotate, pulling the ends apart

Anatomy illustrations courtesy of: © Chastity ‐ Fascial line illustrations by Mike Fitch and Ricardo Ramirez © Fascial lines information based on the work of Thomas Meyers (Anatomy Trains)

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And why should MMA fighters care about fascia? Fascia is incredibly important for health, movement, and athletic performance, and that means that MMA fighters and coaches should understand something about it. Some of the most important points for MMA athletes include: 

Stress Reduction: Fascia helps reduce stress in a particular muscle, joint or bone, by spreading forces across the body.

Energy Conservation: Fascia also helps to conserve energy, which would be important in a fight that went the distance. By stretching and loading (like an elastic band) it helps harness momentum created from movement, so rather than using energy wastefully, energy can in effect be recycled thanks to the elastic properties of fascia.

Communication and Reaction Time: Research suggests that connective tissue like fascia has a large proprioceptive input to the nervous system, i.e. it is sensitive and communicates! Indeed there may be up to 10 times more proprioceptors in fascia than in muscle (Stecco et al 2010). Proprioceptors effectively provide input to the CNS, which in turn provides information about what positions the joints are in, how fast the joints are moving, and how much stress or tension the joints are experiencing (which are of course all crucial pieces of information a fighter’s body will interpret). Therefore, the fascial matrix which covers the entire body helps us react to our environment faster than the conscious mind can respond and could mean the difference between being knocked out or slipping a punch and counter‐attacking.

So what we have learned is that ‘movement focused training’ is far more relevant and sports specific to the MMA fighter. Building a strength and conditioning resistance programs around this principle will ensure that the fighter will be far more physically prepared to go toe‐to‐toe against an opponent. The strength and conditioning program builds the raw materials of the athlete, which then underpins the development of skilful MMA specific movement.

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And what does this have to do with Animal Flow? As you shall see in Part 3 of this chapter, an MMA plan which focuses on the primary movement patterns integrates many training tools, and Animal Flow movements and forms can play a key role. At the heart of Animal Flow are the principles of whole‐body full range of motion training which requires simultaneous strength, control, fluidity and movement ‐ all creating heightened body awareness – and these will prove crucial for the MMA fighter’s physical preparation. PART 2: BIO‐MOTOR ABILITIES FOR MMA Bio‐motor abilities are the building blocks which contribute to the physical fitness of the MMA competitor. USA Track & Field (USATF) offers this definition: “abilities in the biological and motor domains that enable success in athletic performance.” In other words, they’re the specific components of fitness that, when put together, help you succeed in any sport. When put into a list, the bio‐motor abilities which make us fit for a purpose are: 

Mobility: The ability to attain the appropriate range of motion at the joints

Stability: The ability of the joint to stiffen when needed to provide a platform/foundation

Strength: The ability to produce force

Power and Speed: The ability to produce force as fast as possible and to move rapidly

Endurance: The ability to resist fatigue

Coordination: The ability to move the body without wasting energy in order to accomplish a task

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When developing an effective strength and conditioning programme for an MMA competitor, all the bio‐motor abilities must be trained to one degree or another, ideally within a progressive and well‐structured periodized plan. So let’s talk about why these are important, and how Animal Flow can help improve these abilities. (Note that while I just reference some Animal Flow moves here, they are described more in the last section of the chapter, including some video demonstrations.) MOBILITY: Quite simply, adequate mobility through joints which should possess the ability to move through a more extensive range of motion e.g. the hip and shoulder (vs. the knee or lumbar spine), prevents pain, dysfunction and injury. Adequate mobility also ensures that the MMA competitor has all of the technical skills they need available to them. For example, an inability to ‘open up the hips’ properly would make a round‐house kick less effective, as compensatory movements would likely have to occur from other joints within the body. It is now well recognized that joints within the kinetic chain (our skeleton) have either a mobility need/role or stability need/role. For example, if the hip (which has a mobility role) lacks the ability to extend, perhaps owing to weakness within the gluteals, then the lumbar spine extensors may compensate and take over in order to help the body achieve the desirable position‐ over time this can cause wear and tear‐ or worse‐case, injury! Within Animal Flow, however, Form‐Specific Stretches such as the Crab Reach make great contributions to full body mobility improvements. The Switches and Transitions will also do wonders for your mobility! STABILITY While optimal movement at a joint is important, that same joint also needs to have the right amount of stability. The shoulder joint makes for an excellent example Page 31 of 88   

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where maximizing the reach in punching provides an offensive advantage; if the shoulders lacked range of motion this would be potentially disadvantageous. In the same vein, if an opponent were to place you in a shoulder lock, high levels of muscular ‘co‐contraction’ (or stiffness) to provide stability/splinting for the joint would be crucial. As an additional example, Bounty et al. (2011) have previously discussed the importance of strong neck and shoulder musculature to stabilize and support the cervical spine (the very top vertebrae); specifically they discuss research which suggests that some wrestling moves within a fight deliver the equivalent forces to that experienced during whiplash injuries! The Travelling Forms within Animal Flow, such as Beast and Crab crawls/walks are incredible for creating high levels of tension within key joints such as the shoulder, spine and hip joints. This tension, if directed to establish the appropriate shapes and postures can enhance both local and whole body stability, needed for athletic performance. STRENGTH Maximal strength has repeatedly been shown to be a key indicator of playing level in contact sports where grappling activity is high, from rugby leagues to freestyle wrestlers (Lenetsky and Harris 2012). This has led some researchers to suggest that MMA disciplines such as BJJ should incorporate strength training into their overall training program, focusing not just on strength endurance, but specifically on maximal strength (James 2014). Maximal strength is also known to positively impact other athletic qualities such as power output (discussed below) and endurance. With respect to enhanced endurance performance, it is understood that strength training increases the number of motor units that can be activated within muscle and effectively creates a ‘reserve’. Put another way, if it felt tough squatting 150 Kg on day one, and then you went away and increased your strength in the back squat by 50%, when you re‐ Page 32 of 88   

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visited that 150 Kg load, it wouldn’t feel quite so tough the next time around. The consequence of this is that you would be able to lift a greater number of reps, hence, your muscular endurance would have increased. To provide another example, strength training has been shown to increase 5k running time and cycling performance, traditionally thought of as more ‘endurance’ in nature. Of course, within the fight itself there are likely to be many instances where maximal strength is required during specific offensive and defensive moves. When grappling for example, a higher percentage of pulling and squeezing actions of the wrist, ankle and back of the head will occur using isometric/static muscle contractions. High levels of isometric tension are also likely to be experienced in the quadrupedal movements inherent to the Animal Flow training program. Activations from Static Beast and Crab positions where single limb lifts are performed creates a need for huge amounts of rotational strength and stability. Within MMA, resisting a throw or take‐down also requires this same ‘anti‐rotation’ strength which well executed Animal Flow moves help to develop. POWER The text book definition of power is shown as “work completed per unit of time”. Force is needed ‘to do work’ on an object, such as opponent, while the velocity that work is performed at, often determines sporting success. For example, from a standing clinch, a takedown would not be particularly successful if performed at a slow velocity. Since decisive events within MMA require the expression of power, this should prompt aspiring athletes to consider how power training fits within their existing strength and conditioning plans. Depending upon the fighting style, however, the frequency of explosive power dominant techniques may vary. For example, competitors with a ‘stand‐up’ fighting Page 33 of 88   

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style will likely call upon strikes which are velocity dependant. Those who favour grappling and submission manoeuvre’s may require greater amounts of strength. To exemplify this, Andreato et al. (2014) discovered that within several five‐minute Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bouts there were 4 x 25s periods of ‘lower’ intensity activity compared with 4 x 3‐5s of ‘high’ intensity activity. When considering the regions of the body where powerful MMA actions take place Bounty et al. (2011) made these comments: Ideally, fighters should specifically possess powerful hips, trunk and shoulder musculature. This should be of the utmost concern to the individual who trains fighters. As discussed, power generation depends upon the ability to generate lots of force (strength) in the shortest period of time (velocity). However, within the strength and conditioning literature many experts refer to different types of power, i.e. is there a bias towards power production under loaded or unloaded conditions? During a clinch for example, the MMA competitor may wish to use a takedown technique to ‘go to ground’. This requires the production of power but also incorporates the mass of the opponent. In this circumstance, training adaptations from targeted ‘strength‐speed’ work would be desirable. Towards the opposite end of the power continuum, repeated kicks to an opponent where the foot must be placed down on the matt and then immediately and explosively lifted again, would require reactive power or ‘speed‐strength’. Here, the opportunity to produce force to deliver a kick may be just a couple hundred milliseconds! There are many movements within Animal Flow which provide the opportunity for such ‘tempo change’ and ‘energy re‐direction,’ particularly within the Switches and Transitions. Jumping Underswitches, for example, require a rapid foot contact with the ground within a dynamic rotating exercise. Jumping side kickthroughs and front kickthroughs are also good examples.

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To reinforce this point, Turner (2009) provides this insight in his commentary on training Muay Thai fighters: It is well documented that efficient stretch‐shorten mechanisms (plyometric) result in enhanced propulsive forces and conservation of energy, and this therefore suggest that within martial arts, this may translate into enhanced power and power‐endurance of striking. In other words (my words): If you can’t load your sling‐shot, the Green‐house windows are safe for now! PART 3: BUILD AN EFFECTIVE MMA STRENGTH AND FIGHT PREP PLAN Success in MMA often comes from a high level of expertise and skill within multiple combat arts. To this end, the MMA competitor will therefore spend a significant amount of their weekly training time engaged in what is often known as ‘sport specific’ or ‘technique focused’ sessions, especially in the lead up to a fight or tournament. As a consequence, strength and conditioning sessions may receive less dedicated training time. Therefore, maximizing the efficiency of the training week is crucial to optimizing both physical and technical preparation. In other words, ‘getting the biggest bang for your buck’ matters! So what do we know and what do we care about so far? 

Strength and conditioning for MMA is important to develop all the physical fitness components recognised as playing a part in a successful fight: mobility, stability, strength and power

These fitness components will ‘transfer in’ or ‘cross over’ to technical fighting skills when developed alongside them in a periodized/structured long term plan

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Training with a multi‐planar movement focus likely offers the greatest ‘dynamic correspondence’ to an MMA fighter, that is, most closely replicates the movement demands of the sport

Time is of the essence: in order for strength and conditioning programs to be most effective in the limited time given over to them, they must tick all the boxes. This means training all the bio‐motor abilities needed for successful MMA combat, and integrating all of the primal movement patterns MMA fighters will move through or be moved through!

If time allows, supplement the strength and conditioning program with pre‐ habilitation/re‐habilitation and isolation exercises if muscle or joint specific weaknesses/imbalances have been identified

What is important when building your plan? Building a supportive and effective MMA programme is not an easy task. Bounty and colleagues (2011) identified these hurdles which need to be overcome:

Most of the training time should be devoted to developing fighting skills

There is a strong possibility of over‐training when attempting to pack in fight training and strength and conditioning

Allowing for adequate recovery time

Addressing all of the bio‐motor abilities whilst considering the points listed above!

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A truly personalised MMA strength and conditioning plan will also take into the consideration the type of fighter the competitor is (offensive ‘sprinter’ vs defensive ‘endurance’) and furthermore, who the opponent is. The following plans should therefore be used as a template and adjusted accordingly. SAMPLE PLANS Each of the following Movement Pattern focused workouts is designed to be completed in approximately 45 minutes, and thus should not be too time consuming within the context of completing the all‐important technical training. All sets within each bio‐motor ability should be completed before moving on to the next, as each provides the preparation and foundations for the next. Multiple training tools (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, med‐balls, bodyweight, ViPR’s and Animal Flow) are utilized to allow the most effective exercises to be programmed. I’ve included several different types of Animal Flow exercises, including Form Specific Stretches, Travelling Forms and Switches and Transitions. They are highlighted in red for easy reference. As described in the previous chapters, each one of these Animal Flow elements provides specific benefits. However, they all possess high levels of versatility and can be used to target multiple bio‐motor abilities (as you will see as you start incorporating them into your workouts!). And in addition to serving as great training exercises, they also provide awesome dynamic correspondence into MMA!

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Push Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise Left and Right Arm Crab Reach

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 8/8 (30 sec)

Demo link: Stability

Forward Ape Jump with Push Out

3 x 8 (60 sec)

Demo link: Strength

Wall Walk‐up to Hand Stand Pause

3 x 5 with 3 sec pause (120 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

DB Push‐Press Release Note: conduct in a sand‐pit or be ready to jump out of the way!

4 x 5/5 (180 sec)

Demo link:

Pull Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise Dowell Rod Dislocates

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 15 (30 sec)

Demo link: Stability

Deep Ape to Head Stand Pause

3 x 5 with 3 sec pause (120 sec)

Demo link: Strength

Towel or Judo Belt Chin‐Ups

4 x max (120 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

Front Kick‐Through

3 x 6/6 (180 sec)

Demo link: Page 38 of 88   

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Rotate Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise T‐Spine Prone Scorpion

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 12/12 (30 sec)

Demo link: Stability

Left and Right Side Scorpion Switch

3 x 5/5 (60 sec)

Demo link: Strength

Iso Russian Twist Band Hold

5 x 10 sec / 10 sec hold (120 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

KB Floor Drive to Post

3 x 6/6 (180 sec)

Demo link:

Bend/Hinge Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise ViPR Anterior / Posterior Hip

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 12/12 (30 sec)

Demo link: Stability

Beast Crawl

3 x 15 m distance (60 sec)

Demo link: Strength

Snatch Grip Deadlift

4 x 6 (180 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

Double KB Swings

3 x 12 (180 sec)

Demo link:

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Squat Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise Loaded Beast to Unload

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 10 (30 sec)

Demo link: Stability

Overhead BB Squat

3 x 5 (120 sec)

Demo link: Strength

Double KB Front Squat

4 x 8 (120 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

Depth Jump for Max Vertical Height

3 x 4 (180 sec)

Demo link:

1 Leg/Lunge Movement Pattern Bio‐motor Ability Mobility

Exercise Lateral Travelling Ape with Leg Reach

Suggested Sets x Reps + (Inter‐set Rest) 3 x 5/5 (60 sec)

Demo link: Stability

1 Leg Balance with Multi‐ MB Reach

3 x 12/12 (60 sec)

Demo link: Strength

BB Hang Snatch with Split Catch

4 x 4 (180 sec)

Demo link: Power (strength‐speed)

1 Leg Hurdle / Cone Hops

3 x 6/6 (180 sec)

Demo link:

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AEROBIC AND ANAEROBIC CONDITIONING About the authors: Mike Fitch, creator of the Animal Flow program, is going to give us a lesson on the difference between aerobic and anaerobic conditioning and why this matters to your MMA training. And of course he’ll talk about how Animal Flow fits in. Kathy Donatto then provides some fantastic drills to get you going on your conditioning! Kathy not only has 11 years as a fitness professional, but also spent six years in the Texas Air National Guard – she knows how to train with drills! There is nothing like watching a live MMA fight. The hype of the fighters coming out to the ring. The respect they give to each other right before they become combatants. And as soon as that bell rings the battle begins. To a trained eye (or even a few die‐hard fans), the different fighting styles that are displayed in the octagon are noticeable. This is exactly what adds to the excitement of the match up. Traditionally, specific styles of martial arts competed in their own disciplines. The same would be true for boxing. Thanks to Mixed Martial Arts making its way into the lime light, we get to see movements that range from Boxing, freestyle wrestling, Brazilian Jiu jitsu, Jeet Kun Do, Judo, Karate, Mui Tai and Tae Kwon Do. With every fighter coming in with a bag full of their own skills, you'd have to be well versed as a good striker as well as demonstrate precision skill on the ground to be the victor. This is exactly why we’ve seen a shift into a multidisciplinary approach to how fighters train. Traditionally you might see compartmentalized training that involved some weight training, cardio sessions like running or jumping rope for "conditioning" and sparing, bag/speed work for skill specific training. Of course, with so many unpredictable challenges opposing today's MMA fighter, the training has had to evolve to keep up. For example, even if you were to look at one of our most iconic, big screen fighters, you'll notice evolving methods in a "Rocky" montage. The most recent films have added Kettlebells, chains, Olympic lifts, sledge hammer slams and keg lifts into his epic training scenes. Page 41 of 88   



But what does slamming an enormous tractor tire with a demolition sledge hammer have to do with an MMA fight? Well, simply put, a fight doesn't allow the luxury of slowing down to think through, "Okay body, now you have to be strong......great job! Now you have to be fast! Now be powerful!” Any of these bio‐motor abilities (as discussed in more detail in Chapter 3) have to be available at ALL times. This is exactly why the way that you train has to be specific to the way that you want to perform (The Law of Specificity). There is another big piece to this puzzle that is extremely important. It can be pretty complicated, but it can also mean the difference between a victory or defeat. I’m talking about Energy Metabolism, or Bioenergetics. ENERGY METABOLISM (BIOENERGETICS) Energy Metabolism, or Bioenergetics, is the study of how energy is transformed through various biochemical reactions (NASM 2012). I know, it sounds incredibly exciting. But understanding even the basics of this phenomena will help us dial in the specificity of our training. While bioenergetics may not be the hottest buzzword in fitness, there are a few other words that represent these processes that are a little more recognizable. For example, Anaerobic training or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) probably rings a bell. Even slightly more dated terms like “doing your cardio" or “pumping iron” all take place within the realm of bioenergetics. Let’s use a few "real world" examples to explore the meaning of biogenergetics. First, think about the fact that your body needs ENERGY to perform its day‐to‐day functions, and other movement that you may engage in. Depending on two factors, the body will create or pull energy from different systems. The two movement factors will be:  

Intensity Duration

Intensity and Duration will determine if the body can create energy immediately (anaerobic), or if the body will need to use oxygen to continue to produce energy over time (aerobic).

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Intensity Let's take a look at intensity first, using some legendary athletes as examples. Imagine that both Arnold Swarzenager (1975 version) and sprinter Usain Bolt both happen to be training in the same place. Let's say that Arnold was bench pressing an incredible amount of weight that only allowed him to perform 8‐12 reps, while on the nearby track, Usain was burning rubber on a 400 meter sprint. Believe it or not, both athletes are using predominately the same energy system. How could it be possible that running at lightning speeds and laying on a bench pushing up weight could even be in the same spectrum? That's where intensity comes in. We just have to measure the intensity differently in each scenario. In Arnold's case, the intensity is measured in the weight lifted. In Usain's scenario, his maximal speeds are the indicator of intensity. The intensity is high with both athletes. Duration Duration goes hand‐in‐hand with intensity. In the speed versus strength example above, the intensity was high but inversely, the duration was low (2 min) would be perfect examples of Aerobic conditioning. Simply put, the body can use the available oxygen to not only create energy, but also to eliminate waste products created in the process. It's also important to recognize that these metabolic energy systems all work in unison to help provide us with energy for whatever task is at hand. It’s not as black and white as Anaerobic or Aerobic. Each category has more intricate subsystems that eb and flow with each other. Which one is being used predominately will always depend on the Intensity and Duration of the sport.

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This brings us to the million dollar question: If the bodybuilder needs strength, the sprinter needs speed/power, and the marathon runner needs to go the distance, then what kind of athlete needs all of these attributes? If you said the MMA fighter, then you are correct! Synergy Between Systems In any given fight, both the Anaerobic and Aerobic systems must be working synergistically to supply the body with energy. The fighter has to have the energy to be strong and powerful, as well as recover fast enough to do it again. They train at an intensity and duration that forces them to adapt. As mentioned earlier in this book, the body will adapt to any repeated challenge if it’s consistent enough. Our approach in this chapter is to challenge the athlete at high intensity (anaerobic) levels, then use the rest time in between work sets as aerobic recovery. These two systems not only work together, but they also complement each other. The anaerobic movements will eventually increase the time that the fighter can stay in that “zone”. This is the Anaerobic Threshold, which is the point at which the body can no longer produce movement without the presence of oxygen. The more time someone spends training towards the edge of their Anaerobic Threshold, the more capable the body will be to maintain it. While the Anaerobic system is producing energy for strength and power, the Aerobic system jumps in during the rest periods to help out. It will take advantage of the influx of oxygen, in order to create energy. It’s also hooking the body up by taking out the trash. Waste bi‐products are created by the energy systems and need to be shuttled out……quickly! We’ve identified the challenge, so what’re we going to do about it? Easy, we’re going to do Animal Flow!

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As I’m sure you’ve notice by now, there are a lot of different ways we can use the Animal Flow components. They just have to be tailored and programed for each desired result. The drills below will use explosive switches and transitions to push you towards your Anaerobic Threshold, while the decreasing rest periods will challenge your Aerobic systems. We’ll also use the traveling forms as our active rest. Get ready for some serious conditioning. ANAEROBIC TRAINING USING ANIMAL FLOW These training drills can be performed at the end of your training/workout or they can be the actual workout for that session. If you intend to use the drill as your whole workout, make sure you warm up with some Animal Flow Form Specific Stretches (described in Chapter 6)! These include four levels:   

Level 1 and 2 are designed to prepare your Anaerobic system. Levels 3 and 4 use combined Aerobic and Anaerobic drills. Within each level, there are 3 “sublevels.” These use the same exercises, but increase in intensity and duration. I recommend working on one sub‐level one day at time.

All of the moves are Animal Flow exercises. You can find the basic instructions with photos for each one in the Basics of Animal Flow (Chapter 2). Additionally, below each move I provide a link to video where I demonstrate each move with a few reps.

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LEVEL 1 This is an introduction to the Anaerobic workout. Master Level 1a by performing it 10 times non –stop before moving on to level 1b and so on. I recommend working on one level one day at a time. Level

Front Step


Jumping Side Kickthrough



Link:‐rHyG1Hb7Rc  . . .


Level 1a

30 sec

1 min

30 sec

1 min


Level 1b

1 min

1 min

1 min

1 min


Level 1c

1 min

30 sec

1 min

30 sec


LEVEL 2 Level 2 will definitely hit that Anaerobic (Lactate) Threshhold. Again, as in Level 1, complete Level 2a for 10 reps non‐stop before moving on to Level 2b. Level

Front Kickthrough


Levitating Side Kickthrough





Level 2a

30 sec

1 min

30 sec

1 min


Level 2b

45 sec

1 min

45 sec

1 min


Level 2c

1 min

30 se

1 min

30 sec


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LEVELS 3 Levels 3 and 4 are hitting both the Aerobic and Anaerobic systems. We are adding in some Animal Flow Traveling Forms, which provide some time for active recovery and serve as your Aerobic conditioning. They will fully activate the anterior and posterior oblique slings and the anterior and posterior flexion chains. The traveling forms will be alternated with some of the moves from Levels 1 and 2, which provide the Anaerobic component. The specific forms we’ll use include the Forward and Reverse Traveling Beasts and the Forward and Reverse Traveling Crabs. (You can find the instructions / photos for the moves in the Basics of Animal Flow Chapter, and I have included videos of myself performing a few reps below each move.) Instructions for the Traveling Drills:

Place the cones 20 feet from each other. If you don’t have enough space to accommodate 20 feet, then go from wall to wall as much as you can.

These drills are timed. Perform each level for 3 minutes, 5 times with a 90 second rest minute period in between.

Start with the first exercise, performing the set number of reps. The second exercise will be a traveling form, where you move between the cones. The third and fourth exercises follow the same pattern.

For the Forward Traveling Beast/Crab, you can choose either one. Make sure to include both in the overall workout, though!

Control your breathing and your form. Make sure the traveling forms are controlled movements. Do not rush through.

As with levels 1/2, make sure to master each sublevel before moving on to the next.

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Level 3

Front Step

FORWARD traveling beast/ crab

Jumping Side Kickthrough


REVERSE traveling beast/ crab

Forward Beast Link:  

Reverse Beast Link:‐bmkfOezM  . . 

Forward Crab Link: 

Reverse Crab Link: 


10 reps

to cone

10 reps

to cone


15 reps

to cone

15 reps

to cone


20 reps

to cone

20 reps

to cone

Time/ Sets 3 mins per set; 90 sec rest; 5 sets

LEVEL 4 Levels 4, like Level 3, hits both the Aerobic and Anaerobic systems by alternating the traveling forms. Instructions are the same as in Level 4.

Level 4

Front REVERSE traveling Kickthrough beast/ crab

Levitating Kickthrough

FORWARD traveling beast/ crab

Video links provided in previous Levels  4a

10 reps

to cone

10 reps

to cone


15 reps

to cone

15 reps

to cone


20 reps

to cone

20 reps

to cone

Time/ Sets 3 mins per set; 90 sec rest; 5 sets

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ACCESSORY TRAINING: CLIMBING AND BRACHIATION FOR COMBAT ATHLETES About the Author: Clifton Harksi has a long history as a student of human movement,. A lifelong athlete and collegiate basketball player, Clifton also holds a degree in Kinesiology His current position as Director of Programming for Fitwall, plus his previous experience with MoveNat, have provided him with a wealth of knowledge about climbing, swinging, and moving better. You’ll learn a lot from him in this chapter! Before we get into the what, let's discuss the why. As a combat athlete you must be prepared to grab and control an opponent with your hands and arms. This may be grabbing a Gi, grabbing wrists and arms, clasping your hands together, or even grabbing an opponent’s head. The one thing that must happen following a grab is a pull. Grabbing and pulling is an integral part of all combat sports, as being competent in close quarters is often the deciding factor of who wins. Being competent is largely skill work, sure, but without ample strength in appropriate related movements, skill may not be enough. Climbing and Brachiation develops the grab and pull system perhaps better than any other dedicated traditional pulling strength work. How does climbing and brachiation benefit the combat athlete? There are a number of reasons why moving and swinging your own body through space relates so well to the combat athlete:

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You are moving a human body. Your opponent is a big bag of muscle, bones, fat, organs and skin ‐ so are you. And while dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, ropes and machines can create overload and resistance, they are not nearly as awkward and cumbersome as a human body. As you climb up poles, and as you swing from bar to bar you are having to control your own big body, which is a lot of work for your grabbing and pulling muscles to have to adapt to.

You are training dynamically and reflexively. The ring will not be predictable. As a combat athlete you must be able to adapt to unexpected changes quickly and overcome them. Swinging through space is very similar because every reach and grab will place your body in a slightly different position, and ask you to demonstrate and develop strength in those new places. Additionally, each new training location you attempt to climb at will present different sizes and shapes of poles with different levels of stickiness, again challenging you to adapt.

You are training the grab and pull through enormous ranges of motion. The combat athlete will find themselves in unexpected positions during matches, often times in stretched out positions with disadvantaged and poor positioning of the arms. As most pulling training is done in relatively small ranges of motion, the common athlete does not build strength through full ranges of motion. Training the full range of motion is the only way to build strength in those positions. It is also the best way to prepare the body to resist injury in those stretched positions. Training purposefully through these ranges of motion will promote improvements in the mobility of the shoulder girdle, including the lats, chest, and biceps‐all of which are traditionally very tight. That tightness may limit the athletic potential of an athlete. Brachiation work will likely help to improve the overhead position of any person via the dynamic stretching and earned mobility. Page 50 of 88 




You are training fluidity, coordination, and rhythm. Swinging is not about just pulling yourself across some bars, (well not always!), it is about doing so in a way that is smooth and conserving energy so that you can last longer. Swinging is a practice of switching between tension and relaxation, as is every combat match. The development of rhythm and coordination has exceptional carryover to moving fluidly around the ring and being able to conserve energy vs expel needless effort.

Grip training is KEY for combat athletes. Your grip strength is what either makes or breaks the "grab" component of the grab and pull system. Swinging is unequaled in efficacy of building grip strength. This is because of the dynamic nature of having to grab and support your entire body with one hand, while your body moves underneath that grip.

Balance out the compressive training stimulus of being on your hands a lot. Lots of training in combat athletes sees the athlete on their hands, compressing their wrists, elbows and shoulders. Hanging and Brachiation is the yin to that yang. When you are swinging and hanging you are decompressing all of that tissue, at least trying to combat the typical wear and tear on those structures.

Training intelligence. When you are swinging you are constantly having to solve movement puzzles as you figure out where to next place your hand. This is excellent work for the brain to have to react quickly ‐ just as in a combat match.

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CLIMBING Climbing is an exercise that develops abilities which are beneficial for overall physical conditioning, and which have enormous carryover to the combat athlete. Overcoming varied obstacles that are above ground, against the challenge of one’s own bodyweight and gravity will be fantastic training for trying to control an opponent in a ring. Climbing is also a fundamental human ability; however it is one that is generally neglected. It is one of the first explorative movements that children will perform, pulling themselves up to standing, up stairs, and generally using all four limbs to get around, up and over things. Climbing and brachiation teaches you to develop rhythm, coordination, problem solving, and how to leverage their body weight in relation to gravity through varied obstacles. In addition, practicing climbing in your training program is a great and unique way to improve upper body pulling strength, build core strength, increase overall mobility, and develop broad work capacity that mimics a fight very nicely. Climbing requires that the upper body pulling muscles and posterior chains be developed to an extent which enables the various techniques below. As our society has become increasingly sedentary (read: seated), we have seen an increase in upper cross syndrome. Climbing practice can be helpful in restoring mobility and strength in the posterior upper body, because of the physiological demands it makes upon us. These are outlined in the techniques below. Climbing, active hangs, and brachiation should elicit activation and usage of the lower trapezius to depress the scapula. Strong depression of the scapula is beneficial for shoulder girdle health in pressing, hanging, pulling and deadlifting movements. Climbing drills also may help to restore lost mobility in the shoulders and thoracic spine due to the effects that hanging and gravity have on the shoulder girdle and spine. The anterior side of most people’s bodies have been prioritized in conventional training programs, as they are the “mirror muscles" and also are easier to train in bodyweight situations. Climbing helps to develop the posterior chains and balances out an individual’s upper body strength ratios. Page 52 of 88   



Climbing also incorporates a very large time under tension, as the entirety of the exercise is under tension. This prolonged effort is what can help balance the anterior to posterior work time in a program. The posterior is where most power is derived from, so it is very important to have strong "grab and pull" muscles.

!! ! As a precaution: If you have overly developed kyphotic posture or lack overhead shoulder mobility you may experience discomfort or injury from movements requiring hanging with the arms in a position directly overhead. Individuals lacking overall shoulder mobility would be best served developing upper back and shoulder strength with vertical climbing skills. These types of drills will develop the grip, shoulder girdle strength, and act as a segway into greater ranges of motion overhead. CLIMBING DRILLS: BREAKING IT DOWN The Climbing Drills covered in this section break down as follows: 

Vertical Pole Hangs: Foot Pinch Hang Beast Position Hang Vertical Climbing Vertical climb with the foot pinch Vertical climb beast

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VERTICAL POLE Vertical pole hangs help teach the positions used for vertical pole climbing. These positions are very tough from a hip mobility standpoint! The Foot Pinch Hang: Opens up the groin musculature. 

Start by sitting on the floor with your butt close to the pole. Grab the pole with both hands at about neck level.

Place your heels and arches of both feet (depending on the vertical surface and your shoes or bare feet, the part of the foot used most will change) to the pole somewhere above your hips (your flexibility will decide how high for you!). Your feet are pressing in from the sides against each other creating a pinch, they are also pressing away from you into the pole creating sort of a tug of war against your hands which are pulling into you. This is the wedging that will keep you from falling.

From here you will tense the muscles in your grip, upper back, and arm pits (latissimus dorsi, teres major, rear delts, etc) by pulling your shoulder down and back but keep straight arms, and you will lift your hips just above the ground.

The Beast Position Hang Really challenges your hip flexors, ankle mobility, and oblique slings. 

Start by sitting with your butt close to the pole. Grab the pole with both hands just higher than your head.

Place your bottoms of both feet vertically to the pole somewhere above your hips (your flexibility will decide how high!).

From here you will tense the muscles in your grip, upper back, and arm pits (latissimus dorsi, teres major, rear delts, etc) by pulling your shoulder down and back but keep straight arms, and you will lift your hips just above the ground.

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VERTICAL CLIMBING Vertical Climb with the foot pinch

Start in the foot pitch hang.

Now you can walk your hands up the pole one at a time reaching higher on the pole.

After moving the hands up the pole, drive both feet into the pole to move the hips up and away from the pole. As the hips lift up and away you will jump both feet to a higher position on the pole.

Repeat these actions of walking up the hands, quickly lifting the hips, and jumping the feet.

Except during the jumping portion, you must keep your hips below your feet to keep a "wedge‐type" action that keeps you connected to the pole.

Reverse the procedure to come down. And by the way, coming down is tougher than going up!

Video Link: 

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Vertical Climbing Beast 

Start from the Beast Position Hang.

It is important to develop a contralateral quadrupedal pattern for greater efficiency, just as in our ground based beast walks. Step with your left foot and reach with your right hand and replace them as close to simultaneously as possible.

The key for good coordination is to initiate the movement with the legs, driving into the bottom foot to create upward movement while aggressively retracting and pulling from your still anchored arm. This contralateral movement will be key in developing the oblique sling strength systems.

Video Link: 

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BRACHIATION (aka SWINGING) Brachiatrion (from "brachium", Latin for "arm"), or arm swinging, is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms. The key here is "arm swinging...locomotion". There are a host of benefits that brachiation brings to physical development, and they are enormously beneficial to the combat athlete ‐ these benefits are outlined at the beginning of the chapter. While there are many options for ways to brachiate (swing) we will be focusing on one version and two derivatives of that main version, the alternating hand over hand forward swing. Our main brachiation drill is the Gibbon Swing, where you swing forward across bars with alternating arms in a controlled, rhythmic fashion. Think of a child on the monkey bars who makes it look effortless, as that is what you will be doing. The breakdown of the associated drills looks like this: 

Swing Prep: Hangs Passive Active Single Hand Passive Single Hand Active Single Hand Rotation

Swing Prep: Static Swings Front to Back Side to Side Side to Side with Hand Release

Swing: The Gibbon

Swing: The Lateral Gibbon

Brachiate: The Gibbon in a Hurry, aka the "Gibbon looking for a pump"

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BRACHIATION aka SWINGS: BREAKING IT DOWN SWING PREP: HANGS This is the starting place for brachiation practice. 1) Passive: Passive hang work isolates grip strength, and upper body stretching.  Simply grab a bar above your head and hold on tight! 

Aim to be able to hang for 5 minutes passively.

Technique pointer: Keep your arms relaxed. 2) Active: This is the first progression of hanging. Active hanging refers to the scapula and associated musculature.  From your passive hang position, "pull" your shoulders down and back creating space between your ears and shoulders. 

Hold this position for 5‐10 seconds and repeat.

Technique pointer: Keep your feet together, slightly "tuck" your pelvis under by squeezing your glutes and abs. This active hang is another plank, but inverted. Technique pointer: keep your arms straight

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Active Plus the Bear Gryllz. aka Bar Wrap‐around 

From a dead hang send your feet, knees and hips as high vertically as you can straight up and close to the bar.

As you reach the peak of the height for your feet, pull with your arms to get extra clearance for your hips to go over the bar, as you pull aim your feet backwards.

If you go high enough you will end up on your stomach and can press up successfully.

Single Hand Passive: This is simply a more intense passive hang because only one hand and arm is supporting the body. 

From your two hand passive hang position, remove one hand. Hold as long as you can, then switch arms.

Aim for accumulating 4 minutes per arm.

Single Hand Active: This is the single hand version of the active hang above. 

Pull your body into the active hang, then remove one hand. This will train the eccentric (negative) aspect of the active single hand hang.

Once you can hold the single hand active hang for 20 seconds, you can progress to pulling from the single hand passive hang into the single hand active hang.

Single Hand Rotation: This drill is really effective at building strength through varied positions in the entire scapular and shoulder socket structure. 

Hang from one hand, and rotate clockwise, then counter clockwise.

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SWING PREP: STATIC SWINGS Static refers to the hands, but the body will be moving. Front to Back: With a double overhand grip you will be swinging your legs and 

Begin in a passive hang.

Pull into an active hang and also pull your knees into your chest.

Kick your feet out in front of you creating momentum.

As you travel backwards pull your legs behind you, and then kick forward again to travel forward.

The goal is to create a large pendulum.

Technique pointer: Your arms can bend slightly as feels natural. The goal is to make this feel smooth

Video Link:‐3T4cZtXc  . .

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3) Side to Side: With a double overhand grip you will be swinging your legs and torso side to side, helped by a pull from one arm.  Begin in a passive hang.  Pull with one arm, bending that arm and driving your legs to that same side. As you let that arm relax and your legs fall to the other side, repeat with the other side.  Try to create as big a pendulum as possible. Technique pointer: Keep your legs relaxed so they can swing freely side to side. Technique pointer: Reset if you begin to travel in a big circle.

4) Side to Side with Hand Release: This is the same as the Side to Side swing, but at the peak of the movement to one side you will release one hand momentarily.  Repeat the side to side swing, but at the apex of your movement to one side simply take the bent arm hand off the pole, then put it back on. 

Aim to make this look relaxed and easy.


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SWINGS Swings: The Gibbon The gibbon is our main drill, where you traverse forward underneath bars. This drill carries all the benefits outlined at the beginning of this chapter and is effectively a combination of all the preceding hanging and swinging drills. 

Begin in a passive hang, and progress to a front to back swing.

Once your pendulum is big enough you will time a reach of one hand at the apex of the forward swing to grab the bar in front of you. Once you have grabbed the bar in front, allow your body to swing forward underneath that arm, then pull from the back arm (bending the arm) to increase the amplitude of the backwards swing.

Swing backwards and as soon as you hit the apex of the back swing, release the back hand, swing under the lead hand and then reach and grab with your new lead hand.

Repeat the process.

Technique pointer ‐ This is really about timing. If you release the back hand before you have started to travel forward you will kill your momentum.

Video Link:    jfjfdfjdjfdfffdsfdsfjdjfdsjfdfldfd‐3T4cZtXc

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Swings: The Lateral Gibbon: The lateral gibbon uses the same rhythm as as the standard Gibbon, but instead you travel laterally. 

Begin in a passive hang, and progress to a side to side swing with.

Once your pendulum is big enough you will time a hand release of what will be your trail arm, only instead of putting it down where it was you will put it down closer to your lead arm. By doing this it, gravity will insist that your body swings in that direction.

As you swing under your new hand placement, take your lead hand and reach it out in the direction you wish to travel, increasing the distance that your body will need to swing.

Let your body swing back underneath your holds, and once you hit the apex of the back swing (really it's the trailing side of the side swing!) replace the trail hand close to the lead hand.

Repeat the process. Technique pointer ‐ This is really about timing. If you release the back hand before you have started to travel forward you will kill your momentum.

Video Link: 

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Brachiate: The Gibbon in a Hurry, aka the "Gibbon looking for a pump" The gibbon in a hurry takes most technique out of the picture and is simply a strength sprint for the upper body. 

Start from a dead hang, then aggressively pull and reach forward with one arm grabbing the next bar. Don't wait for any swinging to happen, and do it again!

This is pure power pulling, reach, grab, and pull as quickly as you can. Your arms will remain bent for the duration.

The Gibbon in a Lateral Hurry Same as going forward, just sideways. 

Pull yourself into a half pullup position, and then alternately reach, grab and pull with your hands moving laterally across a bar.

Do not cross your hands. Page 64 of 88 




IMPLEMENTATION OF CLIMBING AND BRACHIATION There are many ways to incorporate climbing and brachiation into your training. 

Escalating Training Density Model The simplest, and most applicable method of implementing the above methods of training is to use an escalating training density model. In this model you will set a timer, and try to perform as much work as you can in that time. During your preparatory phase you should increase the amount of work (reps, time spent hanging/swinging) you can complete in the same amount of time. Sample Training: Set the timer for 5 minutes. In that 5 minutes try to accomplish as many rounds as possible of: 1 vertical beast climb 2 Gibbon Swing passes through your rig 3 Active Plus the Bear Gryllz. **perform jumping jacks as needed to rest your grip

Supersets: You could also implement the drills above in supersets with other exercises.

Animal Flow Circuits An exceptional strength and conditioning circuit which would be hugely applicable to the combat athlete would be performing long bouts of Animal Flow ground based movements and the above climbing/brachiating movements.

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MOVEMENT PREP AND INJURY PREVENTION About the Author: Chris Flores is owner of Flo Fitness, specializing in working with young athletes, as well as Head Athletic Trainer at Westfield High School. A natural educator, he has tons of experience working with athletes from a wide range of sports. Chris brings his real world experience helping athletes achieve their peak performance (and in dealing with their injuries) to this chapter! I’ve seen a lot of sports injuries in my fitness career. And an awful lot of those could have been prevented with proper training ‐ particularly with some solid movement preparation and injury prevention exercises. In this chapter I’ll talk about how MMA fighters can incorporate injury prevention work using Animal Flow moves. I have lots of opportunity to witness sports injuries, either as they happen, or afterward. I’ve been working in fitness for over 16 years and have been a Head Athletic Trainer at a high school for over 5 years. At the high school we have over 27 varsity sports that over 1,300 athletes participate in every year. I also own a personal training studio that is inside a MMA training facility called Brawl House. At Brawl House we have BJJ taught by Vitor Shaolin; boxing taught by Jerry Coney; and wrestling and Muay Thai. So I’ve seen just about every injury you can think of, from an athlete getting knocked out cold in the ring, to a bowler complaining of a sprained thumb. I really believe most of those injuries suffered could have been avoided with the proper training. This obviously would exclude all of your acute contact injuries. The injuries I speak of are the overuse injuries, the ACL injuries, the injuries caused by terrible movement mechanics, bad joint stably and mobility, and poor neural muscular communication. The injuries that you see and say to yourself, "I can't believe you got hurt just doing that!"

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The types of injures I talked about on the previous page could be avoided with a proper movement based program like Animal Flow. In the following section we’ll talk about why Animal Flow is beneficial for athletes/MMA, and how some of the moves can help with injury prevention in fighters. Then in the next section I’ll provide some detailed instructions for performing some specific Animal Flow moves within your existing training routine. While I see many reasons why Animal Flow is such a beneficial practice for athletes, here I’m going to cover what I consider to be the top four: 


Rotary Stability/Rotational Exercises:

Connection of Muscle Patterns


From my years of work with youth athletes and MMA athletes, I know how hard they train. And that makes movement prep and injury prevention all the more important!

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1) MOBILITY / FLEXIBILITY In my experience working with fighters, I have noticed that the reason so many of them get injured is because of lack of mobility in their joints; especially when they are off‐season and lifting heavy. They become immobile and coaches wonder why the athlete’s performance has diminished. Athletes are supposed to get better and more skilled with time, but in the case of MMA athletes, they often regress because of the inability for their bodies to move. The stiffness in the muscles leads to an inability for the joints to move. When the joint cannot move properly the body creates compensations. A common example of such a compensation is when an fighter’s hamstrings appears to be tight. Frequently this is actually the result of a lack of hip mobility that leads to the quadriceps muscles doing all the work when performing lower body exercises. These compensations lead to injury in the long run. I use the term "long run" because many of these injuries progress over time and slowly reach a boiling point when the body finally gives up. Many trainers, coaches, and parents believe the athlete’s injuries happen just at that one moment. But the opposite is actually true – those injuries are the almost inevitable results of years of using the wrong techniques and having poor movement mechanics. The movements in the Animal Flow program are perfect to combat these poor mechanics because they require the athletes to increase their range of motion in order to perform the movements properly. Doing Animal Flow, even as just a warm up, can help promote mobility in the joints and get the body ready to perform a task whether in the weight room or in the octagon.

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2) ROTARY STABILITY / ROTATIONAL EXERCISES I do a presentation on rotational training and always begin the presentation with this rhetorical question: “Which sports use rotation?” The correct answer would be: “ALL OF THEM!” I have the blessing of seeing many summer strength programs from some of the top colleges. My athletes that get recruited will bring me these programs to help them make sense of them. I can't begin to tell you how many of them are overly sagittal plane dominant. There is very little to no rotational exercises in their programs. This lack of rotational training has trickled over the world of MMA as well. The fight strength and conditioning coaches have adopted the same programs from other sports. Instead of correcting the problem of lack of rotational training, they have increased it ‐ whether it’s kicking a ball, dodging an opponent, or swinging a bat. Athletes must be taught to have control of their bodies while performing rotational exercises. This is where Animal Flow comes in ‐ many of the moves used in Animal Flow require you to stabilize your core while lifting opposite limbs. Lifting opposite limbs is the same thing we do while running. When done on the ground, however, it promotes more rotary stability that will translate to better performance while running or conditioning for a fight. The movements also require that you control the movement of your body before placing the limbs back on the ground. Animal Flow is not about speed, but more so about control. The ironic part of sports is that we promote this lust for speed, but without control the speed lacks effectiveness.

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I often tell my athletes: “We must slow down in order to speed up ‐ or REGRESS TO PROGRESS. “ They normally look at me funny. Until one day in the cage they realize what I was talking about. A great rule to keep in mind is one of the phrases we repeat when practicing the traveling forms in Animal Flow: Limbs Lift and Land Lightly. Following this rule requires control, precision, and a ridiculous amount of rotary stability, due to the fact that these moves place such a high demand on our anterior oblique slings. 3) CONNECTION OF MUSCLE PATTERNS Too often in training programs there is a ton of isolation exercises for specific muscle groups. Many of these exercises are not beneficial for MMA athletes. For example, having leg extensions or bicep curls in an athlete’s program may not be the best use of training time. When putting fighters through a movement assessment, it often appears as if their upper body and lower body have no communication with each other. For example, when performing the overhead squat assessment, it’s common for them to try to keep their upper body completely vertical without any bending or curving of their back. One movement that makes me laugh is when asking them to perform power skips. Many of them will keep their arms at their sides trying to resist any movement of the shoulder. It’s amazing how much performance increases when you teach them to stop resisting the natural movement of the body and start allowing it to flow the way it’s meant to. Animal Flow requires that you train muscular patterns through full ranges of motion. I use the term muscular patterns because this is not a program that isolates any particular muscle itself. When training to improve performance it is vital to teach and Page 70 of 88   


strengthen patterns as opposed to loading particular muscles. The visible results may differ but the performance results will shock you. I have seen fighters that don’t have the six pack abs but still pack a really powerful punch There are many moves in this program that require you to engage the entire posterior chain and anterior chain together. Training these patterns helps to promote better movement which can lead to a stronger well communicating body. I have also found that training these patterns teaches better neuromuscular control and helps to prevent injury. 4) FUN! In working with all athletes, I have found that they can get bored with the weight room and bored with training. Especially if it’s a long training camp for an upcoming fight or your second or third training camp in a year. After all, today’s athletes are accustomed to constant mental stimulation from all walks of life! When it comes to fitness and training we often take everything too seriously. This is particularly true for some of the really intense MMA fighters. We have lost our sense of imagination and fun when stepping into a weight room or creating a training program. How many squats, deadlifts, and bench presses can you do before you are bored out of your mind? Animal Flow is not only effective it is also extremely FUN. It breaks the monotony of your everyday program. It can give you a new outlook on fitness, and open up your understanding of the ways your body can actually move and perform. All the athletes we work with get excited when we do our Animal Flow part of training and that's what you want for a training camp. They should be pumped and excited to train. It should be something that they find interesting and challenging. Fun is the secret ingredient that keeps our athletes coming back and excited for every training session. Page 71 of 88   


SPECIFIC MOVES FOR INJURY PREVENTION While every element of Animal Flow in its own way contributes to building stronger, more flexible, more stable bodies, I’m going to focus on two of the six elements described in the Animal Flow Component Chapter (2):  

Activations Form Specific Stretches

FORM SPECIFIC STRETCHES I use a lot of Form Specific Stretches for warm‐up, finding that they are great for helping to reverse much of the muscular tightness that causes injury. As described in the Animal Flow Components chapter, FSS can be used as part of a warm up, workout, or rehab. Since there is no equipment needed, the moves can be done anywhere, anytime. For me, the Animal Flow program offers an endless amount of benefits but the Injury Prevention component is the one that is closest to my heart. There is nothing worse then sitting on the sidelines and seeing an injury happen that could have easily been prevented using the proper movement program. Use these forms to improve the quality of movement of your athlete/client, or in your own training program.

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Scorpion Reach The Scorpion Reach is great for opening up the entire anterior chain while simultaneously activating the posterior chain. Before we go into the specifics of performing this exercise, let's look at why it's great for injury prevention in MMA. Many of the athletes we work with get injured for the same reasons:   

Bad posture and muscular imbalances lead to tight hips and anterior chain Specializing in one sport too early on leads to lacking proper firing along their movement patterns. Most have tight hips and anterior chain due to bad posture and muscular The Scorpion Reach loosens up these areas and strengthens areas of weakness.

Let’s look at a right‐footed Muay Thai fighter as an example. From years of kicking with the right leg they end up having really tight adductors, hip flexors, and internal rotators on their right leg. Due to the mechanics of the kicking motion they may also have a left shoulder that is slightly internally rotated. The relationship between the left shoulder and right hip is often called the anterior oblique sling. When this sling is tight it will cause weakness in the posterior oblique sling. The posterior oblique sling includes the glutimus maximus and minimus muscles, hamstring muscles and the latissimus dorsi. These muscles together are key factors in deceleration when the fighter is moving. We find that many athletes are injured because of their lack of ability to decelerate and stop when in the heat of the fight. The Scorpion Reach is also beneficial because of its ending position. You lengthen your internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominis, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors and the rest of your anterior sling. You also simultaneously activate your glutes, hamstring muscles and the rest of your posterior sling. This is the opposite of the pattern many fighters use during a fight, as with our example of the Muay Thai athlete.

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Therefore, practicing the Scorpion Reach trains a system that is often overlooked but that is vital to all sports. It is a system that will help to keep the athlete injury free if they would learn how to activate and utilize it. These are the muscles that help with deceleration and anti‐rotation. In my experience, athletes get injured because they cannot decelerate or resist the rotational forces placed on their bodies. The Scorpion Reach is the perfect exercise to correct this issue. Performing the Scorpion Reach     

Start in a push‐up position. Initiate the movement by bringing the reach knee past the opposite wrist. This movement both flexes and rotates the spine. The reach foot travels in a circular motion out and up as your head drops down between straight elbows. The reaching leg stays bent at 90 degrees while your base leg stays slightly flexed. The last degrees of movement are the rotating of the hips with slight outward rotation of the base foot. Hold this position for about 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the start position.

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Crab Reach Think about the Crab Reach being the Yin to the Scorpion Reach’s yang. All of those great benefits that I mentioned about the Scorpion Reach will be similar to the benefits of the Crab Reach. The two totally complement each other. The main difference for the Crab Reach will be the limbs that build the “base” of the movement. In the Scorpion Reach, the arms and one leg are the body’s connection to the floor. The traveling leg reaches up and over the body elongating, extending, rotating and laterally flexing the spine. The pelvis is a major point of rotation. The Crab Reach, on the other hand, uses both legs and one arm to make up the base. By driving the hips up high and rotating the base arm externally (inside elbow facing opposite direction as toes), you’ve built the perfect base. Now the traveling arm moves up and over the body to elongate, extend, rotate and laterally flex the spine. Now the base arm is a major point of rotation. That frees up a lot of movement in the spine, allowing it to perform all of the functions that make it so unique (flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion). The Crab Reach is extremely versatile, and is useful multiple reasons, including:

Opening up anterior hip, activating posterior. For an MMA fighter, this is essential after repetitive kicking, where the muscles of the hip flexors have to generate an incredible amount of power. Activating the antagonist muscles like the glute max will maintain balance at the joint.

Closed‐chain stability at the shoulder joint. Externally rotating the base arm while bridging the hips will create somewhat of a “hydraulic” lift. Encouraging the external rotators of the arm to fire is not a bad idea ‐ particularly when they play an important part of decelerating your punch.

Activating posterior oblique sling. The Crab reach allows the Shoulder to really communicate with the hips. Especially either shoulder to their opposite hip. This relationship is important to anything we do as humans.

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Performing the Crab Reach 

Begin in a Static Crab position

Bring the reaching hand up and lock it in about 6‐8 inches from the face.

Follow the hand up with the eyes as you simultaneously bridge the hips up towards the ceiling

Before completing the reach, be sure to hit a 3 point bridge with the hips both fully extended.

Follow the reaching hand with your eyes until your looking down towards the ground.

Hold for 5‐10 seconds, then return to Static Crab

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Activations The world of fitness and training has a lot of buzz words – and one of my favourites is “Activations.” In the Animal Flow program we use two important activation moves – Beast Activations and Crab Activations – which are complementary to each other. Why are activations important and how can they benefit you? The general goal of activations is to create internal communication throughout the entire kinetic chain. This means your hip and shoulder will be communicating before you begin more complicated movements, so that they can work in harmony. These moves help to increase neural drive as well as create stabilization at the spine, wrists, elbows shoulder, hip, knees, ankle and foot. If you have been doing any martial arts for a long time I'm sure you can agree that at some point you have had pain in one of these areas, if not all of them. One great feature of the activations in the Animal Flow program is that they have progressions. This makes the moves accessible to fighters who are beginners as well as challenges those who have been in the game for years. The progressions go from most stable to least stable, by decreasing the points of contact with the ground. These moves also hep to teach the fighter to maintain center of gravity over base of support. This is huge in fighting when trying to maintain balance or find your base when on the ground.

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Static Beast with Limb Lift The first activation posture from the Animal Flow program is the "Static Beast." This move works on stabilization in a four‐point quadrapedal position that focuses on anterior/flexion chain. When we begin to progress to less stable variations, the focus will shift to our anterior oblique sling and overall rotary stability system as we decrease our points of contact. Static Beast places a strong emphasis on postural distortions like upper cross syndrome and forward head carriage, which are distortions that can cause issues in the shoulder or neck areas ‐ and decrease your performance in the ring. This move can help those with upper back pain or even lower back pain because the direction of gravity's pull puts the cervical spine in an ideal position to activate the long and short cervical extensors. The Static Beast position is also ideal for activating the scapular stabilizers, the shoulder joint stabilizers, and the transverse abdominus. So how does this benefit you as at fighter? Many of the MMA people I have worked with do little to no stabilization work of their shoulder joint. As you throw more and more punches, you stress the shoulder capsule and the stabilizers of the shoulder can become fatigued. Even worse, many fighters no longer even use their stabilizers for the job, since they have created compensations in their neural pattern and their primary mover muscles take over the job of the stabilizers. This is a sure way to injury. Using the Static Beast move will engage all your stabilizers so that your body is aware that they are available for use during training sessions. This move can be done periodically during a training sessions to ensure that the system is set and all muscles are on board and ready to work.

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To perform the Static Beast Start in this position: 

Hands shoulder width apart

Scapulae set at midpoint

Natural lordotic curve

Knees in front of hip line

Knees and feet hip width apart

Knees 1" off the ground

Limb Lift Progressions: 

Once you are in the position above, attempt to lift just one foot off of the ground. The foot should be lifted just high enough to slide a piece of paper. Try lifting each foot for at least a ten second hold.

After the foot lifts, attempt to lift just one hand. Think about pulling the shoulder blade of the lifting hand up towards the ceiling. Be sure not to bend the elbow and try to minimize any shift or rotation

The final step of the Static Beast Activation is to raise one hand and the opposite foot. Keep in mind that this may be easier for some people than the just the single hand lift.

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Static Crab with Limb Lifts The complimentary move to our Static Beast Activations is our Static Crab Activations. These are also extremely important for fighters to learn because of how they open up the anterior chain and teach you how to activate the posterior chain. This move also focuses on the posterior oblique slings. The position is great for opening up the anterior muscles of the chest and shoulders while turning on the posterior shoulder muscles. The hand position of the move really teaches the fighter how to fire the external rotators of the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is often times overlooked in the world of MMA. A weak or torn rotator cuff can be the end of a fighter’s career. Therefore, I’d suggest that this activation should be part of every fighter’s activation or warm up routine! The Static Crab Activation can also aid in correcting a serious postural issue I see in many of my wrestlers. I often times get wrestling that complain of chronic lower back pain. As a matter of fact, ff you have been around the sport as long as I have you can often pick wrestling out in a crowd of fighters, just by the body type and posture. They almost always have a forward head and rounded shoulders. It looks like they are going in for double leg take down all day long. Upon assessing many of these athletes I will see that their lower trap muscle is elongated and not able to fire correctly. This is one of the causes of a winging scapula, that gives the wrestler that rounded upper back. This posture puts tons of pressure on the erector muscles of the lower back because they have to counter for the upper back rolling forward. In our Static Crab you must depress the shoulder blades and fire the lower trap in order to get in the proper position. You must also poke the chest out and maximally externally rotate the shoulders. Taking all these steps will greatly correct the posture of a fighter and help to create space within the shoulder joint for proper movement. And proper posture and movement leads to less injury and a longer career!

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Performing the Static Crab: Start in this position 

Place hands shoulder width or slightly wider. Externally rotate hands, fingers point opposite direction of feet

Retract scapula, touch the chin, pull head back over the shoulder girdle

Slight arch in lumbar, anterior pelvic tilt

Hips are equal distance between hands and heels

Feet flat on the ground, Knees and feet hip width apart

Limb Lift Progressions: 

We start our crab with 5 points of contact (hands, feet, hips). To “Activate the Static Crab” we lift the hips off the ground about an inch or two and allow for the back part of the body to stabilize itself.

From here we begin to progress by lifting one limb at a time.

Once that move is mastered we then progress to lifting contralateral limbs.

This is when the move becomes really specfic to fighters. For example, lifting a left hand and right foot in a contralateral lift forces the athlete to engage their posterior oblique sling from the right hand and left foot. These are the muscles that will help decelerate a right punch or left kick. This is vital because the body can only accelerate faster when it knows that its deceleration muscles are engaged and communicating properly. By performing this contralateral lift you will begin to feel stronger and more stable when in your stance, and better at controlling your kicks and punches.

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Appendix A    REFERENCES 


REFERENCES Andreato, L.V. et al. 2014. Psychological, Physiological, Performance and Perceptive Responses to Brazilian Jiu‐Jitsu Combats. Kinesiology, 46(1):44‐52 Augustsson J, Esko A, Thomee R, Svantesson U. Weight training of the thigh muscles using closed vs open kinetic chain exercises: A comparison of performance enhancement. Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy 1998: Vol 27 (1):3‐8 Brindle TJ, Nyland J, Ford K, Coppola A, Shapiro R. Electromyographic comparison of standard and modified closed‐chain isometric knee extension exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2006; Vol 16 (1) 129‐43 Burton, Lee and Gray Cook. The Importance of Primitive Movement Patterns. James, Lachlan P. (2014) An evidenced‐based training plan for Brazilian jiu‐jitsu. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 36(4): 14‐22. La Bounty, Paul, Campbell, Bill I, Galvan, Elfego, Cooke, Matthew and Antonio, Jose 2011. Strength and conditioning considerations for mixed martial arts. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(1): 56‐67. Lenetsky, Seth and Nigel Harris. 2012. The Mixed Martial Arts Athlete: A Physiological Profile. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(1):32. Liebenson, C. 2004. The relationship of the sacroiliac joint, stabilization musculature, and lumbo‐pelvic instability. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Vol 8: 43‐ 45. Meyers, Thomas. 2001. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Elsevier. 1st Edition 2001. New York, NY.

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Appendix A    REFERENCES 


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Essentials of Personal Fitness Training" 4th Edition 2012. (Editors Micheal A. Clark, Scott C. Lucett, Brian G. Sutton) Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore, MD Chapter 15 Pg 379 Pool‐Goudzwaard, A., A Vleeming, C. Stoeckart, CJ Snilders, and M.A. Mens. 1998. Insufficient lumbopelvicstability: a clinical, anatomical and biomechanical approach to “a‐specific” low back pain. Manual Therapy Vol 3: 12‐20. Quelch, Frasier. 2007. “Benefits of Multi‐Planar Training: The Planar Training Method.” The IDEA Fitness Journal. Vol 4(6).‐library/planar‐ training‐method. Shinkle J, Nesser TW, Demchak TJ, McMannus DM. 2012. “Effect of core strength on the measure of power in the extremities.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Feb 2012: Vol 26 (2) 373‐80. Stecco C, Macchi V, Porzionato A, Morra A, Parenti A, Stecco A, Delmas V, and R. De Caro. 2010. The ankle retinacula, morphological evidence of the proprioceptive role of the fascial system. Cells Tissues Organs, 192 (3):200‐10. Turner. 2009. Strength and Conditioning for Muay Thai Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31(6)  

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Appendix B    AUTHOR BIOS 


AUTHOR BIOS So who are these people who wrote this book? This was a group effort from the Animal Flow team, including Animal Flow creator Mike Fitch, the four original Animal Flow Master Flow Instructors, and all around helpful person Karen Mahar. You can find their full Bios on the GBT and Animal Flow websites, but here’s a quick introduction for you: MIKE FITCH Mike Fitch is a fitness innovator focused on bodyweight training, skills‐based practices, and multi‐planar, fluid movement. As the Founder/President of Global Bodyweight Training (GBT), he has developed numerous fitness programs providing training, education, and promotion of bodyweight training disciplines. He is also the creator of Animal Flow, a fitness practice that combines quadrupedal and other ground‐based exercises with elements of gymnastics, hand balancing, parkour, and break dancing. His GBT Progressive Bodyweight Training system embraces the philosophy that anybody can excel at bodyweight training and advanced skills building with practice and proper progressions. Mike has 17 years experience as a fitness professional, including as a personal trainer, fitness manager, and educator. His training development covered a wide range of disciplines, fusing together styles including Olympic lifts, kettle bell training, sports‐specific and speed‐agility training, and specialized training for post‐rehab and corrective exercise clients. In 2010 he undertook a major change, putting down the dumbbells and embarking on a personal journey into bodyweight training. Having become a student of its many forms, including gymnastics, parkour, breakdancing, hand balancing, bar calisthenics, and general bodyweight‐based conditioning and strength training, Mike has made bodyweight training the centerpiece of his personal and professional fitness programs. Mike has been featured in a wide range of media, including on the cover of Men’s Health South Africa, and in Men’s Health UK, Australia, and Germany. He’s been a guest on The Page 84 of 88   

Appendix B    AUTHOR BIOS 


Doctor’s, Good Morning America, and LIVE with Kelly and Michael, and numerous other talk shows, and has been highlighted in My Mad Methods, Train Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, LA Times, London Times, Boston Globe, and Esquire. He’s spent hundreds of hours as an educator for various fitness clubs, including as a Master Trainer for Equinox’s Equinox Fitness Training Institute (EFTI)), has presented at many major fitness conferences including IDEA, FitPro Live, Manz, NEHRSA, American Fitness Professionals Association and more. Mike’s previous certifications have included: National Strength and Conditioning Association – CPT; National Academy of Sports Medicine; NSCA Approved Kettlebell Coach by Jason C. Brown; AAHFRP Certified Medical Exercise Specialist; C.H.E.K. Exercise Coach; IFPA Accredited Personal Trainer. In addition the continued expansion of Animal Flow, Mike’s current projects include launching of the Bodyweight Athlete program as well as the recent release of GBT’s Hand Balancing for the Bodyweight Athlete. KATHY DONATTO Kathy has been a successful fitness competitor and personal trainer for 11 years, having made the transition from competitor to fitness professional after being inspired by her coaches. She has been practicing Animal Flow since its creation in 2011. In addition to being one of the inaugural Animal Flow Master Instructors, Kathy is building on her previous experience with children’s fitness programs to explore how Animal Flow can be an ideal practice for reaching out to teach children about movement. One of the first things she learned when getting into the fitness industry was that the key to success is training in a variety of disciplines, including bodyweight and weight‐bearing training; mental training; and specific skills building work. Prior to becoming a personal trainer, Kathy spent six years in the Texas Air National Guard. She is a tough competitor and loves a challenge!

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Appendix B    AUTHOR BIOS 


CHRIS FLORES Chris Flores (aka Chris Flo) is one of the original Animal Flow Master Instructors. Based in Westfield, New Jersey, he juggles an impressive array of fitness gigs, always with a smile and some motivational words. When he’s not busy teaching the next group of Certified Animal Flow Coaches at workshops throughout the US, Chris can be found running his own personal training center, Flo Fitness, which specializes in working with young athletes. He is also the Head Athletic Trainer at Westfield High School. Chris has a deep passion for fitness and education that naturally makes him great Animal Flow instructor, but his contributions to the program go much further than that. His experience working with young athletes makes him a fantastic resource for understanding how Animal Flow can be utilized to help athletes improve their performance in their sport. CLIFTON HARSKI Clifton Harski has a long history a student of human movement, making him a natural fit as an Animal Flow Master Instructor. A lifelong athlete and collegiate basketball player, Clifton holds a degree in Kinesiology from SDSU and has been in the fitness industry for more than 8 years. He is based in San Diegao, CA, where he is currently the Director of Programming and National Head Coach for Fitwall, the popular new workout program that incorporates high intensity interval training with innovative wall equipment system. Fitwall, like Clifton, takes serious its motto to “Train Smarter.” Clifton is not just an amazing athlete; he is also an incredible instructor. In just the last 3 years has taught over 1,500 people throughout the US, conducting over 100 workshops covering different fitness systems for multiple companies.

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Appendix B    AUTHOR BIOS 


RICHARD SCRIVENER Rich Scrivener has extensive experience with both fitness and nutrition, and his love of new knowledge shows in the wide range of fitness related areas in which he is educated. In addition to being GBT’s Animal Flow Master Instructor for the entire UK area, Rich is involved with several movement‐based disciplines, including as a Tabatta instructor, and practicing capoeira in his spare time. He currently works as the Research and Development Manager and Health, Fitness and Nutrition Lecturer with Fitness Industry Education. He is also the Lead Health and Fitness Advisor with Universal Pictures, UK, and is a London‐based Personal Trainer and Nutritional Therapist. Across a 15 year career in the health and fitness industry Rich has taught several thousand students and has helped guide many onto becoming successful Fitness Professionals in their own right. His education includes a MSc in High Performance Physiology from Brunel University, and First Class Honours Sports Science Degree from University of Bedfordshire KAREN MAHAR Dr. Karen Mahar (Editor of this book) is a Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Global Bodyweight Training, having been with Mike since the beginning overseeing the business operations while Mike is out developing awesome exercise programs. Karen’s background in film helped start GBT’s exercise video library, which was born when she and Mike began making video tutorials for fun several years ago. She is a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also has a Doctoral degree in Comparative Sociology, and she loves using research to build great programs.

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Want to learn more about Animal Flow? We recommend you purchase the Animal Flow video for detailed instructions on performing the Level 1 moves. Special discount FLOWCOMBAT will save you $10! And sign up for an Animal Flow Level 1 Workshop if you think you’d be interested in becoming a Certified Animal Flow Coach! (Calendar of upcoming courses is on our web page:

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