Animal Flow, Injury, and the Quest for Results

Animal Flow, Injury, and the Quest for Results

In the ever-evolving fitness world, trends and fads come and go, each promising a revolutionary approach to achieve peak physical performance. One such trend that has taken the fitness industry by storm is Animal Flow, a captivating and creative workout system that encourages participants to mimic the movements of various animals. While Animal Flow and similar bodyweight training programs have garnered a devoted following, we must look closer at their long-term implications. This article aims to dissect Animal Flow, mobility training, and bodyweight training by delving into the SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) principle, the fundamental human movement patterns, and the potential consequences of following these trends blindly.

Animal Flow – A Trendy Approach to Fitness

Animal Flow, often called the "movement for the modern age," has witnessed a surge in popularity within the fitness industry. It captivates enthusiasts with its unconventional approach, blending elements of yoga, dance, and bodyweight exercises into a seamless flow of animal-inspired movements. The allure of training like animals lies in its novelty and the promise of enhancing agility, mobility, and overall fitness.

Image by LumiNola

This trend encourages participants to “explore their primal instincts and channel their inner beasts,” adopting the graceful postures and motions of creatures from the animal kingdom. From the graceful crawl of a panther to the powerful push-ups of a bear, Animal Flow offers a unique and engaging workout experience that attracts fitness enthusiasts seeking a fresh challenge.

Many animal movement and bodyweight training methods, like Animal Flow, purport that their programs will “make you a better athlete” or prevent injury, but do these claims hold up?

Understanding the SAID Principle

To assess the effectiveness of Animal Flow and similar training methodologies, we must first acquaint ourselves with the SAID principle – Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. The SAID principle posits that our bodies adapt specifically to the demands placed upon them during training. In other words, the exercises we perform dictate the changes our bodies undergo. (1, 2)

However, Animal Flow and its animal-inspired movements present a stark contrast to the natural human movement patterns that have evolved over millennia. Anthropologists and biomechanics experts agree that certain functions have driven the development of the modern human form. These include bipedal locomotion, which relies on spinal rotation and contralateral reciprocation, as well as the ability to throw or propel objects away from the body, which played a pivotal role in shaping the human shoulder. (3, 4)

When we engage in training modalities like Animal Flow, we are essentially ignoring our paleobiology. Instead of promoting and enhancing the fundamental human movement patterns of standing, walking, running, and throwing, we are adopting movements that deviate from our natural design. Consequently, the SAID principle comes into play, leading to adaptations that strengthen Animal Flow movements over essential human actions.

The critical issue is that as these fundamental human movements of standing, walking, running, and throwing are de-trained, they become less fluid and less supported by muscle. Over time, this will result in compensation patterns in the movement, leading to pain and discomfort. Our bodies are biomechanically optimized for specific movements, and when we divert from those patterns, we risk compromising our long-term physical health.

In the field of athletics, the movements used are generally running and throwing or derivative patterns. Bodyweight training protocols such as Animal Flow cannot improve the efficiency of these movements because those patterns are not included in the training program. Therefore, these animal movement and bodyweight training programs are the antithesis of athletic training. 

Functional Patterns Training Methodology

In contrast to Animal Flow's focus on animal-inspired movements, Functional Patterns training methodology takes a more pragmatic approach rooted in understanding and optimizing human biomechanics. Functional Patterns recognizes the significance of restoring and enhancing the fundamental human movement patterns that have evolved to suit our species over countless generations.

Functional Patterns delves into the intricacies of our anatomy and physiology, with a particular emphasis on the biomechanics of the “FP First Four,” standing, walking, running, and throwing. By analyzing these essential movements and their role in our evolutionary development, Functional Patterns seeks to restore them to their optimal state via precise corrective exercise techniques.

The methodology is designed to promote optimal function of all muscle groups and reduce the risk of pain and injury by emphasizing human-centric movements. This approach recognizes that training should not steer us away from our inherent capabilities but should instead strive to enhance and preserve them.

The Long-Term Implications of Movement Mistakes

To understand the challenges posed by trendy workout systems like Animal Flow, we must examine both the long-term consequences of movement mistakes and the ever-present risk of injuries that affect participants' results.

When individuals exclusively practice Animal Flow or similar training modalities, they prioritize animal-inspired movements over fundamental human actions. This deviation disrupts the finely tuned biomechanical balance that has evolved to support our species over millennia.

While initially offering a sense of novelty and excitement, these types of primal workouts and mobility training programs involve movements that can lead to discomfort, pain, and injury over time. These workouts often include dynamic and joint-compromising movements inspired by animals. Such movements can place undue stress on various joints and muscles, increasing the risk of overuse injuries and strains.

For instance, quadrupedal positions, which require supporting the body weight on locked-out elbows, are prevalent in many bodyweight training and primal movement programs like Animal Flow. This practice conflicts with human paleobiology, as humans are naturally bipedal and designed to support their body weight on their feet, not their hands. Repetitive quadrupedal movements can lead to wrist and elbow pain, hypermobility through the shoulder girdle, and an inability to properly orient the spine while standing, walking, or running. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. 

Remember, the SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) principle governs our body's responses to training stimuli and plays a crucial role in this narrative. As individuals immerse themselves in Animal Flow, their bodies adapt specifically to these unique movements. However, these adaptations may not necessarily enhance overall fitness or functionality. In fact, these adaptations may be detrimental when they lead to imbalances or weaknesses in specific muscle groups or joints, increasing the risk of injuries.

The recurring problem of injuries within these trendy workout systems cannot be ignored. It is crucial to understand that the very movements that initially attract individuals to these programs can paradoxically become the source of their downfall.

The lack of transparency in some trendy workout systems compounds this concern. Enthusiastic followers, eager to maintain the appeal of these programs, may be less inclined to speak out about their injuries, fearing that it might tarnish the image of the system they have come to love. This lack of accountability can contribute to a misleading perception of these workouts as effective and injury-free.

While trendy workouts like Animal Flow offer exciting and creative movements, they also come with risks that can compromise both short-term progress and long-term physical well-being. Participants must recognize the potential pitfalls associated with these trendy training modalities, including the risk of injuries and lack of results. A balanced approach to fitness should prioritize safety and sustainability, ensuring that individuals can continue to train without being sidelined by injuries caused by the very movements they embrace. Ultimately, the pursuit of fitness should enhance one's quality of life, not undermine it.


In the pursuit of fitness and well-being, it is crucial to evaluate the methods we choose to adopt objectively. While Animal Flow, bodyweight training, and similar mobility training methods may offer an exciting and novel experience, we must not lose sight of the fundamental human movement patterns that have shaped our species and underlie our health.

The SAID principle reminds us that our bodies adapt to the specific demands placed upon them during training. Therefore, aligning our exercise routines with our paleobiological heritage is essential to prevent the degeneration of fundamental human movements and the subsequent onset of pain and discomfort.

Functional Patterns training methodology offers an alternative approach that seeks to restore and optimize human movement patterns. By focusing on these patterns, individuals enhance their functional fitness, reduce the risk of pain and injury, and ultimately prioritize their long-term health and well-being.

As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of the fitness novelty machine, it is crucial to maintain a balanced perspective. Remember the wisdom of evolution when it comes to our physical well-being. Ultimately, the best animal to train like is the one we are - humans.


  2. “That's what they SAID, Principle.” – Functional Patterns
  3. Baseball players reveal how humans evolved to throw so well | Nature
  4. The human gluteus maximus and its role in running - PubMed (
  5. Evolutionary Basis of Human Running and Its Impact on Neural Function - PMC (
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