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20-minute workout: Animal Flow

The Pro: Verena Stefanie, a Tier 3 trainer at Equinox Kensington in London

The Workout: All too often, athletes exercise in one plane of motion. They run forward. They lift weights in front of them. It’s the reason trainers encourage everyone to twist, rotate, and move side-to-side: In real life, bodies don’t just move forward, so it follows that they should not in fitness.

Animal Flow—movement that focuses on strength, flexibility, and body control across different dimensions—infuses a much-needed, oft-forgotten element into fitness: body awareness which, according to Grotto, connects mind to muscle.

“Some people can’t consciously move certain body parts, such as scapulas [shoulder blades], or engage their glutes—that’s why most of us have pain,” she explains. “With body awareness, we are able to consciously control how our body moves, avoiding injuries and pain.”

Grotto’s workout, shot at Paddington Recreation Ground in London, features a mobility-enhancing warm-up that preps your joints as well as exercises that work every muscle to build strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility. You might not recognize some of the moves—that’s on purpose. Many are merged and blended, not just to make the most of time but also to challenge and train your brain so that nothing becomes automatic, Grotto says.

Closing with sprints offers a reinvigorating dose of adrenaline and endorphins. “Doing cardio at the end of a workout is getting the best of it as your muscles are warm, blood is flowing, and you’ll burn more calories,” Grotto says.

Directions: Complete the warm-up then each of the following exercises, one after the next. Do three sets of each move in the workout and end with five to eight 10-second sprints with 20 seconds rest between each.

Warm-up 1: walkouts with thoracic rotation

Standing with feet together, reach for the ground and walk out into plank position. Bring left heel to the ground outside of left wrist so that hips open, stretching glutes and hamstrings. Turn torso and reach for the ceiling with left hand, looking up. Walk back with your hands, keeping legs as straight as possible. Roll your spine up, leaving head as last to rise. Repeat on both sides 5 times.

Warm-up 2: forward lunge with overhead extension

Step forward with left leg into a lunge position. Push hips forward and straighten arms up and slightly behind head. Open shoulders and chest. Repeat on both sides 5 times.

Warm-up 3: banded side walks

Place a resistance band around ankles, turning toes slightly in. Start walking sideways, keeping torso straight and knees soft, for 20 steps. Reverse direction. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Curtsy lunge to front knee kick to single-leg burpee

Clasp hands together just under chin. Step backwards and to the side in a lunge with right leg, keeping left heel to the ground. Step up and bring right knee to chest, engaging core and squeezing left glute. Without touching the ground with right leg, lean forward. Place hands to the ground and jump back into plank position keeping right leg lifted. Jump forward with left leg, right knee to chest. Repeat. Do 10 reps on both sides.

Scapulae protraction and retraction

Begin in plank position with hands on the ground. Keeping arms straight, protract and retract scapulae (shoulder blades). Do 8 reps.

Walking plank to side squat thrusts

Start in plank position with hands on the ground. Put right elbow on the ground and then place left elbow on the ground, assuming plank position. Keep hips as steady as possible, engaging core and squeezing glutes. Place right hand on the ground, then left, to push your body up. Repeat 4 times. Then jump forward with feet on side of hands in a low squat position and jump back again into plank position. Do this 4 times. All of this is one rep. Repeat 6 times.

Crab reach to scorpion reach

Begin facing up with hands and feet on the ground, feet at shoulder width, fingers pointing behind you, hips off the ground, and right arm bent by your chest. Press hips up and extend right arm behind body, keeping it relaxed so it frames the head. Return to the start. From this position, lift left foot off ground, rotate leg underneath your body, then get back on all fours. Keeping knees off the ground, sit back on heels, straightening arms in front of body.

Initiate the scorpion reach by sitting back on your heels, straightening the arms. Bring left knee past right wrist, then kick the left leg up, dropping your head between your arms. Rotate hips outward slightly and pivot on the right foot to flip your body over and return to start. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 5 reps on each side.

Bench squat jump to push-up

Start in a squat position. Jump onto a box or bench. Jump back into a static squat. Place hands on the ground. Jump back into a push-up position. Do a push-up. That's 1 rep. Do 12 total.

Forearm plank with alternating leg raise and glute activation

Start in a forearm plank position. Squeezing one glute at a time, lift left leg up keeping it straight and in line with spine. Hold it for 5 to 10 seconds and then swap to the other leg. Repeat 3 times. 

Side kicks

Start on all fours with knees off the ground. Lift left hand and right foot off the ground simultaneously. Bring right leg to underneath body and kick to the left, pointing toes and leaving butt close to the ground, holding body up with right hand on ground and left heel. Bring left fist to chest. Open chest to the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds. Return to starting position then repeat on opposite side. Do 8 reps on each side.

Strength train for flexibility

“When weak, muscles put up a guard to protect against injury, making them feel tight.”

Body