I tried this viral YouTube bodyweight workout trend for a week, and I'm hooked

Animal flow workout practitioner
(Image credit: Shutterstock / daniromphoto)

When it comes to fitness, I thought workouts and workout content shared on social media were terrible, with very few exceptions. The drive to get noticed has influencers with shirts off and their best attributes forward, performing crazy exercises or doing silly skits in gyms solely designed to grab attention and hang onto it. I’ve had my fill of the online fitness industry. 

I’ve got a lot of mileage out of scrolling reels and shorts for quick healthy recipe videos to use with my best air fryer. But the exercise content online is much more of a mixed bag: for every qualified trainer promoting good solid fitness, there are several useless (or worse, potentially dangerous) viral workout trends being promoted by unqualified people. Or supplements full of sugar and caffeine being shilled by influencers. 

When I first came across Animal Flow online, I really thought it was nonsense. It was a video with over a million views, featuring a fitness vlogger trying the workout format out every day for a week. I’m interested in training patterns full of interesting movements, like yoga and climbing and martial arts, to supplement the fairly linear movement patterns I usually train in, such as squatting, benching in the gym, running on the best treadmill or walking on the best under-desk treadmills. When I saw Animal Flow practitioners perform kick-throughs and yoga-style twists, using names such as ‘loaded beast’, I began to roll my eyes, thinking it was nothing more than another form of pretentious wellness frippery. 

However, out of morbid curiosity, I finished the video, and the vlogger, Pushment, claimed that not only did he enjoy Animal Flow, but that it had begun to fix a lot of his mobility issues. What’s more, while I was watching the end result, he had actually become kind of… graceful. It reminded me of yoga, mixed with the Brazilian dance-fighting martial art of capoeira, with some floor gymnastics in for good measure.

I looked it up, and surprisingly, this wasn’t just some TikTok trend like no-weight bicep curls: Animal Flow had been created by an American sports coach, Mike Fitch, with qualifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association. I had grown lax in my mobility routine and my lower back had begun to ache due to all my time spent sitting down writing. So I decided to give Animal Flow a bash for ten minutes a week. Here are three things I learned.

1. It doesn't matter how you look

Animal flow workout practitioner

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Viktoriia Hnatiuk)

I exercise a reasonable amount each week and I tend to do the same stuff, a mix of running, lifting weights and yoga. Occasionally, if I’m lucky, I’ll throw a climb or surf session in there, but that only happens a handful of times a year. In short, I tend to feel like I know what I’m doing, and I’m not used to looking silly. But when I managed to grab an empty corner in the studio space in my gym to practice these kickthroughs, I suddenly started feeling self-conscious.

I kept messing up which hand I was supposed to be balancing on, or which foot to pick up, and falling down on my butt. I then began to worry if all these twists and lizard-style push-ups looked a bit silly, and once my ten minutes was up, I hurriedly rolled up my mat and slunk out, feeling self-conscious. 

Everyone feels like this when they start something new, and this was the first new discipline I’d tried in a long time. That was the last time I tried the moves in public until day seven. But I’m glad I kept practicing and learning how to pull the moves off: on the final day of the challenge, I broke up my run by stopping in a quiet corner of the park to do a ten-minute session in the morning sun, emboldened by someone else I had seen doing yoga in the park the previous day. 

 2. Learning new skills is good for the brain 

Animal flow workout practitioner

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Viktoriia Hnatiuk)

I hadn’t started from square one in any discipline for a long time, and I was surprised how challenging it was to learn the correct procedure for the moves. I used to learn new movement patterns all the time, but recently my routine had become a bit stale. 

The journal Psychology and Aging found that learning new skills is “a change, typically an improvement, in perceptual, cognitive, or motor performance that comes about as a result of training and that persists for several weeks or months." The article posits that regularly training your brain to learn new skills improves overall neural plasticity, or your ability to understand and learn new information quickly. 

In short, learning something new is good for the brain. There’s also the improved hand-eye coordination and mind-body connection that comes from understanding which direction your body is supposed to be moving, and where your hands should be placed. It felt like I was enjoying learning for the first time in ages, and I would get a little feel-good boost when I felt like I performed a new move correctly. 

 3. It’s easy on the back

I mentioned my lower back had begun to ache as a result of my desk job and long, unintentional sedentary periods. By the time I finished my week of animal flow, it felt like that pain had begun to recede. Not entirely, and it could have been the placebo effect – I only did ten or fifteen minutes a day, after all – but it did help. 

It’s probably because Animal Flow is easy on the back, performing exercises that are great for your core strength without pressing your spine against the floor, like you do during sit-ups. It’s also great mobility training, stretching and lengthening calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders and quads through its dynamic use of twists and floor techniques. 

Even sitting on the floor with straight legs is starting to feel like a challenge, getting used to crawling on all fours and gracefully twisting into a tabletop position felt like a revelation. Yoga once a week just isn’t cutting it anymore. 

Final thoughts

Maybe grabbing your workouts online isn’t all bad. As my first personal experience with a ‘viral’ workout trend, it made me a lot less skeptical about some of the others that have done the rounds, such as the 12-3-30 treadmill challenge. 

Before trying something you’ve seen online, I’d still recommend doing a thorough bit of research about the person promoting the exercise, and checking their qualifications, regardless of how fit they look online.

I don’t think all this bodyweight animal flow stuff is ever going to fully replace my running and lifting routine. However, next time I don’t feel like slipping on my best gym shoes for some weightlifting, I’ll be taking fifteen minutes out of my day to unleash the beast and give Animal Flow a whirl.

Matt Evans
Fitness, Wellness, and Wearables Editor

Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.