7 Animal Movement Exercises You Should Be Doing
Have you ever watched your dog or cat move around? Have you noticed how high they can jump and how spry they seem to be? Maybe it’s time to mimic the experts with these animal movement exercises.
What is Animal Movement Exercise?
Animals seem to have the natural ability to stay fit, quick, limber, and flexible. Have you ever observed a cat jump from a seated position onto the top of a refrigerator like it was no big deal? How about the way a dog is constantly doing yoga (or doga) by stretching after every nap. What about the birds you see at the beach, constantly balanced on one leg as if they could stand that way all day? Or the deer or antelope who can run and run and run, nimbly avoiding every tree branch and fallen log.
Benefits of Animal Movement Exercise
Animals have an innate knack for moving their bodies through every plane. They move forward, back, side to side, all with ease and a natural flow. When doing these animal movement exercises, you will also benefit from the sagittal, frontal, and transverse movements. Here’s why these movements can be so effective:
1. They’re Fun—it’s just pure fun to move like your favorite animals and get in some exercise at the same time. The fact that you’re having fun means you’re more likely to do it, and more activity means better results and fitness.
2. They Increase Strength—just because the movements are fun doesn’t mean they don’t work when it comes to building muscle and getting stronger. You will still push your limits and improve your muscle strength with these animal movement exercises.
3. They Boost Cardiovascular Fitness—fun doesn’t mean easy, and you can bet you’ll get a little winded copying your cat or dog’s movements.
4. You’ll Build Greater Mobility and Flexibility—you have to be mobile and flexible to even move the way some of nature’s other creatures do. You’ll stretch and contract your muscles in new ways, allowing your body to move more freely through space.
5. These Are Functional Movements—these animal movement exercises can come in handy in everyday life. The hopping, stretching, crawling, and other animal contortions can really help fill in the blanks left by traditional strength training. You’ll strengthen your tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles.
Try These Animal Movement Exercises
1. Bear Crawl
Picture yourself as a bear, crawling up a steep mountain side. Begin on your hands and knees. Lift your knees off the floor, so you’re balanced on your hands and toes and move your right hand and left foot forward one “step.” Repeat on the opposite side moving your left hand and right foot forward simultaneously. Continue to move forward in this manner, keeping your back flat and your core tight.
2. Duck Walk
Ducks do it every day and make it look easy, but it most certainly is not! Begin by bending your knees and squatting down. You may need to start with a rather shallow squat at first until your flexibility increases. Keeping your back upright, pick up your right foot and move it forward, then the left. Continue in this manner as long as you can. Over time, you should be able to bend your knees more and squat down lower to the ground. You can also make this exercise more challenging by adding an exercise band.
3. Bird Walk
Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and lift your right knee to your chest. Pause and then kick your heel as far forward as you can before placing your right foot on the floor in front of you. Lean forward to bring your back leg up to original stance and repeat sequence with the opposite leg.
4. Crab Walk
If you can recall, you probably had to do this quite some time ago in gym class. Start by sitting on the ground with your feet flat and your hands, palms down, on the ground directly under your shoulders. Lift your hips and move your right foot and left hand forward at the same time while maintaining your balance. Repeat on the opposite side to continue moving forward.
5. Bunny Hops
Squat down so that your hips are near your ankles and place your hands behind your head (or straight before you if it helps with balance). Next, to the best of your ability, hop around in circles, staying mainly on your toes.
Squat down with your feet wide apart. Kick your hips back behind you and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Next, push through your heels and straighten your legs and body as you take a giant leap forward, landing in the same position as you began.
7. Inchworm Walk
Start by standing with your feet together and lean forward at the hips, placing your hands, palms down, on the ground in front of you. “Walk” your hands out in front of you until you are in a plank position (but keep your arms straight). Next, walk your legs forward to meet your hands, keeping your legs and back as straight as possible and bending only at the hips. Repeat.