I’m sure you’ve seen those videos of people doing slick movement combination flows all over the internet (you might have even seen some on our Facebook page). Like this kind of thing:
When you watch that, you might have any mix of the following thoughts:
- Damn, that’s cool!
- I could never do anything like that
- Why would anyone do something like this?
- That guy is just showing off
That last one is definitely true 😉
Combining movements into a flow like this has always been a major feature in our programs—you start with the basic building blocks, then you work your way up to being able to put those pieces together into a flow.
But why do we teach this? What are the benefits of combining movements in this way? And how can you start creating your own combination flows with the movements in your arsenal? In this article, I’ll talk about why combining movements is a good goal (and well worth your time), and how to get started.
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What is “Movement Flow”?
The whole “movement flow” trend is popular now in the fitness world, but the concept of flow is not new.
Believe it or not, it stems from the field of positive psychology. Researchers in the 1960s identified a bunch of characteristics of being in a “flow state,” but here are just a few that carry over to the world of movement:
- Combining action with awareness
- Detailed concentration on the task at hand
- And this one is too good to paraphrase: “Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, such that often the end goal is just an excuse for the process.”
We can certainly see how these ideas apply to movement, and particularly the kinds of movements we teach. The goal is not to just put a bunch of movements together haphazardly, but to be present and mindful of how your body flows through those movements.
Here, you can see how Alicia is very deliberate in her movements as she flows through these combinations:
These kinds of movement combinations look cool, but beyond impressing your friends on Instagram, why should you start working on this sort of thing? Let’s take a look.
3 Benefits of Practicing Movement Combinations
There are a lot of benefits to working on one skill or movement in isolation, working on improving your proficiency with it. So why are we recommending combining movements? What does this approach add to your training? There are 3 main benefits.
When was the last time you had to squat down, stand back up, with no other action in between, in your regular life? I’m guessing never.
If you’re squatting down in your daily life, it’s to do something—maybe to reach for something under your bed, or clean something off of the floor, or pick up your toddler who’s having a full on tantrum.
Life just doesn’t happen one movement at a time.
We talked a lot about the transitions that happen throughout life in this related article, but working on combining movements is a good way to improve those transitions.
And getting used to going from one movement to another with control will carry over to your day-to-day movements.
If you’re working on a particular skill or exercise, practicing different angles of that exercise will help you gain control over it. When you only practice in one plane of motion, you may be building strength in those positions, but you’re not building the kind of control you otherwise could.
Going back to the squat example, let’s say you get pretty good at squatting down with decent control. What happens when you put your hands on the ground to one side? If you haven’t practiced the lateral monkey much (or at all), your squat is probably going to get all wonky. Your knees might cave in or out. Your back might round out more than is comfortable for you. Your heels might come off the ground.
But when you get comfortable with moving from the squat into these different positions, linking movements together, you’ll gain more control over those individual movements.
The research on flow indicates that achieving a flow state helps improve self-awareness and self-esteem. It helps you learn and retain skills more effectively, and improves anxiety levels.
Working on movement combinations with an emphasis on flow is a way of getting these benefits of a flow state through physical means.
And the more time you spend in that flow state, the more it will transfer into other areas of your life. Spending a fair amount of your training time on moving in this way can have a big impact on how you engage with the rest of your life and what’s important to you.
How Can You Go From Zero to Movement Flow “Master”?
Because of the nature of the interwebz, most of the videos you’ve probably seen of these kinds of combinations are from high level “movers” (I always find that term hilarious—are they moving your furniture or something?), people who’ve been doing this kind of thing for a long time.
So naturally, you might think this is only accessible to people with a lot of movement experience. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Even if you have absolutely no experience with putting movements together, you can start learning how to do this, beginning at your own level. And even at the most basic level, you’ll get all the benefits of movement combinations we just listed above.
But when people say things like “just flow,” that means next to nothing if you have no experience with this.
It all starts with learning basic movement patterns and getting comfortable with those building blocks—movements like the bear, monkey, and frogger we teach in our Elements course. Or other basic movements like squats, push-ups, or cartwheels. You’ll want to start building those foundational movements before you start putting them together.
Then, as you improve your control over these movements in isolation, you can start working on linking them together.
Start with two movements—let’s say the squat and the bear. See how many different ways you can combine those movements, going from one into the other. Then, maybe add in the frogger or even a cartwheel.
At first, your movement combinations will be pretty rehearsed and choppy, and they’ll probably look nothing like those fancy flow videos. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting more comfortable with linking those pieces together, and remember that enjoying the process (rather than fixating on the outcome) is the most important part of entering a flow state of mind.
Our Strength & Mobility Kickstart will introduce you to foundational movements and principles that are essential to building that base of strength, flexibility, and control, and teaches you how to start putting those pieces together into movement combinations.