Over the years, we’ve had thousands of martial artists and combat sports (MACS) athletes take our workshops. Their feedback continues to reinforce that having a strong all-fours (or ‘quadrupedal’) game is of major benefit to all MACS athletes, irrespective of whether they fight on their feet or on the ground.
It was this strong initial feedback that led us to release the Animal Flow for Fighters e-book in 2014. We’ve spent the last 12 months working on an updated and greatly expanded version, and we’re now just a few weeks away from releasing Animal Flow for Martial Arts and Combat Sports in both hard copy and digital formats.
I’m excited to release this preview, which features an excerpt from the chapter ‘Animal Flow for Boxing’ by our UK Master Instructor, Rich Scrivener.
Author of Animal Flow for Boxing, Master Instructor Richard Scrivener
Boxing is a stand-up combat sport performed on two feet which are in contact with the ground; Animal Flow is a ground-based movement program performed on two, three and four limbs, where the hands are also connected to the floor. Visually, they do not look at all like one another and this may be a reason why some trainers would discount using Animal Flow as a tool to enhance the performance of their fighter. But when we consider the important principle of ‘sports specificity’ vs. ‘sports relevance’, Animal Flow reveals itself as a powerful tool for the development of robustness for the sport of boxing.
Robustness is typically targeted and developed during the initial stages of physical fitness preparations and thus is an important contributor to building the ‘base’. According to Nick Winkleman (Head of Athletic Performance and Science at the Irish Rugby Football Union) there are concerns that “Everything needs to look, taste and smell like the sport—this is inappropriate.” (1) To expand this idea, it can be argued that ‘relevance’ creates a base to build specificity.
We already understand that a punch is delivered from the ground up, via the kinetic chain, until contact is made with the opponent (or bag/pads). As ground reaction force is generated, it is crucial to be efficient with the transfer of energy through the body links. Any ‘leakage’ of energy will create inefficiency and a loss of force. Key regions of the body where mobility, stiffness or stability are lacking represent opportunities for Animal Flow movements to come into their own by assisting with the plan to address movement dysfunctions. Ruddock made the following important observations as they relate to regions of the body where targeted intervention is often needed (2):
In the content below you can see how each movement dysfunction ‘challenge’ a boxer might face can be addressed with a supporting Animal Flow movement or combination. A ‘movement’ simply refers to the completion of a single repetition of that full move. A combination refers to the connection of two individual movements where a transfer of energy pushes the body to the next position.
Challenge: Boxers maintain a similar stance throughout their technical work that typically shortens the hip flexors and they amplify this shortness with hours of running at submaximal intensities.
Animal Flow Movement: Loaded Beast – Front Step w/ Reach Back
Challenge: Hip flexor tightness can cause many injuries and dysfunctions including lower back pain and can limit gluteal strength.
Animal Flow Movement: 3-Point Crab Reach
Challenge: Hip and trunk torque contributes to punch force, therefore mobilizing and strengthening this area can improve performance as well as reduce likelihood of injury.
Animal Flow Movement: Underswitch to Scorpion Reach
Challenge: “Hands up, chin down” as a defensive-guard coaching cue can lead to a rounding and shrug of the shoulders. With thousands of punches thrown anteriorly from this position the upper trapezius and anterior deltoids are at risk of overdevelopment and tightness whilst antagonistic musculature (such as the posterior deltoids and middle and lower trapezius) may become weakened.
Animal Flow Movement: Forward and Reverse Travelling Crab
Challenge: The main shoulder actions during punching are shoulder flexion and internal rotation, thus the pectoralis major and anterior deltoids can become overactive and may create chronic joint problems such as rotator cuff impingement, shoulder instability, bicep tendonitis and thoracic outlet syndrome.
Animal Flow Movement: Underswitch into Ape Reach, Open, Reaching Underswitch
Challenge: It is important to develop force production and transfer in the upper-body and trunk using multiple planes of movement. Rotational mobility is required for ‘foot to fist’ force transference. Limitations in thoracic cage mobility may trigger compensations from regions above and below the restricted zone where a boxer relies upon lateral flexion movements instead.
Animal Flow Movement: Contralateral Beast and Crab Activation, Slow Tempo Underswitch
Animal Flow for Martial Arts and Combat Sports launches in November 2021.