Learn 8 special animal walk movements for developing the lower body. Build strength, mobility, stability, flexibility and open up your hips!
When it comes to the lower body, we consider animal movements one of the best (if not the best) methods for developing truly functional and powerful legs.
Yes, we favor them over heavy back squats and deadlifts. This is because the smaller muscles and the limberness of the legs and hips is far more important than pure "raw strength" alone.
Your athleticism is determined by the mobility, structural balance and limberness of your legs. Stiff legs and tight hips cannot do much at all.
The more advanced we get, the more we favor animal movements.
Focusing only on heavy squats and heavy deadlifts is definitely not the answer because they will only make your lower body more stiff. Of course they can be used (and we do use them in Athlete 20XX Method for example), but they should be the secondary focus.
Here is an anecdote: In the beginning of my training journey I mostly did heavy squats and heavy deadlifts.
The results? The number of weights went up but otherwise my legs and hips were in a horrible shape. No athleticism and no flexibility or mobility either. And imagine that at my best I was able to do a 400 lbs (180 kg) deadlift.
Today, my leg training mostly consists of animal movements of Movement 20XX Method and power & stability exercises of Athlete 20XX Method. In addition to this, I do lower body exercises with reasonably heavy sandbags (Iron King Method).
The results? My legs have never been more athletic and mobile. I have never felt more light on my feet.
In this video, Eero demonstrated 8 challenging but highly effective animal walks you can do for the lower body. Most likely, these require far more mobility, flexibility and strength than you are capable of.
This is not a problem.
We like to say that weakness is only potential in disguise. No matter how stiff you are, you can get started with animal movements and start building limberness, mobility and strength to your entire body.
If you already consider yourself strong and athletic, the most recent expansion (2023) of Movement 20XX Method includes 30 new advanced movements, many for your legs, which will challenge you to the max.
I urge everyone to give the animal walks a try – they will surprise you. The same happened to me and the same has happened to countless people.
The question is, are you ready to drop the ego? Are you ready to be uncomfortable and even look silly at first? No risk, no reward.
The Benefits of Each Walk
1. Upright Monkey
The upright monkey utilizes a bouncing low squat motion to take steps forward. The toes and knees are pointed outside to allow a very deep sink into the squat. The back and your upper body are kept in a good upright posture while walking.
This will pump your quadriceps and give them great pliability because the movement is dynamic and utilizes the stretch reflex of the thighs.
The toes out position also strengthens and stretches the groin musculature amazingly well helping you to become fluent at moving in low squat positions.
2. Hunting Monkey
Hunting Monkey utilizes a low lunge position with a forward-folded upper body to move forward. You will also support the arm in the ground with every step but the majority of the weight will always be on the legs.
The forward bent position dramatically increases the recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings. Every time you take a step you start from a maximal hip hinge position and rely mainly on just one of your legs.
You should feel this intensely in your posterior leg muscles. I love this move because you rarely get to train the legs in this type of pattern.
3. Twisty Duck
Twisty Duck is similar to the Upright monkey but you come higher with every squat bounce and rotate your body with every step.
The muscular engagement is also similar except with less emphasis on the groin area and a bit more on the quads due to the larger bounce.
It's important to learn different patterns and ways of coordinating in the low squat.
4. Capoeira Ape
This is a transitional movement sometimes used in capoeira and break dance but it also makes a fantastic movement drill. It's based on moving your weight from side to side in a rocking motion from one arm to the other.
While leaning on one side the opposite side leg has space to move in a large circular arch forward. This is a tough drill for coordination and balance and takes great control to do it smoothly. But once you become successful it will feel very satisfactory.
You will be working shoulder supportive strength together with hip flexors, abdominals, lateral glutes, and ankles.
5. Squatting Crane Kick
You will again gain similar benefits to movements 1 and 3 but even greater force has to be produced to launch yourself all the way up to throw a high front kick.
The kick takes power and momentum from the squat so you need to be very proficient at bouncing from the low squat. The kicking builds dynamic hamstring flexibility and hip flexor strength while the core is a very active stabilizer.
6. Gallopping Monkey
This is a variation of the basic monkey walk pattern. The difference is in how the upper body is kept at a more diagonal angle in relation to the direction of the movement.
The legs are also not kept pointing straight forward in a symmetrical fashion but the other leg is lower and rotates internally during the movement.
This makes it a slightly more challenging variation for hip mobility and also develops it greatly. This can be done slower to emphasize the mobilizing effect or rapidly to work on the conditioning.
7. Stretching Duck Walk
As the name suggests, With every step you’ll be making a dynamic hamstring stretch by folding forward towards the straightened leg. You can first start by placing one arm on the ground to build up the movement and your flexibility.
When you remove the arm this becomes a real balance exercise working the ankle stability and even strengthening the hamstring as you’re supporting weight on them.
It’s a fantastic way to add a new dimension to the regular duck walk which already works the lower body agility and mobility effectively.
8. Ugly Duckling
Ugly Duckling is a more relaxed version of the traditional duck. With every step, you’re bending sideways from the torso and moving the arms in a wave-like motion from side to side as well.
It’s a splendid movement to open up the sides of the body while doing animal walks. Every step trains intensely your quads and ankles while stretching the obliques.
Remember, as with any animal movements the benefits are always more than can be described with words. Try them yourself for a time and feel the difference in your muscles and the movements they produce.
Animal Movement Strength Training (AMST) is a Holistic Training Method
One great benefit of animal movements is not only the fact that you will build strength, mobility and flexibility in the entire body, but that they are also complex movement patterns that require a lot from your body and brain.
Due to these high demands on the body and mind, animal movements burn a lot of calories. 20 minutes of animal walks is a real fat burner that trains your entire nervous system.
Animal Movement Strength Training (AMST), as we call it in Movement 20XX, is a real holistic training system that develops countless attributes and qualities in the body.
It's an ancient method and one of the most primitive ways of training out there... and as a result one of the most important.
If you have tried animal movements in the past, you know how challenging they can get. In fact, animal movements would give many powerlifters and bodybuilders the toughest workout of their lives...
If you are new, give the animal movements a go. You have literally nothing to lose and only everything to gain.