‘Flow’, to the uninitiated, sounds like a term dreamed up by new-age gurus to describe what happens at a particularly productive Rainbow Rhythms class. It's not, it's a state of mind that will get you better results in the gym.
Technically, it's defined as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best’. According to Steven Kotler, creator of the Flow Genome Project ‘concentration becomes so laser-focused that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Our sense of self and self-consciousness completely disappear. And, of course, all aspects of performance are incredibly heightened.’
This, of course, is not news to top performers around the world, who’ve been harnessing the state through workouts since before the term was coined. Below you’ll find a selection of workouts designed to harness the flow state and increase your work capacity – without the grind.
Core strength and agility
Before you build, you need firm foundations. Ginástica Natural, developed by surfer and Brazilian jiu jitsu expert Alvaro Romano, fuses moves from both disciplines into a nonstop workout that’ll challenge both your core and your co-ordination. Do this entry-level flow at least once a week.
Starting from standing, dive forward onto your hands, bringing your leg high up behind you. Bring your foot down and go straight into the next move.
With one leg forward, feeling the stretch, twist to face your leading knee and bring the hand on that side into the air. Hold it, then step into the same stretch on the other side.
From the lunge, pass the arm opposite your forward leg in front of your body, and roll onto that side. While on the floor swing one leg to your and and then come back up into a crouch.
From your crouching position, bring one leg straight up in the air as if you’re kicking an opponent above you. Hold, then repeat on the other side.
Hollow sit to press-up
From the cossack, lower yourself to the ground, hold briefly and then spin your legs around behind you, coming into a press-up.
From the press-up position, lower to the floor and then explode up, as if you’re jumping onto a surfboard.
Power and Endurance
You don’t need weights to build a physique worthy of an MMA fighter. Strikeforce veteran André Galvão combines gymnastic moves and animal drills into a cardio-sapping circuit. Do them for five nonstop minutes at the end of your workout.
Bring one knee up as high as possible next to the elbow on the same side, keeping your hips as low as you can. Lower into a press-up, then repeat on the other side so you ‘crawl’ forward, gator style.
From a squatting position, walk your hands forward on the floor until you’re stretched almost full-length, then sit back on your haunches briefly and explode forward into a jump, landing with your feet by your hands. Repeat five times.
It’s Portuguese for ‘monkey’. Sit with your hands and the soles of your feet on the floor, then bridge up, bring your arm behind your head and move on to your toes. Experts would move into a flip – you should hold the position for a second, lower and repeat on the other side.
Fighters use this to get up efficiently, but it’s also a core-bracer. After sitting down when you finish the macaco, fold one leg under yourself and plant your other heel on the ground, pressing your weight through it to stand up.
Mobility and Speed
Functional muscle is about movement, not size. Build both mobility and speed with these moves inspired by free running and calisthenics.
Squat to all fours
Keeping your weight on your heels, do a squat. Staying controlled, lean forward onto all fours. Go straight into the next move.
Dive Bomber Push-up
Starting on all fours, dive your face towards the floor, trying to keep as low as possible. At the end of the move, bring your chest up.
Without taking your hands off the floor, pop up into a press-up position and then bring one knee forward, then the other.
Starting on all fours, take one hand off the floor and ‘kick’ the opposite leg through to where it used to be.
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.