Whenever I showed up a few minutes early for Kira Stokes‘ abs class at Reebok Sports Club in New York City, I watched the tail end of her Stoked Primal class. Everyone was crawling, striding, leaping, jumping and sweating across the floor. Stokes, with her signature bright apparel and ripped abs, often wrapped up class with a walking handstand demonstration. People emerged from the 30-minute class panting and sweating, but smiling. Still, it took months until I tapped into my fierce strength to try a walk — well, more like a crawl and a hop — on the wild side of working out in beast mode.
Stroked Primal relies on your own body weight for resistance, incorporating moves called gorillas, bullfrogs, panthers, crabs and even the Komodo dragon. And it’s not the only popular workout that draws inspiration from the animal kingdom: Equinox recently introduced Animal Flow classes, developed by Mike Fitch to blend animal and freestyle-dance moves, at locations in London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington, DC. And Tim Haft and Shana Brady, creators of the fun and energetic Punk Rope workout I recently told you about, have a Beastanetics Boot Camp at McCarren Park Soccer Field in Brooklyn, NY.
Ready to answer the call of the wild this spring? Check out our rundown of these three full-body, fiercely fun workouts.
Stoked Primal After 20 years as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Stokes says she wanted to create “a challenging, creative and fun workout that you could do stranded on a desert island without any equipment.” The result is Stoked Primal, which has participants on all fours for almost the entire 30 minutes of class, beginning with a warm-up of planks and fluid movements similar to what you might do in a yoga class. Work your arms, core and leg muscles as you crawl across the floor of the studio like a panther — to Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat,” of course — or rely on your core and triceps for the alligator, a series of tiny movements that slowly propels your body across the floor like a giant reptile. Class ends with a rapid-fire drill of all the animal moves mastered within the first 25 minutes of class, before a tribal-music cool down. Check out this video of Stokes demonstrating her primal power and stay tuned for a Stoked workout app for your smartphone and iPad.
Animal Flow Mike Fitch was a longtime devotee to weightlifting, yet when he reached maximum bulk and found he had trouble buying T-shirts, he says, “I felt terrible and looked ridiculous.” He “decided to see how my body would react to a pure body-weight discipline,” Fitch says. “Quadrupedal, freestyle animal movements sculpted my physique, improved my posture and increased my range of motion.” Fitch explored parkour, capoeira, gymnastics and breakdancing, while developing his own routine.
In both the Animal Flow and more advanced Animal Flow X classes, participants mimic the moves of crocodiles, chimpanzees and crabs to build “strength, power, endurance, coordination, stability, flexibility, speed and agility,” says Fitch. His background in dance-inspired movements also ensures there’s an element of grace — that’s where the “flow” part comes in. To see Fitch demonstrate his animal instincts, check out this Equinox video. If you can’t take one of the classes in person, Fitch also offers an Animal Flow workout for immediate digital download ($39.95) on his website.
Beastanetics Boot Camp This class relies on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) methods — exercises completed in short sets followed by brief rest. As with the other beastly workouts, Beastanetics is designed to improve body composition, stamina, strength, speed, agility and balance, using 50 select body-weight exercises.
Haft explains that although his Beastanetics class includes “primal” moves, “It’s important for students to understand that while we can learn from the way animals move we don’t necessarily want to imitate them.”
Sign up for a 12-week program or drop in for a free intro class for first-timers. If you don’t live in New York City, Haft offers a Beastanetics Manual so you can do the high intensity, interval-training program wherever you call home. Watch some Beastanetics moves to get inspired.
Some people think that aside from some pushups and core work, the only way to develop real muscle definition is with free weights and gym machines, but as a Stoked Primal regular, I can tell you that I’ve seen major improvements in my physique and form after a few months. These body-weight-based programs are designed for results.