10 Animalistic Moves To Sculpt, Strengthen & Burn

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
There’s a new beast in town — your body. "Primal" workouts have been quickly gaining in popularity; they require little to no equipment, include functional movement, and are just plain fun. The exercises mimic the movement patterns of the strong, graceful, and powerful animals found in nature — with a human-fitness twist, of course. Crawling like a leopard helps increase flexibility in your hips and shoulders, balancing like a bird engages your core, and leaping like a frog will spike your heart rate.
Our from-the-wild workout is designed by Dasha Libin Anderson, MS, NASM-PES, MKC, NASE, M-KBIA, creator of the Kettlebell Kickboxing program. The moves, featured in the "animal calisthenics" routine on Anderson's latest DVD, are inspired by animals but also pull from her background in martial arts. The end result: improved strength, flexibility, agility, endurance, and killer muscles.
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The 10 exercises ahead are anything but basic — no squats, burpees, or curls here. Instead, you’ll engage your muscles by moving, twisting, and balancing like you're on top of the food chain. Haven't you always wanted to find your fitness spirit animal?
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Bird Balance
Sit on the floor with your hands in prayer position in front of your chest. Cross your left leg over your right and plant your left foot on the floor. Sit tall, keeping your spine straight.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Push through the heel of your left foot to stand, coming through a half-kneeling position.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, begin to stand up and slowly lift your right leg behind you, keeping your foot pointed.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Reach your right leg as high as you can, remaining balanced on your left leg (you can bend your left knee if needed). Reach your arms behind you with your palms facing up. Pause here and then slowly reverse the movement to come back to a seated position. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Leopard Kick-Out
Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your feet should be flexed so that the balls of your feet are pressing against the floor.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Lift your hips toward the sky. Now, shift your weight to your left hand.
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Pick up your left foot and kick it under your body and through to your right — as you lift your right arm off the floor and twist your torso to the right. Reverse the movement, so you’re back in a tabletop position, and now kick your right leg under.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Come back into tabletop and push your hips back toward your butt, similar to child’s pose. That’s 1 rep. Come back onto all fours and repeat the exercise 9 more times.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Donkey Kicks
Start standing, with your feet hip-width apart and hands in loose fists at your torso. Shift your weight to your left leg and bend your right knee. Your right foot should be flexed, and your right knee should be next to your left knee.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
As if you’re pushing through mud, kick your right leg behind you. Then, bring your right leg back to meet your left — without lowering your right foot. Try to do all 10 reps. Then, lower your right foot and repeat on the opposite side. Be sure to keep your core tight throughout the exercise; it will help you balance.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Frog Jumps
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees, lowering into a deep squat. Bring your arms behind you and bring your chest toward your thighs.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, explode up into the air, sweeping your arms in front of you and toward the sky. Immediately lower into the crouched position and perform the next rep. Do 10 reps.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Caterpillar Crawl
Stand tall, with your feet a few inches apart. Bring your hands to the floor, bending at the knees if necessary.
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Slowly walk your hands out in front of you until you’re in the top of a push-up position, with your wrists under your shoulders.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Lift your left leg and bend your left knee, bringing your left foot toward your midline while reaching back with your right arm. Keep your core tight to help you balance.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Slowly return to the top of a push-up position, walk your hands back toward your feet, and stand up. Do 10 reps on each leg, alternating sides each time.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Spider Push-Ups
Start in the top of a plank position, with your arms straight, wrists under your shoulders, and spine long. Perform one push-up.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Then, bring your left knee to meet your left elbow. Return your foot to its starting position and repeat on the right side. That’s 1 rep; do 10 total.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Gorilla Walks
Stand tall, with your hands in fists. Now, place your knuckles on the floor, bending your knees as much as needed.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, start walking, jumping, and hopping forward, backward, and side-to-side.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Have fun with this move — just be sure to keep your core tight, shoulders rolled down and back, and spine long (you don’t want to hunch over your arms).
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Crab Reaches
Start in reverse tabletop with your palms under your shoulders, fingers pointing away from the body, and your core tight.
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Lift your left arm toward the sky, keeping your heels pushing into the floor.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Turn your body toward the right, bringing your left hand to the right and under your torso. Reverse the movement and return to tabletop position.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, repeat on the other side, lifting your right arm toward the sky and twisting to the left, then ending in reverse table-top position.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
To complete the movement, bring your butt toward the floor and kick your right leg up, reaching your left arm to your right foot. Then, repeat with your left foot. Now, come into your starting position and lower back to the floor. That’s 1 rep; do 10 total.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Lion Crawl
Start in a modified downward dog with your heels planted on the floor and your hips reaching up in the air.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, bring your knees to the floor and push your butt back over your ankles into a child’s pose.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Plant your forearms on the ground and push your chest forward while keeping your torso low to the ground and your butt up.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Move forward — until your chest passes your forearms — and push through your palms into an extended cobra position. Then, push back into child’s pose. Press your heels to the ground and raise your hips up, so that you’re back in the starting downward-dog position. That’s 1 rep; do 10 total.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Eagle Twist
Stand with your left foot three to four feet in front of your right. Bend your left knee, aiming to get your left thigh parallel to the floor. Extend your arms at shoulder height and twist your torso so that it is open to the right.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Begin to twist so that your hips face forward, and shift your weight to your left leg. Sweep your right arm forward and your left arm back. Slowly, raise your right leg as high as possible without arching your back.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Remain balancing on your left leg and sweep your right leg forward, raising your right knee to hip height while slowly reversing your arms so that your left arm is forward and bent at the elbow. Keep your core tight to help you balance.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Now, kick your right foot behind you and bend your left knee, lowering into a runner’s lunge. Bring your left arm behind your back and your right arm overhead. Move your gaze toward your right hand. That’s 1 rep. Bring your arms back to shoulder height and twist your torso to the right to begin the next rep. Do 10 reps total; then, switch sides.
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