The Fitness Farm

by Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS and Julie Vardaman on Apr 01, 2008


Use these animal-inspired exercises to jazz up your group strength or boot camp class.

Wake up your group strength or boot camp warm-up with animal-themed movements that include static and dynamic stretches. Encourage participants to focus on precision, breathing and progressions. Take these moves through a full range of motion to increase the stretch. Remember that not all exercises are appropriate for all populations. Choose the ones that work best for your students, based on their goals and on exercise specificity.

Cuckoo Clocking

Have the “time” of your life performing this series of lunges inspired by a clock face (cuckoo optional). Begin with feet together and step right foot forward into a series of lunges that follow the numbers on a clock (12:00, 1:00, 2:00, etc.). When you step back from 6:00, switch to left leg and continue around to 12:00. Repeat from left leg counterclockwise, switching to right leg at 6:00 to complete the series.


Take this move inch by inch, starting with plank pose (hands under shoulders, spine extended with arms and feet supporting the body). Slowly walk feet toward hands (about four steps), and lift hips to ceiling. Walk hands forward about two steps more. Lower body into plank position again. Repeat 8–10 times.


Stand out in the crowd with this one-legged balance exercise. Start in standing position and abduct shoulders. Engage upper-back muscles and reach out through fingertips. Lean forward and hinge from hip, fully extending back leg and engaging gluteals. Lengthen hamstring of supporting leg, and balance. Hold for 10 seconds then switch legs. Repeat 3–4 times.

Moo and Meow, Cat and Cow

Begin in quadruped position. For cat stretch, inhale and pull abdominal muscles up and in. For cow, exhale and gently arch the back, bringing tailbone up, lifting chin and opening throat without stressing neck. Alternate cat and cow, moving through each spinal position 3–5 times.

Careful to Bear Crawl

Begin in quadruped position. Raise hips slightly higher than shoulder height (knees are off the ground) and slowly walk hands and feet forward in opposition. For example, as you move right hand forward, left foot will follow. Travel the length of the floor, or repeat the basic move (all four limbs) 8–10 times.

Go Bananas for Monkey

Flex forward from hips, keeping back flat. Anchor hands on shins. Keep knees flexed and spine straight, neck extended. Retract scapulae. Hold for 6–10 counts, then return to upright posture. Repeat 3 times.

Don’t Get Stung Scorpion

Lie prone with flexed arms extended to sides at shoulder level. Engage abdominal muscles and bring right leg back and over to left side, rotating from waistline. Reach behind and to side of body and attempt to touch floor. Return to start position and repeat on left side. Perform 6–8 repetitions.

Modified Pigeon

From plank pose, bring right knee forward toward left hand. Support body weight with arms and allow right knee to rest on floor. Right hip and leg may also rest gently. Hold 2–3 seconds and return to plank pose. Do the same on opposite side. Repeat on both sides 5–8 times.

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS, is a writer, a national fitness presenter and the recreation & wellness coordinator at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa. Julie Vardaman is a personal trainer and triathlete in Ames, Iowa.

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About the Authors

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Irene Lewis-McCormick, MS, C.S.C.S. is an international fitness educator, twice published author (Human Kinetics) and 30-year fitness industry veteran. Irene is faculty at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and SCW Fitness. She is the Education Director for Octane Fitness, an Orangetheory Fitness coach and a RYKA Fitness Ambassador. Irene contributes to several fitness and consumer publications, is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for ACE and NASM, an IDEA Fitness Expert, and contributing author to the newest release of the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Manual. Irene holds positions on the advisory board for Diabetic Living magazine and the Egg Nutrition Council. Irene has starred in dozens of DVD's, has written 13 fitness instructional manuals (pre-natal, water fitness, small group training, kids fitness, HIIT program design, strength training, group exercise, etc.) and is a master trainer for TRX, Savvier Fitness, Power Systems, SCW Fitness Education, JumpSport and KnotOut. Her primary certifications include NSCA, ACE, ACSM, AEA, AFAA and YogaFit.

Julie Vardaman

Julie Vardaman IDEA Author/Presenter