“I met Ariel on a beautiful spring morning on the shores of the Spree river on the outskirts of Berlin. My friend invited me to join her for what was announced as an introduction to GMB and Animal Flow—whatever that meant. I had only recently started working out again on a regular basis but was feeling pretty confident—I could easily do 20 pull-ups and my stomach was almost an eight-pack, after all.


Turns out I was wrong. What I learned that day was deeply humbling and would go change my understanding of and approach to my body forever. I had to realize that no amount of stomach-packs can help with deep squatting or shoulder mobility, and that a few simple bodyweight exercises could bring me to the brink of frustrated, total exhaustion.


That day, I started to understand the difference between muscle and strength as well as the importance of mobility and motor control, and their highly leveraged impact on your everyday life over time.


Seeing Ariel move over the pier with the natural strength and grace (and hair) of a lion got me hooked. What followed in our subsequent bi-weekly training sessions, however, was anything but fun. Ari first made me understand that I was completely misguided in most of my training efforts, doing the important stuff either too fast, with terrible form, or simply not at all. He insisted on the most basic regression exercises, and explained how they are the indispensable baby steps to doing the amazing stuff like a straight-line handstand or the ring muscle-up. He also kept reminding me of quality over quantity and of the importance of slow—SLOW!—movements, to the point where three slow pull-ups were all that was left of my original 20.


As we went from complete articulate rotations (CARs) and locomotion patterns to Animal Flow sequences, hand balancing and free bar exercises, I would often experience a peculiarly exciting kind of panic whenever Ari asked me to do something new—all while quietly assuring me that I had the strength, motor control and experience to pull it off. I wouldn’t usually agree with him, thinking that, for example, kicking up into a handstand was out of the question—but then suddenly it  wasn’t anymore!