To think outside the box for my latest Tom’s Guide fitness challenge, I turned to a popular move used within animal flow sequences — the scorpion reach.
The scorpion is a primal movement that develops functional strength and mobility and stretches various muscle groups. You’ll also work on coordination, balance and stability, making it the perfect full-body exercise all-rounder if you’re looking for a new challenge this month.
I rolled out one of the best yoga mats for home workouts, and got to work with 70 reps of the scorpion reach per day for one week. I’ve reported my daily thoughts and anything I noticed physically or mentally — here’s why I’m obsessed with this exercise already.
How to do the Scorpion Reach exercise
Here’s how step-by-step:
- Start on your knees with arms extended on the floor in front of you, chest down and your toes tucked under — this is called Loaded Beast
- Engage your core muscles, then lift your knees and begin driving your body weight forward toward a plank position
- As you drive forward, draw your right knee toward the outside of your left elbow with a flat back
- Begin “loading” the scorpion by shifting your weight forward, shoulders moving past the wrists. Your knee should be an inch away from your mat
- Now drive your right leg outward and up toward the ceiling in a circular motion with toes pointed and knee bent
- Keep your shoulders square, lift onto the ball of your left foot and keep your head between your biceps as you draw the right leg behind you — like a three-legged downward-facing dog
- Reach the leg as far as you can and hold the stretch
- Reverse the movement back and switch sides.
I did the Scorpion Reach exercise every day for a week — here are my results
I found out about this exercise when I tried a 30-minute animal flow exercise routine every day for a week; I’ve wanted to try it ever since. Here’s how I got on.
I feel more knowledgable
Like the best calisthenics workouts, animal flow draws on bodyweight movements in sequence or flow state and combines strength training, mobility and yoga.
The Animal Flow “institution” states the floor-based bodyweight training style uses animal poses, crawls and transitions to create a continuous flow of movement. One such animal pose is the scorpion reach, which sits under the FSS component of animal flow (there are six in total) — Form Specific Stretching.
That means the move encourages flexibility, mobility and “strength through motion.” During the move, you’ll work on trunk flexion, extension and rotation, which unlocks the spine, shoulders and hips.
I was sucked in from day and rep one. I love learning new skills within the fitness industry, and as a keen yogi, this one tapped right into my love of flow-state exercise.
It felt amazing
We come through many Tom’s Guide fitness challenges stating “never again,” but not with the scorpion reach. I’ll be using the move myself and with clients from now on.
The first steps of the exercise use core and hip flexor strength and activate the oblique muscles to draw the knee toward the elbow — a bit like cross mountain climbers do. Your shoulders and arms are also active in a semi-plank position before twisting and driving the leg upward in a circular motion.
At this point, the scorpion reach delivers a beautiful full-body stretch, opening the hips, stretching the arms, shoulders and upper back and gently rotating the torso as you extend your standing leg into a hamstring stretch. I felt every corner of my body contracting and stretching — and it felt amazing.
It's killer on the core and shoulders
Don’t be fooled though — this move is hard work. I was breathless after just 10 reps, and it’s a killer on the wrists, shoulders, core and hips. The scorpion reach is a rotary movement for your entire body. Every major muscle group switches on alongside the smaller, stabilizing muscles required for balance and coordination.
It’s brilliant for building mobility and flexibility. But it’s seriously tough and takes a lot of energy to control your body weight as you move to the end range of your mobility. By day seven, it felt just as challenging as day one.
What I love about animal flow is its ability to unlock a sense of inner calm. As I focused entirely on where my body was at all times (called proprioception), it took my mind away from external noise and the “messy mind.” I was recently diagnosed with Adult ADHD, and exercise is something that helps to keep me grounded. During the high-rep scorpion reach challenge, I found it helpful for switching off and finding a flow state.
Rhythmic motions, like the scorpion reach, can be therapeutic to the nervous system. One study showed improvements in cognitive function and working memory following meditative movement.
I feel more flexible
By the end of the week, my lower back, hips, shoulders and hamstrings felt (and still feel) noticeably more flexible and open. Those “clicky” joints (I’m also hypermobile) felt less, well, clicky.
Flexibility is short-lived, which means you could spend hours stretching your muscles one morning to feel tight again the next. That said, regular stretching and mobility work can help protect from injury, improve posture and improve ability during other forms of exercise — better form while lifting heavier weights, for example.
After seven days and 490 reps, my verdict is this: discovering the scorpion reach for this challenge has felt like unearthing a small nugget of fitness gold. If you plan to try it and have limited mobility, try warming up first and only work to your current ability. We recommend the best stretches for tight hip flexors as a jumping-off point.