You’ll be hard-pressed to find a harder worker than Eric Leija. The resident kettlebell master at the Onnit Academy trains a variety of one-on-one and group classes at the Austin, TX–based gym, travels the country teaching kettlebell seminars, manages his own website (ericleija.com), trains online clients, and is constantly creating new flow workouts for his 500K Instagram followers.
Still, Leija manages to bust his ass on the daily in the gym, combining his barbell strength work with his creative flow workouts—that is, two or more similar moves strung together. Not to be confused with supersets or trisets, these exercises are done in a way that they flow—hence the name—right into the next. Instead of doing a bench press and then a pullup, a common superset, you’d do a deadlift to a high pull, as the two moves can be done together fluidly.
Leija likes this style of training because it’s quick and keeps the heart rate high. Usually, he’ll start or end his heavier training with these flow workouts, or he’ll do them separately if he’s in a pinch.
If you’re looking for a challenge to your normal basic workout look no further. Build great strength and power with the workouts Leija outlines. These five flow workouts can be done by yourself with a barbell, dumbbells, or just your body weight. Now get to work!
“This one is tough,” Leija says. “You kill two birds with one stone, getting the pushing and pulling from the pushup and row, while also challenging your core and stability.”
Directions: Do 5 to 8 reps of the pushup and then a row on each side, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat for 5 sets.
A. Dive Bomber Pushup: With a hand on each dumbbell, pike your hips up and then dive your head between the weights. Then straighten out your back so you’re in a bear position (as shown).
B. Renegade Row: Brace your core and row one dumbbell to your side. Repeat on the other side.
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Bilateral Barbell Flow
Leija likes this flow because it hits all your major muscles—hamstrings, glutes, chest, shoulders, and upper back—and is scalable. “Depending on the day and your schedule, you can do this as a warmup, doing each move with light weight for 30 seconds each, or as a finisher,” he says.
Directions: Perform 3 to 4 reps of each move, using 70% of your heaviest barbell row, for 4 to 6 rounds. Rest 30 seconds between rounds.
A. Barbell Deadlift: Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width grip, drop your hips, and drive up until the barbell is at your thighs. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 to 3 more.
B. Pushup on Barbell: Lower the bar back down and kick your feet out behind you so you’re in a pushup position with your hands on the bar. Do 3 reps.
C. Barbell Row: Get back into a deadlift position, with your back straight and hips back, and row the barbell to your stomach.
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Staggered Stance Barbell Flow
You won’t be able to lift as much since the staggered stance decreases your stability compared with a standard stance, but Leija loves the added core work and hamstring activation you get from these two simple moves. “Using a staggered stance helps me focus on my front leg while taking the balance out of the equation,” Leija explains. “With the deadlift, for example, you’re getting the same benefits of a single-leg deadlift but without worrying about falling over.”
Directions: Perform 6 to 8 reps on each side for 3 to 5 rounds. Rest 1 minute between rounds.
A. Barbell Single-leg Romanian deadlift: In your normal deadlift position, line the toes of your right foot with the heel of your left foot. Now lower the bar to the middle of your shin.
B. Staggered-stance Barbell Row: In the same stance, do a normal barbell row. Now repeat the flow with the other foot back. That’s 1 round.
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“I like this one to build strength in different positions and different ranges of motions,” Leija says. “It can really challenge your mobility and stability in a position that you’re not used to being in, like the quadruped position [on your hands and knees].”
Directions: Perform 30 seconds of work for each move, then rest 30 seconds between rounds. Do the entire sequence 8 times through.
A. Sit-Through: Start in the bear position, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift one hand off the ground, and kick your opposite leg underneath and across your body.
B. Squat to Beast Press: From a standing position, drop down into a bear position, with your hands close together. Perform a pushup and then jump back up to standing.
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Dumbbell Pulling Flow
“With this one, you get some -added tension when you smash the dumbbells together during the close-grip row,” Leija says. “The different rows target different parts of your back.”
Directions: Do 5 to 8 reps of each movement, back-to-back-to-back, resting 1 minute between sets. Do 5 rounds.
A. Close-grip Row: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hinge at the hips until your torso is bent over at about 45 degrees. Squeeze the dumbbells together, hard, and row the weights to your stomach.
B. Wide-grip Row: Lower the dumbbells back down, but keep your elbows wide. Now row the weights to your sides for 5 to 8 reps.
C. Dumbbell Curl: Stand up straight and extend your arms, still holding both weights. Curl dumbbells up until they’re at shoulder height.