Why You're Not as Flexible as You'd Like

I’ve seen a lot of videos on you YouTube and other social media about flexibility, mobility and stretching. It seems like everyone has an opinion about the best way to improve range of motion and from what I’ve tried, not much of it is very effective. So I’d like to share what are, in my experience, some very effective ways to increase and/or improve range of motion.

First of all, stop telling yourself how inflexible you are and stop saying it to everyone else. As soon as that thought crosses your mind and you attach to it, you have already severely limited any possibility of improving your flexibility. Instead, start telling yourself that you are flexible, that you can move easily and without pain because as soon as you start to believe it, it becomes possible. There’s a way you can test this theory right now if you don’t believe me (and I always encourage people to test things rather than just believe something without trying it out for themselves). Stand up wherever you are and slowly lean over to touch your toes without trying to force yourself down there. How far did you get? Okay, now close your eyes and picture yourself bending in half with your legs straight. Imagine yourself folded completely in half and easily touching the floor with no pain whatsoever. Now slowly bend forward and see how far you get. You might not hit the floor but I’ll bet you got farther than you did the first time. The point of this exercise is to show how our thoughts influence our behaviour and what we believe is possible. So from now on, you are the most fluid, flexible person on the planet but you have to believe it!

The second reason you aren’t as flexible as you’d like to be is that you aren’t spending enough time on it. Now I’m not saying you have to spend hours every day to achieve optimal flexibility (although that would be one way of doing it) but what you need to be doing is spending longer in each stretch position. This 30 seconds to a minute time frame we’ve all had drilled into us since childhood is fine for warm-ups but it’s doing absolutely nothing for improving your range of motion on a long term basis. Most of you are probably not going to want to hear this but flexibility and mobility for the majority of people are things you need to spend as much time on as training, regardless of your sport, or any time on if you are not an active person. If you are an athlete who trains at least an hour a day several times a week, you need to spend at least that much time on improving your flexibility. In fact, in most cases, you’d be better off cutting back on your training time and using it for mobility work and you’d still see decent gains in performance regardless of your sport. And yes, I know this idea sounds counterproductive but think about it. If you are more fluid and can access greater ranges of motion, you are less likely to injure yourself and will have more contractibility in your muscles. You will also be able to perform everything you do that much better because you won’t have to fight your own body to access certain positions. The best example of this is an overhead squat. The person who can easily hold a bar over their head and drop below parallel is going to be able to lift more than someone who is “stronger” but can’t easily get into that position. Does that make sense? So basically, you need to spend more time in your week improving your flexibility.