8

votes

Best & fastest hack to become flexible/limber?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 14, 2011 at 5:47 AM

I want to become significantly more flexible than I am now. Sitting in front of a laptop 20 out 24 hours, definitely not helping. :(

My main, hyper-tight areas are psoas, hip flexors, and posterior chain. I suspect I need to re-do the way I sit, stand and walk ala Esther Gokhale but that is another story.

So, question for you, dear PaleoHackers:

I want to know: What will get me the fastest results with the least amount of effort?

  • Static stretches?
  • Activation work?
  • Self-myofascial release (SMR)?
  • Active Isolated Stretching?
  • Dynamic flexibility drills?
  • Yoga?

Would especially love to hear from someone who has gone from very little flexibility to very flexible.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 15, 2011
at 11:04 AM

@Ambimorph - I'm not familiar with it so I cannot comment

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on July 15, 2011
at 03:42 AM

Right, but iiuc, the AIS paradigm contradicts the static paradigm. They can't both be correct, can they?

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 11:21 PM

@Jack - I'm still working on my dismount from the "pommel horse".

Eea4c0f072bb5caa74c1fbe6dfab5f46

(942)

on July 14, 2011
at 11:10 PM

especially down dog for hamstrings -- amazing!

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on July 14, 2011
at 09:16 PM

100% this is my daily mobility workout.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on July 14, 2011
at 07:23 PM

plus one for the olympic gymnast comment.

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on July 14, 2011
at 04:55 PM

Second the +10.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 04:22 PM

As I noted, I was referring to extended duration of staying in the pose with static stretching

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on July 14, 2011
at 04:12 PM

I have a similar problem, though in my case it's hamstrings that are and have always been ridiculously tight. AIS makes a lot of sense to me, especially since long-hold, gradual approaches never made much difference in my case, but I have yet to make the commitment to see if it works. I hope someone else will chime in on that.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on July 14, 2011
at 04:08 PM

I agree with almost everything here, except that in the AIS paradigm, holding a pose too long results in a tightening response, which, if they are right, would be the opposite of what's desired.

66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:39 PM

I incorporate Pavel Tsatsouline's synaptic facilitation daily, basically it's consistent, daily effort that yields results. The human body is meant to move in a multitude of ways daily and consistently. Everything we do is interconnected so it's not always best to focus on a single factor but look at things holistically.

E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770

(1638)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:39 PM

Would give this answer +10 if I could - this is what I am working on now

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:23 PM

yeah... that was me, aravind. i could squat(or half squat) well over 500lbs. it took a lot of pushing aside the ego to drop the weight and basically start all over. i'm almost ATG now and it is actually functional in different ways than my box-squatting was...

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 01:33 PM

Also, I made huge gains on my big lifts and the resulting hypertrophy once I focused on flexibility. To me, for example, the only way to squat is ATG (Ass To Ground) both in terms of muscular benefit and not succumbing to the notion that squats are bad for you. Yes they are bad for you when you don't do them correctly. Inflexible individual that can't get past their egos stand on blocks to compensate for Achilles Tendon tightness, only go to parallel / less because of adductor/abductor tightness and thereby stress their knees, etc etc.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on July 14, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Aravind u r spot on. I asked a similar question earlier. It's not as sexy as doing big numbers on the basic lifts but like you, id argue that's more important because it determines the degree of functionality of the strength you have. That's what I'm dealing with now myself.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on July 14, 2011
at 06:28 AM

Hahhaha. I sit, stand, and lay -- all in effort not to incur more ossification.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on July 14, 2011
at 06:03 AM

*Sitting* in front of a laptop Patrik? Paleo shame on you!

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10 Answers

8
D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 11:49 AM

Everything you've listed is great, but I will give you a different perspective than the ones so far. I have a fair bit of experience with this personally

The "what" is secondary to the "how often". This is probably not the answer you want. Flexibility is not like hypertrophy, where short, intense bursts of very limited duration yield huge results and overtraining actually impedes progress.

Flexibility is directly proportional the duration of the stretching - whether it is static or dynamic (you should do both!). If you are sitting in front of a computer and in a seat for so many hours per day, then I'm sorry friend. Of course something is better than nothing.

You could take an approach similar to Pavel Tsatsouline and his synaptic facilitation for increasing pullups. Every hour or so, take a few minutes and do static and/or dynamic stretching. I routinely in meetings get up and start stretching. After a while, the strange looks subside.

The last point, my experience with this is that people always stretch too little on many dimensions.

  • Frequency - daily and arguably multiple times per day is necessary to overcome a lifetime of becoming rigid
  • Duration holding a stretch in the case of static stretching - people come out of the pose WAY to soon. Your unit of measure should not be seconds, but minutes
  • Lack of baby steps - Here is the approach I took to significantly improve my flexibility. I took a given posture (doesn't matter which one) and today I hold it for 5 seconds. Tomorrow maybe 10 seconds. The day after 15....After several weeks, both the duration you can hold the pose and the range of motion in the pose will increase if you slowly but consistently do it

I think it is great you are placing importance on flexibility. When an elderly person throws out their back from picking up a book off the floor, that had nothing to do with strength or endurance. And given our sedentary lifestyle and the cumulative years of neglect, I think there is need for a disproportionate focus on flexibility.

It's not as sexy as being able to Deadlift 3x your bodyweight, or be able to run a 5k in under 20 minutes, but it is as important if not more so. Plus your partner in bed will certainly appreciate it. Show me a guy or gal that hasn't watched olympic gymnastics and thought of the possibilities. Good luck!!!

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 04:22 PM

As I noted, I was referring to extended duration of staying in the pose with static stretching

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 11:21 PM

@Jack - I'm still working on my dismount from the "pommel horse".

66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:39 PM

I incorporate Pavel Tsatsouline's synaptic facilitation daily, basically it's consistent, daily effort that yields results. The human body is meant to move in a multitude of ways daily and consistently. Everything we do is interconnected so it's not always best to focus on a single factor but look at things holistically.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 14, 2011
at 01:33 PM

Also, I made huge gains on my big lifts and the resulting hypertrophy once I focused on flexibility. To me, for example, the only way to squat is ATG (Ass To Ground) both in terms of muscular benefit and not succumbing to the notion that squats are bad for you. Yes they are bad for you when you don't do them correctly. Inflexible individual that can't get past their egos stand on blocks to compensate for Achilles Tendon tightness, only go to parallel / less because of adductor/abductor tightness and thereby stress their knees, etc etc.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on July 14, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Aravind u r spot on. I asked a similar question earlier. It's not as sexy as doing big numbers on the basic lifts but like you, id argue that's more important because it determines the degree of functionality of the strength you have. That's what I'm dealing with now myself.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on July 14, 2011
at 04:08 PM

I agree with almost everything here, except that in the AIS paradigm, holding a pose too long results in a tightening response, which, if they are right, would be the opposite of what's desired.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:23 PM

yeah... that was me, aravind. i could squat(or half squat) well over 500lbs. it took a lot of pushing aside the ego to drop the weight and basically start all over. i'm almost ATG now and it is actually functional in different ways than my box-squatting was...

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on July 15, 2011
at 03:42 AM

Right, but iiuc, the AIS paradigm contradicts the static paradigm. They can't both be correct, can they?

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on July 14, 2011
at 07:23 PM

plus one for the olympic gymnast comment.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on July 15, 2011
at 11:04 AM

@Ambimorph - I'm not familiar with it so I cannot comment

6
F3fc2e0a9577e7e481a387d917904d1e

(1070)

on July 14, 2011
at 01:45 PM

http://www.mobilitywod.com/

Go back to Day 1 and get started! KStarr rules

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on July 14, 2011
at 04:55 PM

Second the +10.

E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770

(1638)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:39 PM

Would give this answer +10 if I could - this is what I am working on now

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on July 14, 2011
at 09:16 PM

100% this is my daily mobility workout.

5
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on July 14, 2011
at 06:14 AM

I started Asthanga Yoga a few years back and after a few weeks my flexibility increased about 400% and I was a desk jockey at the time. I went from barely able to bend over and touch my knees to being able to put my fingers under my toes.

Eea4c0f072bb5caa74c1fbe6dfab5f46

(942)

on July 14, 2011
at 11:10 PM

especially down dog for hamstrings -- amazing!

5
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on July 14, 2011
at 05:54 AM

Yoga keeps me limber, and has so many other positive effects, that's my vote!

3
6da7ce6a4a250c46a6e78b5b4e22da83

(987)

on July 14, 2011
at 06:30 AM

I went from falling over backwards if I went anywhere near parallel squat to being able to squat ass to grass. I tried a lot of different things, but in the end, I think just dedicating 45 minutes a day to serious basic static stretching/yoga poses worked best (along with some stretching throughout the day whenever it occurred to me). I found that when I actually just made sure to stretch seriously every day, I gained some serious flexibility within 3 weeks. Consistency was key.

2
776bb678d88f7194b0fa0e5146df14f0

on July 14, 2011
at 02:52 PM

I have always been very, very inflexible - for most of my life I was unable to even touch my toes due to tight hamstrings and stiff calves. Since I started weightlifting with my boyfriend I wanted to be able to get into better positions - especially for squat and deadlift. I started squatting at free moments - as other posters have said, doing it often is key. At first it feels like nothing is happening... very frustrating! But over a couple of weeks I noticed that I was getting deeper into squats, with better balance. That was the first step for me, I have been doing it for a couple months and can now get into an Asian squat with little difficulty, although my back is still rounded. I too need to work on hip/spine mobility with the Gohkale method.

My most RECENT success, however, has been with foam rolling i.e. myofascial release. I use this one: foam roller and it is amazing. Amazingly painful. Amazingly stretch inducing. After I foam rolled my calves, quads and hamstrings with that, as well as doing a little extra on my calves with a lacrosse ball in the style of KStarr's Pain Ball Adventure.

BAM!!! I could feel muscles stretching in my calves where there was only stiffness before.

I feel like Emeril Lagasse right now but I swear KStarr's enthusiasm is infectious and will MOBILIZE you to become more flexible. That is the biggest hurdle - sticking with it.

1
Ba6d1897de1cddf0bab312da3696bd39

on July 14, 2011
at 07:59 PM

Yoga's my vote, too, if for no other reason than that the poses were developed for yogis who spent the large part of their day seated, like most of us do these days - except, unlike us, who are only trying to make a living, they were trying to achieve enlightenment. Aside from the flexibility that you will doubtlessly gain from yoga, there are also many other advantages to having a regular practice. (In some yoga manuals, the serious yoga student is warned to steel himself against the temptation that will inevitably arise from his enhanced sexual attractiveness, haha.) Yoga's great for flexibility, and for oh, so much more; just remember to always practice ahimsa, the principle of non-injury, and to find a teacher who instructs you with gentleness, and you'll find what you're looking for.

0
518464630b1876e6c41418185dad0912

(305)

on July 14, 2011
at 02:49 PM

I recently read The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution, because I'd heard good things about it from people who've used the method and I wanted another workout style to mix into my rotation. There's a chapter on flexibility, in which the authors discuss the benefits of strengthening muscles to increase their range of motion over the joints. This is contrary to stretching tendons and ligaments, which I've seen some people do, though I've never been comfortable doing so myself. Stretching the muscles themselves is likely a good thing, but the book didn't cover it.

I did try this approach myself. Early in my martial arts career, I would stretch just like everyone else. Then I took a long break and lost all of the flexibility of my youth. When I got back into martial arts, I eschewed stretching for strength training. I do pair this with some dynamic stretching done mostly to warm up my muscles. My flexibility has improved significantly doing this. I find that I prefer the strength method (and find it far less painful) than static stretching.

0
24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd

(9812)

on July 14, 2011
at 11:23 AM

Bikram yoga is fantastic; if the nearest studios weren't an hour and a half away from me, I'd be going several times a week. n=1 of course, but my girlfriend I do classes with is a dancer in her mid-forties; she tells me she's more flexible than ever since starting Bikram yoga classes. She is, however, a Bikram addict and sometimes goes twice a day!

0
2ab6415f5f20b8fe1d34a94c7be85e6a

on July 14, 2011
at 08:55 AM

Yoga-Bikhram, Ashtanga vinyasa, asama, kundulagi

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