How to improve general mobility?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 15, 2012 at 12:22 AM

We just had the "How important is it to stretch" question, but to me the real question is how we should stretch, or, more generally, how do we improve mobility?

  • For me, static stretching a la Anderson has been completely useless. Don't tell me I was doing it wrong because you weren't there. I been coached by several supposedly educated coaches. Maybe there is a way to do it right, but N=1 says I should try something else.

  • Yoga: Fun, challenging, cute women. Did nothing for flexibility, not Hatha, not Vinyasa. Sorry, it didn't. Yes, it works for you, but it didn't for me.

  • Mobilitywod: It's not even close: I might as well be asked to put my feet on top of my head. Everything he does is so beyond me that I literally cannot figure out how to match his site to my starting place. Kelly would be a great coach, I'm sure, but I don't live in San Francisco. Right now, I just need some general loosening up, a basic program, so I'm not sure this is the site. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

  • Dynamic? Pavel? Kurz? Something else? I don't know where to begin. I'm kind of tempted to just pick Pavel's "Relax into Stretch" purely randomly, but maybe you guys can help me do better than randomly guessing.

So is there a methodology that's been shown to be most effective, and is there a good book/dvd/website/whatever to get me started?

Did I mention goals? Okay, here's my goal. Paleo nutrition and exercise hopefully gets me 85 healthy years, but it'll be hard to really feel healthy at that point if I can't bend down to tie my own shoes. Eventually being able to squat or sit crosslegged would be cool. So you get it: general, uber-basic, injury-preventing stuff for the naturally stiff.

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5 Answers



on September 15, 2012
at 01:46 AM

What really took my flexibility to the next level when I was competing as a martial artist (20 years ago . . .) was not any special type of stretching program, but making sure my muscles were very warmed up before doing it. I don't mean five minutes of walking or jogging. I mean going into a steam room, a sauna, a hot tub or a very hot bath for 15-20 minutes and really warming my muscles up -- all the major groups I wanted to stretch. Then I did long releasing stretches where I spent 2-3 minutes going deep into a stretch, then releasing it then stretching again. These can be typical martial artists stretches, runner's stretches, tai chi, qigong or yoga poses or whatever you want. When I had access to a steam room I used to do my stretching routine in the steam room. Loved it!

This still works for me now that I'm quite a bit older and stiffer. "Normal" stretching programs help of course, but I really make strides in flexibility when I stretch in the hot tub or after a hot shower.

BTW, dynamic stretching worked well for me, but I prefer the long deep stretches typical of "gentle" yoga.



on September 15, 2012
at 12:30 AM

Have you tried qigong? It's really a lot of good range-of-motion stuff that will really help with stiffness, mobility, and flexibility. It is very easy to start. I recommend trying anything by Lee Holden first (exercisetoheal.com), as he makes the practice very accessible.



on March 15, 2013
at 02:28 AM

I'm very skeptical about stretching after a few years doing yoga and pilates -- it just doesn't deliver the goods for me and I suspect can be quite harmful. There are other techniques that I think might be helpful such as ART and FMS, but there are no practitioners near me and I don't want to try them without professional guidance. I've tried kettlebell exercises a bit and they hold out promise but I need to get my core strength up first before doing them seriously.


on September 15, 2012
at 03:09 AM

I second qigong! It's seriously amazing. And easy. 15 minutes a day will do the trick. edit* i would also add that it can be spelled chi Kung.. just do some research :)


on September 15, 2012
at 02:25 AM

I don't have the studies on me nor can i find them, however it is shown that High intensity stretching which is stretching in a difficult position requiring high levels of balance such as one legged etc improves flexibility more than any other type of stretch many yoga stretches such as this one http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/784 is scientifically known as "HIT". Don't expect to be flexible overnight. Since our bodies are already in an inflexible and stressed state from general life such as sitting in chairs etc. If you notice children and especially infants, they are extremely efficient and effortless in there movement. Relaxed shoulders, squat easily etc etc. For your squat get into a squat position as low as you can whilst keeping heels flat on ground, to do this your shin muscle should not contract at all to counteract falling backwards, in fact none of your leg muscles should. Once you find you lowest position whilst heels flat on ground, you may find you may fall backwards so hold onto something and relax into the stretch. With each breath you take the stretch should get deeper.

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