I’ll be the first to admit it. I never was an incredibly flexible person. Sure, I can try to make excuses, but I can’t remember a time that I possessed great flexibility. Interestingly enough people will link qualities like strength, speed, and power at least partly to genetics, but I have never found people saying the same about flexibility.
Of course like most people I could say “just screw it”, however, since I injured my back when I was just 14, I realized that maintaining my flexibility was really important for both my health and performance. Now, realizing this and doing it may be two different stories:)
Like probably many of you, my dedication to my flexibility wasn’t always there, but as I have gotten older, I realized how integral it was to my fitness goals. Why don’t more of us do so?
Well, I do think there are a few reasons. One, stretching just sucks! It is boring, it doesn’t feel empowering, it hurts, and can be overrated (we will discuss soon). Those that tend to drift to more flexibility training I believe have a natural ability to adapt to it faster than most. Yea, you can thank mom and dad for that.
No excuse though, the key is you can get better, especially if we narrow our focus to a key area like the hips. Why the hips? Pretty much because if your hips move better, just about everything else is better. Your strength is better, your chance of low back pain is less, and your ability to endure is stronger. Sounds good right?!
So why do we still struggle? The truth is typical static stretching (where you hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds) doesn’t do a lot to change flexibility. In fact, we don’t really want to think of flexibility as much as mobility. The difference?
Physical therapist, Gray Cook, tries to explain what separates mobility, stability, and flexibility, “Mobility is your ability to move your entire body freely without pain or limitations. Stability is your ability to control movement and maintain your body alignment while you move. Flexibility, however, refers to a muscle group’s or a joint’s normal range of motion, usually without taking into account of how it interacts with other body parts.”
The easy way to think about this is that mobility and stability work together to really impact our nervous system to improve our movement, health, strength, and overall anything good with fitness. While flexibility is more of an individual concept of the length of a muscle.
Why should you care? The reality is after three back surgeries I can confidently say that most people actually lack mobility and stability more than just plain flexibility. You don’t have three back surgeries so why would I say such a thing?
I am pretty confident not just from my own experience, but working with people for over 20 years. More times than not a trauma such as an injury, accident, you name it will impact your nervous system. This ironically you will make your flexibility appear worse too. The good news is if we actually attack (in a good way) your mobility and stability your flexibility will probably improve as well. In other words, you probably don’t REALLY have a flexibility program.
When you can work and help the nervous system you will find how incredibly fast the results to your flexibility appears. To help my point, I wanted to share a drill I have been using to improve my hip mobility since it has been compromised greatly due to my back. The cool part is that you only have to do 2-4 reps a side. Try it out and see how your hips feel and see how easy it can be to get yourself feeling, moving, and performing better!
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