Stretching makes you thin

May 18, 2011

Thought that title might have you intrigued and limbering up.

Freedom of movement is first and foremost about longevity.  Most people don’t need to be Yoga flexible to stay injury free (no, they don’t), but most could do with more mobility and flexibility work in their programs.  Why?  Poor mobility and flexibility adversely affects posture, breathing mechanics, systemic function and of course ones ability to move freely.  It’s the key to quality of movement and injury prevention.

The problem is that for most people it’s the least appealing and first overlooked part of their program.  It’s like pulling teeth to most.  Especially guys seemingly.  No one checks out your mobility on the beach right chaps?  True.  But nobody likes an ogre who can’t hold himself up properly either.

I’m not generally one for analogies, but one that does resonate with my view on mobility training is this: ‘you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken shit’ (not sure who to credit for that one).  Or more politely interpreted, ‘it would be remiss of one to embark on a training program without setting solid foundations of mobility, flexibility and stability’.  Ah, right.

Most people’s reality is that lack of mobility becomes their limiting factor.  World-renowned performance coach Mike Boyle suggests that you should incorporate one session of mobility work for every decade you’ve been around.  I’m inclined to agree.  The problem being that regular people who are not professional sports people only have or make three sessions per week full stop. So, I now include it in every program that I write.  (I’ve tried the ‘do your stretches in front of the TV’ approach and it never happens, people just don’t do it).

Now 90% of people approach me for fat loss.  And someone whose goal is fat loss isn’t going to thankful of being uber-flexible if they’re still fat.  Understood.  But mobility plays an important role in fat loss also.  Consider for example that prolonged sitting develops tight hips.  Tight hips hamper the ability to do most lower body exercises.  Lower body exercises torch fat.  Thus, tight hips hinder fat loss.  Or, if you prefer, ‘stretching makes you thin’.  (Quote me on that if you like, see what you get back).

The bottom line is that you need to incorporate mobility and flexibility work.  Do what needs to done (foam rolling, stretching, massage, ART therapy, trigger point release, etc), given the time available, ensuring that you not only become fitter, leaner and stronger, but that you move better overall.