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