There is a dangerous and misleading epidemic in the YouTube tutorial world that is selling the idea of “instant flexibility”. Just doing a quick search of flexibility, stretching or any specific move such as splits, needle, backbend will deliver a plethora of tutorials promising quick results. These promises of getting a move “fast”, in “five minutes” or in “one day”, are simply ALARMING. I know you know the videos I’m talking about. They typically go like this…
A fun, hip intro flashing a few still shots or action clips of ah-mazing, jaw-dropping flexy stretches or memorizing dance moves. Next comes a promise to help you get flexible fast, followed by a series of stretches that consist of “do this”, “like this” and then you too will have this move. #FAIL Ladies and gents, our bodies simply do not work like that. And as a coach, this worries me, for the people that fall into the hype trap. There is much more to your flexibility journey, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will get you there “fast”.
Now, I’m not saying that what’s being shown (I hesitate to say taught) is wrong, really it’s just incomplete. There’s very little discussion on the what, the why, the what not to do, what you should be feeling, what and where you could be feeling it. What’s more, none of them talk about strengthening, active flexibility, opposing muscles, etc. I’m not talking about using fancy words like agonist/antagonist, pectineus or even Iliac tuberosity (although if you want to talk nerdy, we can do that), rather I’m speaking of a well-rounded routine that seeks to educate on all elements of safe flexibility practice. There is so much that goes into flexibility: understanding anatomy and muscle chains, proper sequencing, understanding how the body responds to certain movements, moving better, mobility, range of motion, strengthening, functional flexibility, flexibility for a particular sport, contortion, fluidity and flow, etc. These things matter! This is not something that can be mastered in one day, let alone in a five minute video. Unless you already have the strength and flex-Ability, but are lacking in the form and technique departments, getting a move “by the end of this video” or “by the end of the day” is unlikely.
What I will say, is that many of these videos I come across are from youngsters who are already flexible and typically active in dance, gymnastics, ballet, etc. Additionally, most of them have been active in their sport for some time, and whether they realize it not, their flexibility has developed over time as a result of their training and in fact did not pop up over night, in “five minutes” or “fast”. Now allow me to break and say that: I ABSOLUTELY applaud them for making positive contributions and putting their talents, knowledge and experience to use. HOWEVER these are kids, who are more agile, supple and active, are not the ideal teachers for adults looking to develop or improve their flexibility. The fact is, most of these kids are already flexible and kids are also more pliable. And in their minds, their viewer looking to get “flexy fast” is probably another kid that already has a moderate level of flexibility and shares these same traits and is most likely (if their looking for tutorials) already active in a sport that calls for flexibility for them it can (but not always) often be: just do abc and you’ll get xyz. However, this is NOT ideal (nor safe and effective) for the rest of the world, especially adults and more seriously, those in the aerial world.
As adults, we can certainly improve flexibility but we cannot instantly sprout that same degree of “kid-like” flexibility. As we age, our ligaments and tendons (muscle fibers) become less elastic along with muscle loss of course. On top of that, many of us nowadays have a very sedentary lifestyle and if we don’t routinely stretch our muscle fibers, we start to suffer stiffness; cranky, achy joints and muscles; and more limited range of motion. Also keep in mind that kids/teens also tend to be more active than working adults living a mostly sedentary lifestyle. So developing flexibility as an adult can be difficult, but it’s not impossible!
So what should you do when it comes to developing and improving your flexibility? Go to a class or do privates with a trainer. A good flexibility routine requires a systematic approach tailored for your unique body type and current fitness/ability level. It also requires feedback verbally, hands on and tactile cuing. Things that are basically impossible to get from a video alone. Nothing beats hands-on guidance to help you with form, technique and proper progressions. If your budget consists of FREE99, then look for longer videos on YouTube (that don’t promise fast flexibility). Some of the best ones are often created by flexibility, dance and yoga professionals. Regardless of what online tutorials and resources you decide to tap, it is up to you as a viewer to use digression and best judgement.
More questions about flexibility and training? Give me a shout! If you’re ready to get started on your journey let me know. I’d love to have you train with me!