Developing flexibility is not something that happens overnight, over a few days, or even weeks for that matter. Like any training pursuit, the key is a combination of using the right tools and long term consistency. This guide is meant to help provide some clarity and direction so you can think less and do more. If you want some more specific guidance and programming I would recommend joining Trybe with over 100 routines, 400 exercise demos covering all those core flexibility goals, handstands, fundamental strength, bodyweight skills, and more.
The Basic Formula
Greasing the Groove
Flexibility isn’t something that just comes about after a little stretching, you need to either use it or lose it. For this reason, it is useful to have some sort of daily, or close to, greasing the groove and using the range of motion. This can just be part of your regular training or day to day activities if you’re required to use your flexibility such as with bodyweight training. Where this isn’t the case and you’ve spent a little too long sat watching Netflix (guilty!) then you need to artificially inject it in. This could be the quick and simple like the 5 minute morning mobility routine or a little more comprehensive 20 minute beginner routine. I also like more dynamic techniques like leg kicks and arm swings. Do it first thing in the morning, as a work break, post training or before bed. The important thing is to do!
General stretching is great for greasing the groove (GtG) but is slow to develop flexibility long term because the adaptation is broad and therefore you make small progress in many facets. To speed things up it is essential to add some focused and higher intensity stretching. In most instances, THIS is the cake and the GtG is the cherry on top. These sessions will provide the biggest jumps in range of motion and progress with the GtG keeping things ticking over between. These sessions can be chosen based on your goals whether that is developing a better pike, splits, pancake, or anything else between.
The End Result
Combining the above two recommendations makes for a simple and minimal approach to developing flexibility that can easily be added to your current training plan as a modular extra. The intense sessions are generally done 2x per week but a third session can be added if wanted but more does not mean better. Here is an example of a rough week of training.
The above recommendations are great but generic. Here are some specific examples for various goals.
Example 1: beginner
As a beginner, it does not necessarily mean you’re tight but just new to stretching but the two tend to go hand in hand. The most important thing is to start doing and learn to better tolerate the stretch reflex. Stretching isn’t fun (depending on your level of masochism) and will be uncomfortable. Much of getting more flexible initially comes from being better able to tolerate the stretch reflex, otherwise known and Embracing The Suck!
For a routine, I would suggest following the above formula at a level you can manage. A good starting place would be using one of the beginners follow along routines as your GtG. This will complement the main focused intense session which would be targeted at developing the hamstrings.
I recommend using the hamstrings as the focus for beginners as improving this tends to help unlock the lower body and provide a good base to then develop other key patterns. I would suggest working on passing these 3 tests to develop a well rounded base of flexibility. The beginner hamstring flexibility routine is a great loaded routine and there is a 15 minute hamstring flexibility routine for those who prefer the follow along format. All together it would look something like this:
Example 2: strength + flexibility (intermediate)
Once we begin to develop some basic levels of flexibility, we can move on to some more advanced techniques. This is my favourite way of incorporating flexibility training as a pairing of both strength and flexibility. These routines focus on developing mobility over flexibility. It is about building strength and control through a full range of motion.
This set up is based around an upper and lower body split being performed twice per week. These count as the intense and focused sessions so only a couple of additional GtG sessions would be needed on top. For most people this is where you’ll realise the potential for your flexibility and make great progress.
Example 3: advanced positions
Now we get to the fun (or not so fun) stuff. Developing splits or advanced flexibility positions takes time. How long? Well I addressed my own personal progress in this video on how long does mobility take. It also requires specific work which is where this example comes in. The same above formula applies with some daily GtG and focused intense sessions for whatever your goals are.
I will add the links to specific routines below but I would recommend also watching the Do It Right series to get some form cue recommendations and check you’re training things optimally.
Combining everything together is where this can get tough. Below are a couple of example options. The first is for those wanting to achieve middle splits and pancake. As these positions are similar as share a common pattern they can be trained together following that 2x per week focus
If you wanted to add front split into the mix then I would suggest splitting sessions. This would follow a 3x per week structure where you alternate between workouts is an A B A B A B etc fashion.
Given enough time and using the principles written above, I believe you will make good progress towards your flexibility goals whether that is simply to touch your toes or sit in middle splits. People will progress at different rates but expect to be working on this for 3, 6 or maybe even 12 months before you get significant progress. I wish you the best of luck with your training 🙂
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