Terrific article by Coach Chris Holder. Easily one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about mobility and athletic performance or just for living well. Flexibility (i.e., can you do a split) as a standalone concept for measuring an athlete’s mobility is an anachronism. Unless you are a gymnast, or maybe a dancer, nobody cares if you can do a split. What matters is whether you are mobile enough to compete at a high level in your chosen sport. That’s ALL that matters. To paraphrase the great Dan John when answering a query from an athlete about “how flexible do I need to be?”…well, as flexible as you need to be.
There is virtually no greater waste of time than passive stretching for the purpose of achieving some outmoded and arguably useless arbitrary standard, such as a split or whether you can touch your forehead to your knees. Who cares, unless you do that as part of your sport? That kind of flexibility has many non-modifiable ingredients, including age, gender, and musculoskeletal alignment. Some people are just gifted to be that flexible, while most of us are not. Interestingly, not only is flexibility one of the most persistently unsettled elements of fitness, in terms of what the science shows, it is the only one for which there is zero evidence of a mortality benefit.
I won’t call it a fad for one “pink elephant” reason: we as a species are currently devolving. We all move like crap and with the advances in technology and our incessant need to sit, the human form is beginning to change. Unlike the old days where our grandfathers and great grandfathers’ bodies began to lose function because of a lifetime of physical labor, many of our kids and young adults are beginning to show similar signs of breakdown – but for the opposite reason.