Flexibility and strength – mutually incompatible? How to get both.

Posted by & filed under Exercise and Training.

Holy Moly.  The Korean, Om Yun Chol, lifts triple his body weight.  Is this man not strong and flexible?

We can only be as strong as we are stable; our joints need to be sitting in their optimal position so the little muscles surrounding can work appropriately to stabilise their joint and the big muscles are of equal flexibility.  For example, the past couple of weeks have featured lunges.  In each blog, I stressed the utmost importance of a lack of wobble in the working leg.  Any wobbling about leads to aches and pains in wrong places.  Going out for a fierce run or bike ride should not result in stiffness on the outside of the quads or hips.  Working the upper body hard should not result in the shoulders climbing into the ears the next day.  Stiffness in the wrong places means we can never be as strong or quick as we would like and we are going to get injured.

Another key to being injury free and strong lies in being flexible.  People who really like to be flexible fear that strengthening a muscle will tighten it up: working on the hamstrings will lead to us being unable to touch our toes.  This is absolutely not true.    If we watch an Olympic lifter, that person has amazing flexibility in all joints. And is amazingly strong.

But how do we get flexible?  For most, we work on stretching out the muscles, and this is better than doing nothing.  However, the results are only rarely long term.  The more enlightened few will go for regular massages and most massage therapists have their thing – most release the tight muscles.  Some specialise in releasing the tight fascia. 1

To truly get more flexible and stronger – therefore fitter, more able – takes a multi pronged attack, with muscle stretching the last thing to have a go at.  Muscles will never lengthen if the following are not released – and preferably by ourselves:

  • Fascia
  • Nerves
  • Skin
  • Bones aligned properly, including those of the spine and skull

Old scars frequently still have scar tissue in either the skin or the underlying fascia.  Doesn’t matter how old the scar is.  And if the skin or fascia is short, then the underlying muscles will always be weaker than they could be.

The other keys to getting stronger and more able:

  • The brain knows where all the joints in the body are and how they move.
  • The eyes function well
  • The inner ears are balanced

The brain also needs to be balanced, but that is a hard subject to explain briefly.

So we can take the glass is half empty approach and think I’m potty for pointing all this out. And continue working out as before, incorporating a good stretching regime. Or we can take the glass is half full approach and start to work more comprehensively on what our body is telling us.  We have persistently tight hamstrings, for example.  Dig away to the root causes and strength and athletic ability will go through the roof.

So maybe a rethink on how we prepare for the annual skiing holiday?

Look, no poles!



  1. Fascia: like a huge body stocking lying directly under the skin and surrounding all the muscles.  It is very strong, but very thin.  It tends to get tight in places like the front of the quads and hips. []

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