Becoming a Supple Leopard

“Our bodies will put up with our
silly movement and lifestyle choices
because they have a freakish amount
of functional tolerance built in.”
— Dr. Kelly Starrett

Becoming a Supple Leopard

A leopard doesn’t stretch before starting to chase its prey and new studies have shown we shouldn’t either (at least static stretching). But most of us are a long way from being supple leopards, able to safely and quickly spring into action.  When I read Brian Mackenzie’s Power, Speed, Endurance,  I knew that, if I wanted to eventually be totally and healthfully fit, I would need to go beyond the endurance training and work on issues that kept popping up. As I’ve aged, recovery has become harder, in fact, getting started has become harder with the aches, pains, twinges, and other sundry ailments I occasionally suffer from. When I heard that I could get a review copy of Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book Becoming a Supple Leopard (Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2013), I jumped at the chance. I’m a huge fan of Starrett.

First off, this is not a quick read — approaching tome-size, this is more textbook than simple instructional manual. Starrett delves into the science behind the material, which, for someone out of school for many, many years, is somewhat a shock. You can either try to grasp what he’s saying or accept it at face value, which is pretty much what I had to do — after so many years of endurance training, I’ve read quite a bit, and most of his material seems to line up with what I’ve seen — the biggest difference is his passion. This is personal for him.

While Starrett does allow that going directly to the mobility chapters at the end of the book will give immediate relief to certain problems, underlying factors may still need to be addressed. If you start at the beginning and work your way through the book, you can create a “master blueprint for creating safe and stable positions for all human movements.” This leads to a reduction in injuries, more strength and an ability to move your training forward, beyond simply making your daily living more comfortable.
“We cannot make basic errors in our lifestyles and expect out bodies to be able to absorb the consequences when we are working in a performance-based paradigm.”
After reading, and re-reading the beginning of the book, the hard work begins in Chapter 2: Midline Stabilization and Organization (Spinal Mechanics). Completely scary how many of the “incorrect” images are reflective of my current state. While I wanted to jump ahead and work on obvious mobility issues I am already aware of, this is where the bulk of my efforts needs to go. From the images in this chapter, I can see the I suffer from an Overextension Spinal Fault – my back arches forward and my butt sticks out, no doubt the major reasons why I suffer from back pain, along with other lower body maladies. By using the step by step directions that Starrett shares (and illustrates), I’ll be able to align my  body, from head through rib cage and pelvis down through the legs. Once I get to that point, I’ll really start working towards gaining more mobility, hopefully not as a therapeutic act, but as preventative medicine.
If you’re young, maybe you don’t need this book, though it would be worth getting a head start before you do. If you’re middle-aged, buy this book and use it religiously, adding a daily visit to MobilityWOD for extra assistance. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in — as Starrett notes, you can start anywhere and make improvements. Those improvements will add up to you feeling better, making it more likely you’ll get up and go.
Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes, free of charge. All opinions are my own.

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3 thoughts on “Becoming a Supple Leopard

  1. sounds like it is definitely a worthwhile read/”guide”! i guess that's what i was wondering most – having pictures/mobility suggestions. i follow his site & youtube channel somewhat. well, maybe not “follow” but i check them out often. he is sooo knowledgeable on this stuff!

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