End Back Pain

Kelly Star­rett shares the sim­ple se­cret for stretch­ing your lim­its

Men's Health (Australia) - - Front Page -


couch and sink into a full squat with your feet flat on the floor. Now stay there for 10 min­utes.

To phys­i­cal ther­a­pist Kelly Star­rett, you’re not truly fit un­til you can do that. This sim­ple chal­lenge, is­sued six years ago on Youtube by Star­rett, owner of a San Fran­cisco Crossfit box, ad­dresses a fit­ness weak­ness that most men ig­nore and it ex­em­pli­fies his phi­los­o­phy.

Star­rett preaches that work­ing out should pro­duce more than chis­eled abs and bulging bi­ceps. He wants the gym to re­store mo­bil­ity – that is, the raw range of mo­tion that mod­ern life, com­puter work and com­mut­ing rob from us daily.

It’s the rea­son he posted that squat chal­lenge. “I was like, how come no one has a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of how their body works?” he re­calls. “So I de­cided to make a video ev­ery day for a year. I wanted peo­ple to fo­cus 10 min­utes a day on mo­bil­ity.”

It’s a rad­i­cal premise: ac­cord­ing to Star­rett, the point of go­ing to the gym is not just to be­come thin­ner or stronger but also to re­store nor­mal, base­line phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tion. “That means be­ing able to put your arms over your head with­out hav­ing to warm up,” he says.

Now Star­rett works with sports teams and elite mil­i­tary units. “I cre­ate ed­u­ca­tion tools and drills for busy peo­ple,” he says. “Th­ese tools let you re­fine your move­ment, mak­ing you feel bet­ter in the gym and in ev­ery­thing you do.”

That feel­ing eluded Star­rett in his younger days, when he was a world-class pad­dler on the US ca­noe team. Back then he was like ev­ery­one else, so un­in­ter­ested in mo­bil­ity that he made fun of a friend who stretched be­fore prac­tices and events. “Who cares about po­si­tion when you’re young?” he says. “I’d never stretched be­fore and had tons of back and shoul­der pain pad­dling.”

All that pain led to a nerve-root is­sue in Star­rett’s neck that doc­tors strug­gled to solve. And that led Star­rett to chase his own an­swers – and un­cover the ben­e­fits of sim­ple mo­bil­ity. “If you give guys pos­tural ex­er­cises, they can clean up their move­ment is­sues so many com­mon in­juries never hap­pen,” he says. That’s more im­por­tant than ever in to­day’s work world, one that of­ten forces your body into un­com­fort­able po­si­tions that com­pro­mise good, clean move­ment. Read on for so­lu­tions to four mod­ern move­ment mal­adies.


The “prob­lems” of to­day rarely re­quire com­pli­cated fixes. All you have to do, says

Star­rett, is re­in­force good body po­si­tion habits. “Prac­tice doesn’t make per­fect,” he says. “Prac­tice makes per­ma­nent.”

Con­sider all the time you spend seated. Those long hours, either at home or at work, “mon­key things up,” Star­rett says, trap­ping your body in a hunched-over pos­ture. Your shoul­ders roll for­ward and your back mus­cles weaken as your hip flex­ors tighten and your glutes and ham­strings loosen.

The Fix Just spend a few min­utes a day do­ing two moves – the couch stretch and the deep squat (see above left). “Just mess around with th­ese po­si­tions a bit, and you’ll get com­fort­able in those ranges of mo­tion.”


Snap a selfie of your­self stand­ing side­ways in a mir­ror. Don’t try to stand up straighter than you usu­ally do; just be nat­u­ral and com­fort­able. Ex­am­ine the photo. If you’re like most guys, your shoul­ders will roll for­ward, your back will be hunched and your feet will be splayed out like a duck’s. This is no way to go through life, Don­ald.

The Fix Stand with your feet point­ing straight ahead. Star­rett says “screw­ing” your feet into the ground and squeez­ing your butt for two sec­onds can help you do that while also align­ing your hips with your spine. “Your back should be flat, belly tight and head neu­tral,” he says. Ev­ery so of­ten, put your hands on your chest for a mo­ment, a re­set that will help your shoul­ders feel com­fort­able and sta­ble. Try to do this ev­ery time you stand up, which should be at least 1-5 min­utes for ev­ery hour you’re seated.


The same is­sues that plague you at a desk can arise when you’re be­hind the wheel of your car, ex­cept there’s no get­ting up and do­ing Star­rett’s drills on the Hume High­way.

The Fix Do the best you can to sit with a “well or­gan­ised” up­per back. One way to do this: when you get into your car, flip your palms up­ward and away from your body, as if you’re about to give some­body a hug. “What you’re do­ing is wind­ing up the shoul­der cap­sule, or­gan­is­ing the ro­ta­tor cuff,” says Star­rett. Now your shoul­ders are in a more or­ga­nized po­si­tion, and your chest will feel more open. Try to main­tain that while driv­ing.


Con­ven­tional wis­dom en­dorses foam­rolling to loosen up be­fore a work­out, but Star­rett con­tends that’s not a proper warm-up. It re­laxes your mus­cles, which he says isn’t what you want be­fore you train.

The Fix Save the soft-tis­sue work for 10 min­utes be­fore you go to bed. It’s eas­ier to get into the habit of do­ing it then, says Star­rett, and re­lax­ing your mus­cles might ac­tu­ally help you fall asleep. To prop­erly warm up for your next work­out, do low-in­ten­sity moves that mimic your work­out, jump around and shake out your limbs. Do­ing that will get blood flow­ing to your ex­trem­i­ties.

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