It’s Not About the Splits: Flexibility Training for Functional Range of Motion and More

Stretching and flexibility training has become quite controversial in the fitness world over the past 5-10 years.

But we’ve always emphasized flexibility work in all of our programs, and our clients have had great results. So, what gives? Is there anything behind the “controversy” or is it just bunk?

In this episode, Jarlo joins Ryan to talk about what the controversy is all about, and why we’re so big on flexibility training.

Here’s a snippet of what Jarlo had to say on the matter:

At the heart of it, you’re just trying to improve how you can get into positions safely and easily and without pain – that’s what stretching means to me.

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What you’ll hear:

(02:05) Stretching is super controversial for some reason.(06:25) Stretching is a way to explore your movement.(07:21) How stretching helped a GMB client in his profession as a plumber.(07:55) When should you stretch?(09:57) Jarlo’s demonstration of how to put flexibility into motion.(12:38) It’s gonna be different on a daily basis. Pay attention to where your body is that day.(14:19) There are people who say you have to stretch a certain amount of time every single day, but it’s really arbitrary. It comes down to your own goals.(16:42) Having a foundation and a framework to work from is important.


GMB MobilityElements Program For Better Movement Jarlo’s demonstration of flexibility in motion

Flexibility Training for Functional Range of Motion and More

Ryan: Hey everybody. Welcome to another edition of the GMB Fitness Skills Show today. My best friend Jarlo and I are going to be talking a little bit about flexibility and really kind of the way that we do it here in GMB. What’s up bro?

Jarlo: Hey, man.

Ryan: So what’s going down? A while ago, we had the seminar, seminar in Salinas.

Jarlo: Yeah, it was great. Well, the really good thing about it is that we were all there together.

Ryan: Yeah

Jarlo: Because it’s hard to get us all together. We got Hawaii, Japan, Seattle, Miami, Portland. It was really nice for us all to be there and it was good. We made a nice family trip out of it, right?

Ryan: It was great.

Jarlo: All of our families together and …

Ryan: The kids.

Jarlo: The kids. But one good thing about having us all together there is that we were able to delve into the – our GMB method a little bit more for people. A lot of that we’re doing is obvious from the programming. Like people have gone through the programs but it’s actually interesting because a lot of the people in the seminar hadn’t really done it. They had known this from our friends. They had known this from the tutorials and all the articles and all those things. But they hadn’t really gone through the material. So it was nice to be able to go through it and go into it in a lot more depth than we could do and – even in like a video, like a short YouTube video, stuff like that.

We went through the warm-ups. We went through the body control, flexibility, strength, our main areas of focus, and one of the things that – it was received really well was our notions of what flexibility training should be, right?


Jarlo: It’s funny but it’s so controversial like stretching. People should stretch or there’s – you got to stretch a certain way and it’s funny and I know you’re laughing too. It’s because how many years have we been training and it wasn’t even a thing.

Ryan: Right.

Jarlo: Like it was no big deal. Like stretching is simply what you did to improve. So let’s talk a little bit about maybe why people are more confused about it now, like what has happened in the last – I don’t know. What has it been? Last five or ten years.

Ryan: Yeah. I would say about – yeah, let’s – even ten. Yeah.

Jarlo: Yeah, even ten years where people are like, “Oh, you shouldn’t stretch anymore. There’s no need.” But I think it comes down to some misconceptions about what it actually does. One of the primary things is stretching as a means of reducing pain or reducing soreness and really that hasn’t been shown. That’s true. It hasn’t been shown to be the case. It feels good. I mean you can’t ever say that it doesn’t because it does.

But in terms of alleviating pain and alleviating conditions, stretching by itself does it. That just – of course that makes sense. What stretching does in my view in terms of being helpful for those conditions and helpful for pain and why say in studies and research what has no direct correlation. It’s because there is no direct correlation. What it does is it helps you move better. It helps you move better and move more.

So if anything helps you better and move more, then it will help with your pain. Pain is just such a complex subject that it can’t just be one thing.

Ryan: This is the – I mean I know that depending on the patient that you’re working with, you will prescribe particular stretches. I mean you’re working on me every time we hook up. You work on me and it’s always like, OK, at the very end do this stretch. You use it like a lot of times to check, to see how things are working out, so an assessment of sorts, an after-assessment.

Jarlo: Yeah.

Ryan: I always think that was a great way of looking at it too instead of saying – like you said, oh, if you do this, you’re going to get better instead of it was – with you, I know at the end, a way of assessing whether or not what you were doing prior to that is helping or not.

Jarlo: That’s right. I think – and that’s something I forget too as to why – OK. So how do I approach it then? What is stretching good for?


Jarlo: There are certain functional positions if you are involved in any kind of activity whether it’s a particular sport or martial arts or dance. You’re required to do certain things.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: Right? Even with something as simple as pointing your toes with your legs straight out in front of you. That requires flexibility. So I’m not – that’s why we laugh at this because they’re like, “Well, how are you going to get there?” and there are all kinds of things you could do. Yeah, you could put weights on your back. You can squat. You can – we do ballistic stuff. But at the heart of it, you’re just trying to improve how you can get into position safely and easily and without pain.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: So that’s what stretching means to me. You can talk about it in so many different semantics like mobility and dynamic mobility. I don’t know. There are just so much things out there, right?

But essentially what you’re trying to do is be able to move your body in a certain way and if you can’t do that, then you need to find some way to get to it and flexibility training is it. I mean as simple as it gets. That’s what it is.

So it’s not about relieving or releasing things or anything like that. It’s a very pragmatic approach. So in therapy, when I look at it with my patients is – like you said, it’s an assessment point. If what we did with the movement in the training and the hands-on work is helpful, then I should be able to see almost immediate changes and then with stretching in terms of exercises, I give people – what it is, is a way for them to explore their movement. So it’s not – right? I think that’s another way to reframe it.

Ryan: That’s a huge key point right there, yeah.

Jarlo: So instead of thinking that, oh, I need to get into this pancake or the front splits, because that will help me do things better. What it is, is those movements help you understand your body better, right? So that’s how I approach it.

Ryan: Self-awareness basically.

Jarlo: Yeah, a little self-awareness.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: Then at that point, it can be holding it because that’s something that’s useful because sometimes you’re going to have to be able to hold the position. One of my favorite emails and I talked about this at a seminar was from a plumber. One of our clients was a plumber. It was in response to one of our stretching articles. He was like, “I feel the same way. All these people are like, oh, stretching doesn’t do you any good.” He’s like, “I will tell you what. To be able to do my job, I got to be able move my body in all these different ways and I have to stretch.” So I love that. That’s as functional as it gets.

Ryan: That’s the key point, right? It’s – well, for me, it’s not to be able to just do the splits. It’s because there are other stuff I want to be able to do. So that’s why I do the stretches that I do.

Jarlo: Yeah, we go back to handstands. If you want to have that nice line, if your shoulders are so inflexible, they can’t even come up. You have to stretch your shoulders out.


Ryan: Yeah, and it’s also – like you mentioned earlier, it’s also a safety thing because if you’re doing that and you don’t have that particular range of motion, something goes bad. You’re getting screwed. You’re going to probably get …

Jarlo: That’s another thing too, right? It’s like, oh, stretching doesn’t prevent injury. Yeah. It doesn’t.

Ryan: In that sense, but …

Jarlo: In that sense, it doesn’t if you’re just doing some stretches like before you run or something.

Ryan: Right.

Jarlo: Well, if you think about it, running doesn’t require stretching because it’s all just kind of a mid-range activity. You’re not really going into these crazy ranges of motion when you’re running. So I wouldn’t stretch before running. But I would stretch out a little bit to relieve some tension before say you’re wrestling, doing some jiu-jitsu, judo even, right?

Ryan: Because you’re going to be put in compromising positions …

Jarlo: Yeah, compromising positions that actually stretch you out. So I’m pretty sure if your shoulder can’t do this, then some guy is reefing on it like that, I think flexibility would help you not get injured.

Ryan: Just a little bit, yeah.

Jarlo: Just a little bit. So these things, being a little bit more pragmatic about what stretching really is for and I think that would relieve a lot of confusion. One of the things that was well-received in our seminar was that little clip of me teaching one of the sections and I pretty much described, well, as you get along in your training, you’re going to discover for yourself what you need in terms of flexibility.

The whole thing is being able to move in certain positions and so the foundation of what we do are in these locomotive patterns, the bear, monkey, and the frogger, right? They all have their own forms, right? Their own shapes that require a certain amount of flexibility. So what I did is I demonstrated how you could go in and out of those and do some rotations, do some different types of moves. Like that’s how I prefer to warm up and to stretch.

Then what that does is if I go through something and I’m making a move and I’m like, oh, that’s a little funny, then after I’m done with that, then I go back and I go to – like what I did in Focused Flexibility and I go on a part basis.

So that’s what I wanted to demonstrate there is you have the whole and then you have the part where you have specific things that you need to work on. So the best approach I think – I mean there are other approaches but the best approach I think is to – just to have your whole, to have your baseline check points and whatever that may be. It might be the handstand. In our case, it’s the bear, monkey and frogger. Then you do that. You do all the variations. Do that, that you want to do it for your practice and then during that, you will discover, oh, I’m a little tight here.

So if you can match that to some of these more specific part by part stretches, then you can do that and then that’s as specific to you as it can get.

Ryan: Constant self-assessment.

Jarlo: That’s right.

Ryan: Yeah. And something too of course we talk about all the time is it’s going to be different on a daily basis.

Jarlo: Yes.

Ryan: Right?

Jarlo: [0:11:15] [Inaudible]

Ryan: So maybe today things are great. You can get down into the frogger, which forces you into a squat. Well, maybe the next day you do a set of really, really heavy barbell squats or dead lifts or something, that it’s really impacting the lower body – well, the whole body. But – and then the next day, you try to do a squat again. You might be tight. Well hey, that’s something that you can use and figure out where you need …


Jarlo: Yeah. On that day you need to do some things.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: On that other day, you probably are just fine. You don’t need to stretch out. So that’s another thing. We don’t have to be so rigid and like oh, these are the six stretches I have to do every day before everything.

Ryan: That’s such a good point. I want to say that – say that again just to emphasize it. You don’t necessarily have to stretch every single day.

Jarlo: Yeah.

Ryan: You need to figure out what you need for that day and then do it.

Jarlo: For that day and for you over – say your long term goal. Right. You already know that your shoulders are tight. Someday, they will be tighter than others. But overall, they’re not as open as you want. So in that case, working on those three or four things that you determined are really good.

But it doesn’t mean that you have to have the same things every day, like the magic 12 things that you should do every day. If it feels good, sure. But don’t feel like you need to do it. That’s the main thing I wanted to have come across that day.

Ryan: That’s good. There are a lot of places out there that said you have to spend at least X amount of time warming up for a particular thing and getting back to the clip of you showing how you were warming up and going from this movement to the other movement. A lot of people unfortunately look at that and see you doing particular movements and tricks within there. But it all comes back down to the basis – or pardon me, the basics for us. Of course the bear, monkey and frogger. But also looking at yourself and I think that self-awareness, learning about your own body, is just so important.

Jarlo: Yeah. You use the flexibility training, the – or any part of your training as a way to get in touch with yourself a little bit better.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: Right? And then with that, you can’t help but improve.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Jarlo: Right? Versus thinking, oh, I got to push 100 more pounds today or I got to do five more reps or I really got to get 10 more seconds on my handstand hold. That doesn’t really do you any good. Those are just numbers.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

Jarlo: Those are just numbers, right.

Ryan: More than that, figure out where you are and what you need instead of that other stuff first, because it just comes back to that because if you don’t know your own body, then eventually you will get to a point where you’re not going to hit it.

Jarlo: That’s right.

Ryan: So I think that was the real beauty of the seminar that we had because I think it just all came together as far as us explaining things and letting people know that yeah, here at GMB, this is an expression of what we’re doing. But it’s all about you and figuring out where you are.


Jarlo: The same thing. It’s nice to have a framework.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Jarlo: To learn from, right?

Ryan: Absolutely.

Jarlo: A lot of people, they don’t have the years of experience necessary to come up with that themselves or maybe they just need a little bit of a guide post, right?

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: And that’s why we always, you and me, we always go and try to find different teachers.

Ryan: Yes.

Jarlo: If we can find like one little thing out of like hours – like say a weekend session, between this like …

Ryan: It’s that one nugget, right?

Jarlo: That one little nugget.

Ryan: Yeah.

Jarlo: Now that’s great. Yeah, it’s awesome. So having a framework and having a foundation to explore from is important. If you’re just beginning, you can’t just go tell a beginner, “Oh, just play with it.”

Ryan: No.

Jarlo: Because that doesn’t do anything either, right? Yeah, it doesn’t do anything either. So it’s hard. It’s a balance. You have to find the balance. All right, between following a plan and being able to know, “What’s the best way to do this plan?” I probably need to deviate it a little bit, right?

Ryan: I think that’s the beauty too though of focused flexibility because even though there is a plan in there, it is having you focus on what you need to work on that time. So clearly laid out but then again looking at what you need in order to focus obviously on flexibility, Focused Flexibility.

Jarlo: That’s what we’re trying to do with all of our programs. I mean that’s why we keep updating them. It’s like when we hear from people and they’re like, “OK. That’s nice. It’s nice to be able to do that for people.” We’re excited about that because we have our new site.

Ryan: That’s right! New awesome, awesome …

Jarlo: What it does is it’s nice but it also is a better platform for us to try different things and to be able to express ourselves a little bit differently and now we have those tools and it’s exciting. We’re into a nice, new, exciting chapter for sure.

Ryan: So it’s good to grow and learn.

Jarlo: Yeah. So everybody that has any questions about anything, please let us know. We’re here to help.

Ryan: Yeah. And yeah, thanks for listening. If you do again, like Jarlo said, have any questions, let us know. If there are certain things that you would like for us to address on this show, feel free. Feel free to contact us and we will get back with you. All right everybody. Thanks for listening. Until next time. Later.

Jarlo: Thanks.

[End of transcript]

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