How Long Does It Take To Get Flexible?

If you’re asking this question it could that you’re genuinely curious how long it takes and would happily accept the answer… or you’re hoping to find someone promising that you can get flexible fast. If it’s the latter, you sound exactly like me many moons ago!

 
Any “quick fix” presented to me, from anyone even slightly reputable and I would be on it like jam on toast… with very few results.
 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog that’s going to just tell you that “there are no shortcuts” and you “just have to put the work in” - there are shortcuts to getting flexible, if you do the right things regularly, but your perception of what it means to be flexible is what needs to change.
 

Your body movement should be a lifelong journey of both improving it AND maintaining it, it is not a simple case of “getting flexible”, ticking a box and never having to work on it again.

 

WHAT?! It’s never-ending?! Then what’s the point!


It’s easy to understand a lifelong pursuit of getting stronger. Numbers increase, you feel strong, you get bigger, look a bit more buff, people start biting their lip and/or fainting when you walk past. Knowing you’re stronger than the people around you just makes you feel cooler.
 
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Same with pursuing fitness: you can see your times decrease and endurance increase, you feel better, you’re lighter on your feet, your abs start showing, people start slipping you their phone number... or TikToks into your brain, or whatever the cool kids do these days.
 

These things are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and for the ego.
 

Flexibility on the other hand? Not so much.

 
As a coach, when I see someone with great flexibility and move in a way that I know they can get stronger safely and not end up injured every ten minutes, that’s what gets my boat floating. I see so much value in longevity and not breaking yourself for the sake of numbers or rippling abs.

 
But this is where we come to the definition of flexibility. 

 
I’m not talking about being able to do the middle splits between two lorries or a contortionist level of flexibility - there is a baseline standard of “normal” flexibility that everyone should aim for to not hurt… and just not suck at life… which I’ll define a little later on.
 

For now, I want to ask:

Why is flexibility so important?


 
Picture this, you’re in the prime of life, you hit a few sweet lifts, you bested your rivals in competition, you even got the boy/girl and rode away into the sunset together.

 
... But a loud noise snaps you back to reality in the supermarket, 10 years on. Your victories are all distant memories, you can’t lift a few heavy bags of shopping because your back will give way. Going up the stairs makes you wheeze, your only competition now is the one with the top button of your jeans, and the love of your life left you because you never stop moaning about how sore you are all the time. You’d like to go for a walk to clear your head, but your knees won’t even last to the bottom of your garden, so you just sit and shake your head in pure disbelief…

 
… Even though shaking your head makes your neck hurt.

 
I exaggerate, of course, but it’s not complete fiction. I’ve seen it happen in the years I’ve been coaching. It’s really scary to see how many people let their bodies crumble, maybe you’re already there or truly know that’s the direction you are going...

 
There’s your motivation: to be happy and mobile throughout your life. Life doesn’t have to be aches and pains, it isn’t just an inevitable part of getting older (and p.s. 35 is not “old”).

 

What does “flexible” mean, what should you aim for?


In the Simplistic Mobility Method, I lay out a set of tests that you should be able to pass to have a good baseline of flexibility and know that you’re doing everything right, but there’s a set of 3 positions that you can test now which will carry over to most things:

-          Can you touch your toes?
-          Can you sit comfortably in a squat?
-          Can you lift your arms straight overhead?
 
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This is a basic outline of essential flexibility. If you have these three things down, then you’re probably okay, you can chill out, maintain these positions and check them regularly, but you could start to specialise or enhance other areas which might help in a specific sport or training style if you like.
 

If you can’t do those things? They should be your focus. There are examples on how to work on your squat and toe touch here, most of the time it’s just a case of finding a progression you can do and spend time there, rather than going searching for “external rotation exercises for piriformis activation” and getting bogged down in individual muscles.

 
 

But how long does it take, dammit?!


Well, how long ya got?
 

If you can give yourself 5 minutes every morning (Pro tip: stretch when you’re stiffest) that will be 35 minutes of mobility every week.
 

If you can hit 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening, even just the exact same movements (or flows from our YouTube channel), that’s an hour and ten minutes EVERY WEEK!
 

OR!
 

If you can do, 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening, then twice a week you do a 30 minute mobility session, plus a few toes touches when you boil the kettle, a few squats before you get in the shower.... that’s like, a whole lot of minutes!
 
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I cannot give you a number of days, weeks or months that it will take, but what’s certain is the more time you dedicate to improving your flexibility the quicker you’ll see results.
 

In my experience, shorter duration sessions more frequently (e.g. 5 minute blocks every day) gives you far more benefits than trying to murder your poor joints for two hours once every couple of weeks – that’s just painful and not fun.
 

Trying to answer “how long does it take to get flexible” is like asking “how long is a piece of string” – which I know isn’t very helpful! But after working with so many people over the years I’ve noticed 3 main patterns that you’ll follow:
 

1.       You’ll make gains quickly and will see continuous progress (we don’t like those people)

2.       You’ll have a burst of progress then get stuck, have a burst, then get stuck

Or…

3.       You’ll see nothing change, then a little bit changes.. then nothing.. then a little bit… etc… (this was me)

 
Getting a baseline level of flexibility isn’t hard, but for some people it can be a real drag. When you don’t think you’re making progress it can be really hard to stay motivated.

It took me over a year to go from my fridge-like stiff state to what I would deem as “acceptable”, but I learnt a heck of a lot about my body on the way – and considering it only took 1 year to undo 25 years of absolutely terrible movement? It’s not really that bad. Looking back, I was always moaning about something being sore and getting up and down off the floor was an effort. I would choose to stand rather than kneel or sit on the floor. Now that I have kids, I’m so glad I put the time in to give me the freedom to play and move around with them easily.
 
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From my experience with myself and others, I have these three pieces of advice for you non-flexible people trying to achieve the baseline:

 

1.       Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
If you start trying to do 100 different movements every day, you’ll feel like you’re spending your whole life stretching and probably have to put everything else on hold. Pick a few positions that you want to improve and stick with them. For example, toe touch, overhead reach and squat depth. 
 
 
2.       Film Yourself When Doing Anything
Take progress pictures, write notes about how a position feels – you’re with you every day so it’s hard for you to see progress effectively. What maybe looks like a small change can feel like a big change, or comparing screenshots 4 weeks apart could reveal a massive change you never noticed as it was happening, so keep track of all this stuff.
 
 
3.       Don’t Get Disheartened
Change takes time, and you should try something for at least a month before trying something new so you’re not chasing new exercises every week. The main thing is to not completely give up - then all your hard work will be wasted. Flexibility and moving well is a life-long venture and everyone should always be dedicating time to it, but how much time you need just depends on where you’re at. If it feels like it’s taking a long time, change your perspective: if you’ve moved a certain way for 20-30+ years, then making a change in 6-12 months is actually pretty good.

 
The best thing is though that flexibility is an ability like any other: once you do achieve a good level of it, it’s easy to maintain just by using it - acquiring it is the longest part.

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What I find is that flexibility progress will come in short bursts and improvement is far from linear. You’ll have to go slower than you think, which is why people tend to give up after a week when they haven’t seen immediate progress. But everyone that sticks with their routines and trusts the process finds themselves feeling awesome, doing more and more and starting to achieve incredible things that they thought they would never do. You just have to discover your tolerance and your schedule, and try to stay consistent.

 
 

It’s Worth the Effort


You can become an entirely different person just by changing how your body moves and feels. When you move well, you have more energy, you want to be more active and whole new worlds of training and skill work open for you.

 
When you’re feeling stiff and inflexible it can seem like a far-off dream, but it is VERY achievable! I’ve seen people in their 50’s and 60’s that only started taking an interest in fitness a few years before training alongside people in their twenties and not looking one bit out of place!

 
No matter if you gain it really quickly or if it’s a long term pursuit, flexibility is worth prioritizing in your journey.

For an easy way to get started, check out The Simplistic Mobility Method to give you direction, structure and true progress!

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