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Kelly Starrett: Basic Maintenance

Kelly Starrett talks about the importance of mobility.


We are in the middle of a renaissance, and Kelly “K-Starr” Starrett — coach, licensed physical therapist and owner of San Francisco CrossFit — is partly responsible. Through his popular portal and his book Becoming a Supple Leopard, he has helped achieve the unthinkable by making squat technique popular. His catchphrase, “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves,” has helped countless athletes realize the need to improve their biomechanics. While Starrett claims this movement boom is because of the CrossFit community’s open-source model of information sharing, the 2 million unique visitors to probably believe that Starrett deserves some credit for getting them to think about how their tight hip capsules may be impacting their performance.

What is the most misunderstood thing about mobility?

I have tricked the world into thinking mobility is important. But mobility is not important. What is important is position. We have made mobility relevant by getting people to ask themselves, “Why am I not in an ideal position? Why am I losing force? What is this costing me in efficiency, mechanics and potential injury?” Mobility is a set of tools to improve position. If I break down position, I’m talking about two things: biomechanics and motor control. You have to fix the tissue restriction in the biomechanics through mobility tools and mobilizations so you can express good motor control.

Is performance the carrot you wave in front of the athlete to get them to focus on their position?

It is. But more important, it is the thing everyone should focus on. There is no compromise between the safest position and setting a world record. These things aren’t mutually exclusive. They are congruent ideas. The safest program in the world is the most effective performance-driven program in the world.

Are there people who just won’t be able to achieve a proper position?

We have not met anyone we have not been able to put the slow blade on and make change. The slow blade penetrates the shield. You just have to be committed. Muscles and tissues are like an obedient dog. All you have to do is be consistent. But you do not get a day off from working on your mechanics. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day, but it is a seven-day-a-week process.

How does someone start to address their mobility issues?

The key is, you just need to start somewhere. Are you working on addressing your problems, yes or no? Tell me what you did today to improve your position. I think a really simple way is to set the clock and 15 minutes later be done. Work on something that is a problem today and then work on something that is a problem tomorrow.

“Just wait until you see the generation behind us. With 4,500 CrossFit gyms, we have sort of a decentralized Soviet-style training system. Hold on to your butt because in another 10 years, we are going to see a generation of kids come through who have been doing performance-based gymnastics and who know how to work hard.”

— Kelly Starrett