Become a Supple Leopard
by Adam Vickers
Becoming a Supple Leopard is a book written by Kelly Starrett, who has single-handedly changed the way we look at mobility and physiotherapy. Kelly Starrett, aka “K Star,” is the writer of the book How to Become a Supple Leopard which he nicknamed “the Betty Crocker book on how to move.” At first glance one might say “well I know how to move, I can walk, run, and jump no problem!” but can you really? I have played sports my whole life, from popular sports such as football, hockey, and soccer, to lighter sports like golf, tennis, or baseball. I played junior football in Chilliwack, and it never occurred to me that I was moving in the wrong way. It wasn’t until I injured my knee in football that I really gave up with the idea of playing sports at the next level. I tore the meniscus knee, which sort of keeps the knee together, and when torn it causes the knee to swell, creating constant pain and making it very hard to walk. I went to physiotherapy for my knee, which helped, but every so often it would act up and I was told that it would never be 100%; I was told that if I could maintain the strength in my legs it would not become a huge issue. I did that, but in the busy life of a student you don’t always have the time to make it to the gym. When I read this book, it instantly changed my life.
Becoming a Supple Leopard is built like a textbook, and has different sections that can be referred back to when help is needed with specific movements. The introduction explains a little bit about K Star, his experience as a trainer, and the kind of philosophy in the book. K Star believes that 90% of the issues physiotherapy fixes, such as back pain, knee and hip problems, can be fixed without the use of a physiotherapist at all. All we need to do is “make a better decision.” Make a better decision on how to walk, how to sit, and how to do things we do every day that are constantly wearing on our joints and ligaments. K Star argues that the kneecap is meant to last 110 years but we are tearing holes in them in 20… If that is not an incentive to at least look at the book, I do not know what is.
Becoming a Supple Leopard is a masterpiece in its descriptions on how to move, and how to fix movement issues. The book gives valuable insight into basic movements such as the squat, and how doing the squat properly can fix tons of back problems. The book also does a great job of explaining how we are moving wrong and why we need to change movements to correct functional movements, which are movements that we do in the gym and convert easily to the movements of daily life. When performing functional movements, we take a large amount of pressure off our joints and displace it to our muscles where we produce the most strength. The movement fixes are fairly easy to adapt to, and the effects of changing your movement can be felt instantly.
By changing the way you move, you will reduce back pain, increase hip motion, and make knee problems disappear. The book works in conjunction with an online blog called “mobility WOD.” Mobility is the function of increasing flexibility so that you can have full range of motion, and WOD is a CrossFit term: “workout of the day.” The purpose of the blog is to show people how to fix specific issues with mobility. The website, www.mobilitywod.com, is very user friendly, with a search function at the top of the page where you type the problem you have, and it returns a number of videos on how to fix them. The videos are completely free unless you want to get videos for the more extreme athletes with problems that are not as easy to fix. The book works with the blog and is an inspired effort by K Star to provide the general population with a manual about how to move properly in a world not designed for ease of human movement.
The book is highly recommended by athletes, and gets a nod from UFC fighter Forrest Griffin, who highly endorses the book in a post on YouTube. K Star himself has trained Olympic gold-medalists, Tour de France cyclists, world and national record holding Olympic Lifting and Power athletes, CrossFit Games medalists, ballet dancers, military personnel, and competitive age-division athletes. K Star actively teaches his children the disciplines of this book, and lives by what he preaches. K Star called his book Become a Supple Leopard for the very reason that he wants his readers to take on the persona of a supple leopard! A leopard can fire all its muscles in an instant and move its body extraordinarily well. Following the rules of this book, the reader can become a human version of a leopard, ready to sprint, jump, and run in an instant.
I know that for me, the book has allowed me to forget about the issues I had with my knee, and has also helped me become a much stronger version of myself. Other advocates of K Star are the US military and the US government, which is looking into changing the prototypical physical education of sports in the school system to educate kids from the beginning about how to keep natural movement in a world lacking in it. A four or five year old kid can do a full squat no problem, so then why is it that we, as adults, can barely bend down to pick up a pen dropped on the floor? I encourage everyone to read this book because it could not only change your life, but it could change the way we look at human movement forever.