In my youth, I walked to school where I mostly sat, and walked home, where I mostly sat. I never practiced sports or other physically strenuous activity, except some weight training as a teenager, and I never stretched. And that's true of my entire life thus far.

My question is: what evidence is there that I can or cannot increase my flexibility beyond a certain threshold determined by my past sedentariness, assuming "unlimited" flexibility training from now on?

Obviously, this is not a question about motivating myself by telling myself optimistic white lies about science, so please do not answer in that way. I just want to know what evidence there is for and against my past body treatment affecting my future body potential, given a lot of training

  • 1
    How will the answer to this affect your training?
    – user4644
    Jul 26, 2013 at 20:41
  • Who knows, but it probably won't affect my training. I am, nevertheless, asking this question.
    – themirror
    Aug 1, 2013 at 23:55
  • At any age, flexibility is much more limited by lack of motivation and ineffective training than anything else. You're asking a question that's really complicated to answer because of the many factors involved, but in reality, all you need to know is that huge gains in flexibility are possible at any age.
    – BKE
    Oct 27, 2013 at 8:11

3 Answers 3


I will tell you several things which I believe will add up to the answer of your question.

  1. Gymnasts start working on flexibility first thing in their career. Since the age of 4-5-6, the earlier they start working flexibility the better. After that coaches make them maintain their flexibility level.
  2. The older you get, the less flexible you will be. It goes away just like strength(hence why gymnasts start developing that first).
  3. It's all about genes. I have learnt from gymnastics coaches that flexibility is not something anybody can develop well. You either have the potential for it or you don't. Just how some kids can go down into a split without ever working on it. I on the other hand couldn't do it both when I was little and later in my teenage years even after spending hours on flexibility every day I made somewhat of an average progress. Thus if you were given flexible joints at birth even if you are older now it should not be much of a problem.

and 4. which is a littler irrelevant but I would like to share it with you for I feel you might need to know that. Every joint has different flexibility. For example I have seen gymnasts that could do splits but were inflexible in their shoulders. Thus they had to focus more on shoulder flexibility in order to catch up. Thus don't get discouraged right away and see how your overall flexibility develops!

  • What implications does this have for an average person? Someone who is not aspiring to be a world class gymnast, but interested in the possible gains to be had in flexibility training?
    – BKE
    Oct 26, 2013 at 20:20
  • I was making a point that things would be harder for anybody who starts at an older age but that he who wants to develop flexibility must not get discouraged!
    – Arthlete
    Oct 27, 2013 at 7:10

Yes, there are sensitive ages to develop flexibility. See Tom Kurz, Science of Sports Training, pages 303-305, which in turn reference Drabik 1996. You cannot be in this lifetime as flexible as you would be if you had trained gymnastics or ballet or whatever when you were young. Too bad. However, those limits are pretty far along the path to elite flexibility. Some are related to permanently altering tendons in your hip, for example. It shouldn't be much of a concern except to realize that in addition to never being an astronaut, you will probably never be an Olympic gold medal figure skater.

You cannot assume "unlimited" flexibility, but then again you couldn't assume that before. Everyone has a genetic potential. By not training when young, you have merely squandered less than a tiny half percentage point (warning: number pulled out of thin air) of your lifetime flexibility potential.


Flexibility can be had. There is little cap on your flexibility based on past non-flexibility. The two basics of flexibility is how often your muscles are stretched (in a variety of ways) and genetics. Gains are very small and incremental. However the good news is that you have done little weight training in your life and you don't have to worry about muscles getting in the way.

  • 1
    Can you provide sources for your claims?
    – Baarn
    Jul 27, 2013 at 7:12
  • And how do muscles get in the way of flexibility? There are quite a few professional body builders that can do front and side splits.
    – JohnP
    Jul 27, 2013 at 13:30
  • Muscles want to retract. The bigger the more they want to retract. Plus the added muscle hurts the angular position of the person. Body builders work very hard for the flexibility and I know quite a few that can barely touch their knees. Sources for my claims - trained athletes for almost 20 years.
    – DMoore
    Jul 27, 2013 at 15:58
  • The bigger the more they want to retract. Can you provide a reference for this?
    – user4644
    Jul 27, 2013 at 16:01
  • 1
    Sources for this site are expected to fixed in some form of media.
    – user4644
    Jul 27, 2013 at 16:16

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