Becoming a Supple Leopard is Kelly Starrett book on optimizing athletic performance and healthier living.
- Most people are too tight, have bad posture and are missing key ranges of motion
- When you exercise with bad posture you increase your chances of injury
- Use torque for better posture and exercise execution
First of all, I need to tell you that Becoming a Supple Leopard has lots of pictures. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible to properly summarize.
If you are very interested in the topic, I recommend you grab a copy.
What Supple Leopard Means
Starret says a leopard is always ready to run, pounce and move. He doesn’t need to stretch or warm up.
He likes the idea of being always ready, like a leopard.
Of course he says that we are phisiologically different from a leopard, but we can all work towards that ideal.
An ideal many of us are too far away from, he says.
Many people are way too tight and are missing key ranges of motion.
Personally and as a website on self empowerment and social skills, I was very interested in proper posture.
And I very much appreciated the pictures in Becoming a Supple Leopard. For example standing with a neutral spinal position is not super erect or flat.
He says that pelvis, ribcage, shoulders, and head should be in alignment. However is picture shows slightly forward knees, which is something I was always trying to correct standing “too straight”.
Instead, it’s normal to stand slightly forward with your legs, which are not perfectly straight.
Braced Neutral Position
Becoming a Supple Leopard calls a proper posture “braced neutral”. Which means that the ribcage is balanced over your pelvis, the ears are aligned with the shoulder and the trunk musculature is engaged to stabilize that position.
For most movements, you do not want your spine to deviate from this the braced neutral position.
It’s from this position that you should use lift and use weights. It’s the most efficient position to transmit force and handle load safely.
The Two Hands Rule
The book has a whole sequence with related pictures on how to get into perfect standing posture.
And a neat technique to make sure you’re doing well which the author calls “the two hands rule”:
- Place the thumb of your left hand on your sternum
- Pin the other thumb on your pubic bone (but the picture show he has it around his belly button area)
- Make sure your hands are parallel to each oher
- But don’t forget the head!
Same Position for Everything
You must keep the same position of alignment in whichever position you are.
Doing push ups, keep a natural spine. Pumping iron, keep a natural spine position. Doing squats, keep a natural spine position.
The author says that when you exercise with a proper position you will avoid the vast majority of injuries.
Kelly says that sitting is death.
It eats away at your athletic performance potential and it can be as harmful as smoking.
And it only gets worst when people sit badly -that would be the majority of people-.
If you are sitting, still your foot should be firmly planted on the ground, looking straight ahead. And your head should be in line with your spin.
You can also move forward or recline, but you must keep a natural spine posture.
Here’s the author explaining a proper sitting position:
Rounded and over-extended position take no work. Seating properly instead requires some tension in our muscles.
It’s important that you get into a healthy position before you sit, because when you sit you can’t use your glutes as well.
And instead of correcting your posture from the seating position, stand up and re-adjust yourself.
To keep a good seating position, you need to re-organize yourself every ten or fifteen minutes.
A lumbar support can help, but you still need to learn how to sit properly.
The second biggest principle to exercise without straining and injuries is torque.
Torque is the application of tension through external or internal rotation.
We apply torque for example when standing straight but pushing with our feet (picture from the author’s book)
This was very interesting for me, I was doing it naturally but now I understand why it’s good. And I had no idea it could be applied to many other areas of exercising.
You can for example do the same with your hands while doing push-ups.
Keep a Great Posture
It doesn’t just look better, but it also prevents injuries and strains.
Re-Adjust Your Seating Position Often
We are not programmed to keep the same position for a long period of time. Some re-adjusting every 20 minutes or so is necessary.
Stand-up to Re-Align Your Spine
When you are sitting it’s often not enough to just check and re-adjust your posture. It’s best if you stand up and then sit again.
Some Mismatch Between Text and Pictures
I found a few mismatches between text and pictures. For example in the two hands exercise he says “one thumb on your pubic bone”, but in the picture it’s anything but one the pubic bone.
And while he says the spine should be all aligned with knees and heel, the legs clearly move slightly forward.
As I have been reading and researching on posture a lot, it still made sense to me, but for someone else it might be confusing.
Keeping a tight belly might not be good for your speaking voice as contracting your muscle can obstruct the flow of air as Roger Love explains.
I’m currently working on this.
Highly informative and helpful.
Tackles Basics Deeply and Seriously
The idea of Supple Leopard, such as applying correct basics to all movements we do, is awesome.
Here’s what the author says about the pure basics:
Sitting—like standing—is one of the most technically challenging things we do.
Indeed, I almost never see anyone adopting a correct posture.
I love that Becoming a Supple Leopard starts and focuses on the basics.
Most of us think that just because we do something all the times, we know how to do it and we don’t need to tackle it.
Wrong: the more you do something, the more you should take care you do it right.
I recommend Becoming a Supple Leopard to anyone interested not just in exercising, but in a healthy life.