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Training & Exercise

Podcast 135: Dr. Kelly Starrett Talks Mobility and Injury Prevention

August 10, 2021

This week’s guest on the WHOOP Podcast is world-renowned mobility expert Dr. Kelly Starrett.

By Will Ahmed

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Dr. Kelly Starrett is a physical therapist, trainer, and the bestselling author of Becoming a Supple Leopard. He coaches Olympians, CrossFitters, and top athletes across all of the major team sports–he even works with the President.

Kelly joined Mike Lombardi to explain how mobility is so much more than just technique for injury prevention – it’s one of the fundamental keys to unlocking your best performance. He also covers the difference between mobility and flexibility, how to improve your range of motion, and what he believes are the benchmarks to good human functioning.


Dr. Kelly Starrett Podcast Quotes and Highlights:

2:20 – Using WHOOP. “We have needed a way to talk about what’s going on on the inside in such a cogent way. I think that’s one of the missing pieces around unlocking a lot of untapped potential.”

6:30 – Importance of Movement. “It pays to move well. It pays to be efficient. It pays to be mechanically effective,” Kelly says. “You can do more reps. You can have more fun.”

12:35 – Training Until You Break. “If you’re an athlete over 35, you can appreciate this. Our model was train as hard as you can, until you break … I ended up with this overuse injury in my neck where I can’t turn my head and my hand is numb. And I only had like 300 warning signs that I just blew through because no one said it was important. We weren’t talking about it.”

13:45 – Dealing With Injury. “I was confronted with the classic athlete dilemma, which is ‘I’ll do anything to get back to my sport. So give me the prednisone, give me the shot. Give me the needles. Give me the chiropractic. Give me physical therapy. Give me the massage.’ I did it all to try to just get back to my thing. And in retrospect, now, [I understand I] created my problem. That problem blew up in my face. There were a hundred things about my mechanics and my breathing and my efficiency and my reducing recovery and motor nutrition. I could have changed some aspects of that. Instead, that ended my career.”

15:49 – Pain. Kelly talks about how the sports and performance world has mismanaged pain in the past. “What we said is, ‘Pain is a medical problem.’ So the coaches said, ‘Just ignore it or go lighter.’ We didn’t actually give any athletes solutions. What they did was they’d go out and solve their own problems with ibuprofen or bourbon or opiates. How many of our NFL [players] started with vicodin and to solve the problem so they could keep playing? A lot, right? It’s a slippery slope.”

19:11 – Different Types of Movement. “[We haven’t] told people how their bodies work and what to be able to expect out of their bodies. We have all these ranges of motion that are normative.” Kelly says. “What we see fundamentally is people’s daily movement language is actually really small. They only speak a few words: sit, stand, lay down. That’s it. Rinse, wash, repeat.”

23:55 – Pandemic’s Impact on Human Body. Kelly says he believes humans have gone through a “dewilding” process over the last year with the pandemic. “We probably need to walk about 8,000 steps a day. That’s probably the number for the minimum effective dose. You need some sunshine on your body. You say, ‘I can do that.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t, you didn’t go outside once in the sun today.’

28:31 – Sleep. “You have to sleep more. Research [shows] in your forties and fifties, if you aren’t on your sleep, the chances of [developing] Alzheimer’s and dementia are significant. Those are really excellent predictors. So in your peak earning age, when you have children, is when you’re the most screwed because you’re getting your worst sleep. That’s going to set you up for a [bad] back half of your life.”

30:18 – Movement Minimums. “People are getting pretty good at understanding what a good resting heart rate is, what [good] blood pressure is, and now what HRV is. [WHOOP has] taught people to understand what’s going on, but we still aren’t talking about movement minimums or movement quality as vital signs.”

34:53 – Defining Mobility. “Your ability to move,” Kelly says. “Mobility is a systems approach to understanding two things. One, do you have the raw tissue extensibility to achieve a position? … And the second part of that is, do you have the skill to express that? That’s called movement control.”

36:31 – Becoming a Supple Leopard. Kelly’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance, is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

42:26 – Working with the President. Kelly works with some of the top athletes in the world, but also works with the President. Additionally, he teams up with various companies to help employees improve their posture and mobility.

43:35 – Social Media. Kelly explains why he offers most of his teachings for free online. “Go help people,” he says. “You can’t serve people enough. You can’t give enough away.”

48:46 – Fitness for Life. Kelly talks about the importance of staying fit so you can enjoy the everyday basics of life. “It’s all about using your fitness. Go spend your fitness credits.”

49:38 – Raising the Bar. “We’ve set the bar and expectation very low for people physically in our society. And what we should constantly be reminding ourselves is that we are savage, savage, savage animals. You don’t even realize what you’re capable of.”

Learn more about Kelly at Connect with the Ready State on Instagram.


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.