There is a point in every splitter’s life when the booty nears the floor and that flat split seems so, so close. And then progress just seems to slow to geological time!
If this is your world right now, please don’t worry, you’re not alone. The problem is that the closer you get to the floor, the less help you get from gravity. With more and more of your legs already touching down, less of your body weight is in the air. Gravity is nature’s push into your flexibility, so without it progress becomes more elusive.
There are a few things that a person (a purely hypothetical person of course) might do at this point as they become increasingly frustrated and impatient:
1. Let the hips rotate into an open split, thereby getting that last little bit of length needed for touchdown but skipping the deep hip and hamstring stretch and good form that we want in our splits (see my last blog post on square splits for why this is important).
2. Bounce. I know we all feel tempted to bounce sometimes and use that ballistic stretching to bully our body into those last few inches but unless your body is used to that kind of intense, rapid stretching, it can be a recipe for injury.
3. Get a push. This is the least dangerous of all of these options provided your body is accustomed to being pushed into a stretch you are getting that push from someone who knows what they are doing. Pushing on a stretch is a skill, and just getting your mom or your bff to do it may be risky, especially if they are agro and prone to pushing too hard.
4. Giving up. Some folks end up deciding that their bodies just can’t go deeper and flat splits are not for them. In some cases there may be a structural reason why going deeper may not be possible but often it’s just that they need a new tactic.
If you choose the twist, bounce or push this could be an opportunity for injury as well, and lots of folks get pulled hamstrings or labral tears at this point in their flexibility adventures by choosing overly aggressive tactics for their body’s comfort level.
So what’s an aspiring splitter to do?
Now oversplits may sound scary but in truth they are a much safer and healthier approach to getting flat splits than choosing any of the options above (with the exception of an experienced pusher) and you don’t need a coach to help.
By simply sliding into the front split with the front foot elevated on a yoga block or other low riser you bring the body back up off the ground, bringing gravity back into the game. Run through all your usual splits movements in the over split, using your arms to support your body as much as is needed, then revisit your regular old flat split and see if you haven’t gotten just a smidge closer to the ground.
Of course, it is vital to warm up thoroughly before trying out your oversplit. Warm up your hips and hamstrings as usual, do a regular split to really get juicy, then break out that over spilt. A round of flat split – over split – flat split is a solid flexibility routine and will be very likely to produce results.
How long should you sit in a split? Check out my next blog entry for my musings on listening to your body to determine the duration of stretches!
For some visuals, here is a video showing the entrance to oversplit using a block on sliders to help you control your depth and form.
Happy Bendings Earthlings!