Everyone Can Do The Splits

Nov 27, 2013

Flexibility is something that you need to practice to get better at but much more importantly you need to learn how to stretch.Few people can do the splits or a good bridge without any practice or training. But what most people don't realise is that they can get there way faster than they think. The current limit of your flexibility has a lot more to do with the fact that you tense up and resist the stretch than any real physical limit.

After I stopped competing in gymnastics I didn't do splits for about 4 years because I had no real reason to. Then I took up yoga and decided that it'd be fun to do splits and bridge again. When I started practising I was about a foot from the floor on all three splits but it only took me a week and a half to get all the way down. The primary reason is because I know how to stretch. Yes, there is a right way to stretch and a wrong way to stretch. Just sitting in a position and screaming that it hurts will not improve your flexibility as fast as learning how to relax your muscles. When you try and stretch a muscle your body tenses up to prevent injury, it thinks something bad is about to happen. However, if you relax and remove the tension you can get much further with less pain and less chance of injury.

The two approaches to stretching that I find most useful are to simply relax into the stretch and stay there for an extended period of time. Every so often I'll find that I can relax even further and move a couple of inches deeper. I will do this for up to 5 minutes on a single stretch. The second is the contract-relax or PNF approach(proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). The idea behind PNF stretching is to firstcontract the muscle for 3-20 seconds (some people do it longer), then relax the same muscle going deeper into the stretch. This cycle can be repeated numerous times. There is a lot of interesting science explaining why this technique works but I'll save that blog post for another day.

Since I am still unable to do much training I am going to work on my flexibility for a week and see how far I can get working it every day.