3rd August 2016
How long will it take to get my splits flat to the ground?
I get this question often; my response is always the same: How long is a piece of string?
There are a few factors that affect flexibility and the rate to which you can improve. The first and most obvious being; how often are you stretching? If you are new to stretching then I would not recommend trying to do a proper, deep stretch every day. Just with any exercise you need to allow time for your body to recover, once per week is enough to start with. But you can definitely do light stretching every day, just be sure to do a bit of cardio to get the blood moving first. As your body gets used to your intense stretch sessions, start trying to do two per week and continue with your light sessions to help recovery.
Your ‘other’ training sessions will also impact on your flexibility goals. For example running and heavy weight lifting will definitely slow your progress to snail pace. My advice is to stop for a period of time or drop your weight/distance right down and really make sure you have a proper stretch straight away, otherwise you will be facing an uphill battle. Once you’ve made some headway with your flexy goals you can definitely manage the weight/running training together with your flexibility.
Your skeletal structure and muscle balance also have a bearing on your flexibility. For example, the shape of my hip bones and the way my lower leg bones are twisted into the knee joint means that middle splits always have and always will be a constant battle to achieve and maintain. My legs can only go so far in the hip socket to make a 180 degree line (just!) and my adductors are having to extend to an over split on the left just to get flat – ouch. To add to the fun, my outer thigh muscles (piriformis and abductors) are really weak. So my body is compensating my weak outer hip/leg muscles by tightening my inner thigh muscles to stabilise the joint. Sad news? Well, more like; Jacinta is naughty and needs to do her conditioning exercises. If you are ‘stuck’ in your stretching and feel like you are not making any more progress, perhaps you need to look at strengthening the opposite muscles to stabilise your joint. It is best to see qualified health professional such as a physiotherapist if you feel that your progress is severely hindered or that there is a physiological reason that you cannot push further. Such as your hips may be out of alignment.
There are different types of stretching; passive stretching (just holding the stretch), ballistic stretching (pulsing in the stretch), PNF stretching (resistance stretching) and dynamic stretching (movement stretching such as kicks). Everybody is different and will respond differently to different types of stretching. So if you find yourself in a plateau, try a different form of stretching. In our classes at Diamond Dance we use all the different types of stretching to try to cater to everyone’s needs and keep your progress hot!
Lastly, you might be able to a flat split on the floor, however up in the air and upside down you don’t have the luxury of your body weight pushing you done. Dynamic stretching is the best way to strengthen and lengthen muscles (combined with other types of stretching) to be able to perform beautiful aerial splits!
~ Jacinta Diamonds