Updated: Feb 21, 2019
Yes, that question opens a can of worms. In the world of aerial, pole and martial arts the front and center splits are everyday moves, but many athletes struggle to get and maintain the splits. Most of us are actually blocked by a combination of things. Obviously, tight muscles can be a block and probably not actually stretching correctly or long enough. Some of us also have to work through genetics; but it is possible to conquer genetics.
If you are struggling to get the splits or maintain the splits ask yourself these questions:
How often do you stretch for your splits?
For two minutes after your workout? Uh-huh, you know what I am talking about.
People who are naturally flexible have likely had the splits their entire life due to genetics or from working flexibility at a young age. For the rest of us, if you want your splits you need to stretch consistently and most likely for longer than you think.
Get on a stretch program; get help with books and DVDs. I take Emil Valentino’s online stretch classes and he does a complete warm-up, then we work from the outside inward with long passive static stretching. Each day of the week is a targeted area to stretch. His system works, it’s how I got my splits back. There are lots of options out there, research.
Exactly, what parts of you are tight?
Let’s pin point what muscles are physically stopping us? For the front splits the involved muscles are the quad and hamstring complex, including the hip flexors. Secondary muscles are the gluteus and gastrocnemius.
In the center splits, the stretch is happening in the inner thigh muscles (Adductor complex) and the hip flexors. Beyond these major muscles, it can be calves, knee connectors, gluteus and lots of little things.
If you are warmed up come into a front splits and pay attention to what areas are tight. Try this in a center splits too.
What are you doing on a Physical Level that might be blocking you?
This can mean, what sports have you been doing your whole life that may affect your flexibility. I have been building muscle in my body for the purpose of rock climbing and cycling since I was a teenager. These sports offer a great workout, but are not known to focus on flexibility. I have spent the last 8 years unlocking the way my muscles developed. Weightlifting and having a dancer’s flexibility is a newer concept in fitness, unless you are a gymnast. For aerial arts having a gymnast’s ideas of strength and flexibility is tapping the concept of using the human body to its full potential – to be strong and flexibly and hopefully have the cardio stamina to finish a routine.
However, do not stop cross training, keep up your other sports or activities. They will balance you in the end; you can still get flexy and lift weights or ride bikes. Any physician or physical therapist will tell you just stretching and dropping the cardio and strength is a bad idea.
On a Metaphysical Level are you blocking yourself?
If you are not prioritizing stretching, this may be yourself blocking your progression. Stretching opens the joints and muscles and makes our bodies have better range of motion. We should be thinking of stretching as self-care and make stretching part of our workouts and part of our life. On a deeper level look at what is stressing you out. If job stress or personal life stress is making you cut out of class early, or not stretch, evaluate what you can do to help decrease the stress. On a physical plane is this stress causing you to elevate your shoulders, which is tweaking your back, which is locking your hips. The body is a beautifully interlaced system and if one part is tight, it will connect you to other parts.
Check out our Posts on Stretching
Stretching to Increase Flexibility (Part 3) PNF
Stretching to Increase Flexibility (Part 2) Dynamic
Stretching to Increase Flexibility (Part 1) Static
Dynamic Stretching for Warm-up