The Middle Splits Challenge

A week ago my beautiful bendy friend Ronnie broke the news to me – she lowered down into her first full flat middle split. She attributed her success to Fit & Bendy’s Bendy Body DVD, an active flexibility workout which I suggested to her. But it was just one last piece she was missing in a puzzle she was working on for a long while.

I was quite inspired by her and her success story, inspired to face my currently most inflexible aspect of my body, my own middle splits. I started off with what seems like 90 degrees, and slowly, very slowly didn’t get much better like I did with my front splits, pancake and backbends. I avoided dealing with them, and they weren’t a priority.

I asked Ronnie what routine should I do, and being the bendy goddess and sweetest person that she is, she shared a plan of action with me, one which I decided to take on as a challenge. I’ll no longer avoid my middle splits, I’ll actively put work in them for a month and see how I feel about them.

My plan is to do this 3 times a week. I already did this routine last week, and it seems to take half an hour, which is totally feasible for me.

The Routine

  1. Hip warm up – my glute strengthening hip flexor extending butt shaping routine
  2. Standing leg kick to the side
  3. Leg kicks while laying on the side
    1. Propped on the elbow
    2. Head on arm on the floor
    3. Prop back onto the elbow, bring knee to shoulder, grab the ankle and extend leg.
  4. Leg turnout – Standing on all four, extend a leg to the side.
    1. With toe on the ground, turn it in and out.
    2. In a turned out position, do leg lifts.
    3. In the air, turn it in and out.
  5. Standing/seating pike
  6. Butterfly pose
  7. Straddle stretches with feet on blocks
    1. Bend sideways to each leg.
    2. Fold towards on each leg.
    3. Fold forward into a pancake
  8. Pancake split
  9. Weighted reclined splits. Put ankle weights on and lay on the ground.
    1. Slowly open and close the legs
    2. Add resistance bands on each leg, hold them with the hands, put a block under the butt and resist the bands in pulses.
  10. Weighted wall splits. With the ankle weight still on, move butt to wall.
    1. Lay on back
    2. Prop up onto the elbows
    3. Prop up on the hands and push chest to wall
    4. Slowly slide feet down and get to a seated position
    5. Push chest to wall again
  11. Descend to middle split using a pole
    1. Stand face to pole, turn feet out and start sliding them out flexed in stright line.
    2. Keep crouch close to pole and slide until legs start to go forward into a straddle.
    3. Stop and point toes and hold.
  12. Frog and half frog
  13. Middle split

 

The Perfect Pike

Although it’s one of the most popular a hamstring stretches out there, a lot goes into a well formed pike pose. It’s beneficial and treacherous to beginners and flexible practitioners alike. I’ll attempt to touch on the pitfalls of this pose and suggest cues to set you closer to the perfect pike.

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A Year of Bridges

So about a year ago I took my first private with my contortion instructor Samantha Hall. She opened my eyes about two things:

  1. It’s not about the straight legs. I thought I needed to get to the point where my legs are straight before walking them closer to my hands. I kept working on pushing with my legs and eventually managed to straighten them, but my progress was not very fast overall. Sam told me right away that the legs are not important here, and walking them closer is essential for progress.
  2. It is about the shoulders over hands. Being able to lock out my legs in my very wide initial stance is all fine and dandy, but the whole point of pushing the weight toward the hands is to get the shoulders over them. It brings more bend to the upper back and shoulder and evens out the pressure throughout the spine. She introduced me to the chest to wall bridge which felt impossible that that time.

During the last year my back have been though quite a lot. I gained understanding in how to mobilize my upper back, started to actively put in work to open my shoulders, stretched my hip flexors while strengthening my glutes, dubbed into chest stands, and got serious about my bridges and getting more comfortable in them.

I addressed the two points I listed above by working on compacting my bridge and working on the chest to wall bridge. This, along with better shoulders and the ability to tap into my upper back more, are probably the biggest contributors to my progress.

I remember thinking that that’s as good as my bridge is going to be, and I now I feel the same way about my current picture. Silly, I know. Especially since I’m not planning to stop any time soon. I’ll get that chest on the wall, heels down, this year for sure.

Actually, I can’t imagine how is it going to look a year from now.