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I’ve been trying to improve my straddle & middle splits by holding the straddle stretch for one minute, doing frog splits and holding them and doing wall/lazy straddle splits. The issue I think I’m having is that every time I do this stretches I only feel the stretch in my outer hips or with my straddle splits- outer hip & hamstrings close to my knee.  I thought the straddle splits required inner thigh/abductor flexibility so I’m a bit confused. Can someone explain what this indicates . I’ve been stretching consistently for the past 2 weeks but I have always felt this discomfort. Thanks

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Hi Abby,

There are lots of possibilities. It's hard to say, especially without pictures. That said, I'll suggest a few things to think about.

1) Have you tried adjusting your form? Specifically, internally/externally rotating the legs, or tilting the pelvis forward/backward - whichever is easier for you to visualize. Depending on your bone structure, you will need to do this at some point to go wider. I just did a quick search, so this might not be the best link, but scroll down and check out the images for 6. The Hip Joint on this page. Notice the turnout of the toes and the lumbar extension. Play with these angles and see if it doesn't help.

2) Many extreme feats of flexibility require not only the "stretching" muscle to lengthen, but they also require a certain amount of suppleness/relaxation of the muscles on the opposite side of the joint. Think about a thin, bendy rope. Alone, it would seem very flexible. But what if you held it next to a rigid, tightly wound rope and tried to bend it toward that rope? There would be a lot of resistance, and the "flexible" rope would no longer bend much. The body is not so clear-cut, but a similar phenomenon can be observed. In my own case, I have a lot of tightness in the outer left hip. Rolling this area out well before doing middle spit work can very much change the subjective experience. Try rolling the outer hip area - from the glutes to the IT band and even toward the front of the hip - beforehand and see how your splits feel.

One last thing worth mentioning is that your outer hip muscles will be working to open your legs if you are not just relaxing and leaving it up to gravity. (They must contract in a shortened state, which is hard work for them.) This "discomfort" could be drowning out the stretch sensations, which would result in "feeling" the stretch there. But if you feel the discomfort during the lazy splits and you're not actively pulling the legs apart, then this is likely not the culprit.

Play with some of those variables and let us know what happens. If you're comfortable with posting pictures, doing so will potentially get you some much better feedback. Good luck!

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In addition to Nathan's excellent suggestions, I must ask: do you think two week's practise of anything will lead to discernible improvements in what you are trying to do? And have you been practising every day—we do not recommend this. 

I have no doubt that your external rotators are cramping—this is very common in beginners, and these are the opposite (so "antagonist") muscles to the ones you are trying to loosen, the adductors and inner hamstrings you are trying to stretch—and holding a stretch for one minute, as you describe will not do anything to alleviate this. This cramping can happen without you actively trying to open your legs further too; this effects has been described many times here; search on "cramp" or "spasm".

Which of the relevant Mastery programs do you have, and which exercises are you doing from them? Please be as specific as you can and we will be able to recommend practical alternatives or a better order to try, perhaps. Have you read all the threads in the "Start Here" sub-forum? 

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Hi,  

Thanks for the replies, since I’ve been stretching every day for two weeks for 10-30 minutes, I understand that I wouldn’t have significant improvements but I hoped I would atleast start to feel the stretches in the places I’m supposed to. I’ve tried  incorporating the cossack exercises that I came across. I’ve haven’t read  all the threads in the sub forum but I’ve read a few . When I do lazy splits I use ankle weights aswell-I don’t know if that is significant. I let gravity pull my legs down until I feel the discomfort in my hips. I’ve tried adjusted my form in the straddle (sitting on the edge of a blanket, moving my hips backwards and forwards) I still feel the stretching in my hamstring and hips though. I think I could be experiencing cramping because when getting out of the frog stretch/ wall splits my hips feel very tight and it can take me a while. I don’t have a foam roller for the solutions Nathan suggested is there an alternative I can use, also I have yoga blocks/yoga straps could I incorporate these?

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@Abby5001,

Thanks for getting back. Do you have the Master the Pancake program? If not, is there a plan you are working to? And what are lazy splits; this is not a term we use here.

A couple of things: working the same exercise every day is simply not the most efficient way to improve your flexibility. Please read all the threads in the "Start Here" thread as I suggested: stretching is exactly the same as resistance training (especially the way we do it, with contractions in the end positions, for example) and while these are extremely effective, they have to be recovered from. This means stretching hard every third or fourth day will be far more effective than every day. You can do other necessary stretches in between, of you want and you can limber (mobility work) every day. 

To use any system, you have to understand how to use it. 

5 hours ago, Abby5001 said:

I’ve tried adjusted my form in the straddle (sitting on the edge of a blanket, moving my hips backwards and forwards) I still feel the stretching in my hamstring and hips though.

Well, that's where you are supposed to feel the stretch—recall that in your first post you wrote "I thought the straddle splits required inner thigh/abductor flexibility so I’m a bit confused", which implied to me that you were not feeling the stretch there.

Please advise which program you are working from, and our replies are likely to be more helpful to you. And please use paragraph returns; makes reading your replies easier.

As well, get a friend to take pictures of your current form. There is a form check section, but post here so it's all in one thread, for convenience. And where do you live; we might know a teacher near you.

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Hi Kit,

I do have the master the pancake program 

But I haven’t been working from a specific program- I just do static stretches for a minute or so at the moment.

The term lazy splits refers to wall straddle splits (Lying down facing a wall with your legs in straddle position against it)

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On 9/10/2018 at 5:47 PM, Abby5001 said:

I just do static stretches for a minute or so at the moment.

Please spend some time understanding how to use this system; what you write above is not what we do, nor recommend—any other stretching program can do this for you. Learn what to do in any pose (Contract–Relax, Agonist–Antagonist; how to breathe and how to relax) and then do it, and report back. Static stretches will not do what you need.

Lazy splits are not productive for most people, either.

Please understand I am not trying to discourage you, but you have a massive resource here (and in that Mastery program), and you are not taking advantage of it.

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On ‎9‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 6:47 PM, Abby5001 said:

Hi Kit,

I do have the master the pancake program 

But I haven’t been working from a specific program- I just do static stretches for a minute or so at the moment.

The term lazy splits refers to wall straddle splits (Lying down facing a wall with your legs in straddle position against it)

You need to use some sort of mechanism to help you get deeper into the stretch. Some suggestions here:

- External resistance as in weights (for your ankles here), bands or a partner who push you now.

- Reflexes like reciprocal antagonist inhibition. Activate complimentary muscles (the ones that you are not stretching) to pull you deeper. In your case the butt muscles on the side. Imagine drawing your heel to the ground.

- Contract/relax. Tense the muscles that you are stretching after reaching the barrier of your current flexibility. Hold the position for 5-15s (requires experimentation) and the sink deeper. Imagine needing to hold tight onto a pillow in between your legs for optimal tension.

- Breathing techniques. This is general advice for all stretching. Take deep, rhythmic and relax breaths. Visualize letting go of the tension by really feeling the muscles being stretched. For you it will be feeling the thighs and backside of the legs, perhaps near the butt.

- Making use of gravity in a partial pose. You are already doing this.

- Including end range dynamic strength training/mobility training. An exercise here could be lateral squats or side to side squats.

This is the very condensed version of what you need to learn from Kit's programs in my opinion. Im still working on some of the poses where I feel there is more potential if I learn to do it better.

My own opinion my defer a little from Kit's maybe but I think the most important aspect though is learning how to use external resistance and gravity to your advantage, then learning how to relax into the position and then using reflex turning. Coupling this with partner training and different poses is a recipe for success.

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On 9/15/2018 at 1:27 PM, AlexanderEgebak said:

You need to use some sort of mechanism to help you get deeper into the stretch. Some suggestions here:

- External resistance as in weights (for your ankles here), bands or a partner who push you now.

- Reflexes like reciprocal antagonist inhibition. Activate complimentary muscles (the ones that you are not stretching) to pull you deeper. In your case the butt muscles on the side. Imagine drawing your heel to the ground.

- Contract/relax. Tense the muscles that you are stretching after reaching the barrier of your current flexibility. Hold the position for 5-15s (requires experimentation) and the sink deeper. Imagine needing to hold tight onto a pillow in between your legs for optimal tension.

- Breathing techniques. This is general advice for all stretching. Take deep, rhythmic and relax breaths. Visualize letting go of the tension by really feeling the muscles being stretched. For you it will be feeling the thighs and backside of the legs, perhaps near the butt.

- Making use of gravity in a partial pose. You are already doing this.

- Including end range dynamic strength training/mobility training. An exercise here could be lateral squats or side to side squats.

This is the very condensed version of what you need to learn from Kit's programs in my opinion. Im still working on some of the poses where I feel there is more potential if I learn to do it better.

My own opinion my defer a little from Kit's maybe but I think the most important aspect though is learning how to use external resistance and gravity to your advantage, then learning how to relax into the position and then using reflex turning. Coupling this with partner training and different poses is a recipe for success.

This is brilliant advice, thanks I will try incorporating it 

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  • 6 months later...
On 9/10/2018 at 8:58 AM, Nathan said:

 

1) Have you tried adjusting your form? Specifically, internally/externally rotating the legs, or tilting the pelvis forward/backward - whichever is easier for you to visualize. Depending on your bone structure, you will need to do this at some point to go wider. I just did a quick search, so this might not be the best link, but scroll down and check out the images for 6. The Hip Joint on this page. Notice the turnout of the toes and the lumbar extension. Play with these angles and see if it doesn't help.

 

Just a question about Nathan's point on internally/externally rotating the hips with the middle splits. Is there a form we should prioritise over the other? I understand from that link that with internally rotated hips (feet pointed forward), there will be lumbar extension, and with hips externally rotated (feet pointed upwards), L-spine will be in a more neutral position. 

I have been working with Dave's variation of the Side splits props variation from Master the Pancake. Really enjoying it. Now down to about 140 degrees. But when i try to externally rotate the hips (feet pointing upwards), I find myself having very limited external rotation. I can probably externally rotate one hip at a time gently and not both at the same time. Wonder if there is a specific exercise to work on that external rotation? Or is it a case of regressing and begin approaching it middle splits from the top down with an externally rotate hip.

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12 hours ago, Shihan said:

Or is it a case of regressing and begin approaching it middle splits from the top down with an externally rotate hip.

This I would say. How is your hamstring flexibility? Quite a bit more HS activation in external rotation. Try to start with one foot externally rotated only and then slowly slide into it. You can use the other foot to push of the floor sideways to get a bit deeper. A drill that works well for me is to start with both feet internally rotated and then alternatively rotating one foot out and back in. A nice CR in external rotation is the foot hooking action known from the hamstring lunge stretch. Try to hook your heel into the floor and try bend your knee (without actually bending it). Quite a different CR than with both feet parallel.

Cheers

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The 'Q&D' (quick and dirty) way to test whether your SS will be achieved via significant lumbar extension (à la Mary Lou Retton; google her) or turnout (search for this term here) is to try SS both ways (feet pointing straight ahead, parallel to the floor) and feet pointing up to the ceiling (so externally rotated thighs) and seeing/feeling which feels easiest.

This question has been extensively investigated here before, in many places. Please use the search function.

On 9/20/2018 at 4:04 AM, AlexanderEgebak said:

This is also my opinion, not Kit's, though I believe we are close on this one :)

We're in the same conceptual space here: in my own search for SS, I tried everything, and quite a few things not talked about here, because they were dead ends for me. External resistance and using gravity to your advantage are two of the key methods in this system.

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On 3/25/2019 at 1:55 PM, MarkusO said:

This I would say. How is your hamstring flexibility? Quite a bit more HS activation in external rotation. Try to start with one foot externally rotated only and then slowly slide into it. You can use the other foot to push of the floor sideways to get a bit deeper. A drill that works well for me is to start with both feet internally rotated and then alternatively rotating one foot out and back in. A nice CR in external rotation is the foot hooking action known from the hamstring lunge stretch. Try to hook your heel into the floor and try bend your knee (without actually bending it). Quite a different CR than with both feet parallel.

Cheers

Thanks. I had forgotten about the heel hook CR technique! 

My Hamstring flexibility in the standing pike is decent. In my mind, i am beginning to understand that hamstring flexibility with hips internally rotated (or neutral as in Pike) and externally rotated are subtly different, probably involving the adductors differently. I shall keep rolling between those two range and explore the tension.

I think playing with the pelvic tilt in various poses, Flat Frog, Frog pose, Half pancake, cossack squat is starting to awaken those deep groin muscles very slowly. I must say they are in the dark recesses of the body and are very stubborn to release!

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