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I've noticed that my ability to bring my torso upright in side splits is inversely proportional to the depth of the side split.

So when I'm at my max side split I have to be leaning forward on something. It feels like its due to chronically tight hip flexors. I'm working hard to relax the entire hip region as I push my torso upright but it feels like it becomes a hip flexor stretch instead of a side split stretch. I feel it a lot on the outside of my hips as well. If I really hold it a long time there's some popping as I go deeper, feels like thinks are getting shifted out of the way. 

I'm assuming I just have to keep working on my hip flexors to overcome this. Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. 

As always, my most heartfelt thanks for this resource.

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@Jason: The secret is "turnout". There are two ways into side splits; the first necessitates a strong anterior tilt of the pelvis; here is Mary Lou Retton showing this approach to perfection: see how her sacrum is perfectly flat, while her trunk is as upright as she can get it:

 

Screen Shot 2022-02-02 at 06.14.43.jpg

Note that her knees and feet are pointing forwards; in other words, her thighs are in moderate internal rotation. Actually, I just did a search here (I knew Emmet and I had talked about this at length; see here: https://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/1264-rethinking-the-dancers-split/.

Please read that thread, and we can keep talking. For many people (I'm one of them) turnout is absolutely necessary to side splits. And, yes, loose hip flexors are necessary, too. The hip flexor partner version (free on my Youtube channel) is the best way in to this one.

The basic test is, when you put your legs in side splits, or as close as you can get, what does your body want to do? If you are like most people the pelvis wants to tilt forwards to facilitate the hip movement. Then try SS with your legs externally rotated as possible (feet pointing to ceiling). If your hips go lower, then concentrate on turnout, and get into SS using that direction. 

 

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There is a saying in the dance world that I heard many times when I was doing limbering classes at the Australian Academy of Ballet, that "the turnout that you take to your first class is the turnout you'll end your career with". It is, in fact, complete nonsense.

I had no turnout when I started and now my turnout is almost perfect. I will write a tutorial about this one day, but the key thing is to make every effort to not only point the feet up, but even up and out behind you (this strengthens the external rotators of the hip joint). To work directly on external rotation, you need s strong partner to hold a thigh in external rotation; you then try to internally rotate against that force, then you help the partner externally rotate more, while he is trying to help you do this. It's intense, but extremely effective.

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  • 3 weeks later...

@Kit_L "my turnout is almost perfect" - great to hear! Please can you post a photo of yourself, with bare knees, standing in perfect turnout, in other words, with the knee caps pointing out to the side? (ballet 1st position). Would be interested to see! My turnout has hardly improved over the years.

Thanks in anticipation,

Jim.

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I had to design C–R exercises for this improvement: a very strong assistant held each leg (so one at a time) at about mid-thigh, while I externally rotated the leg outward as much as I could; he then gently forced a bit more external rotation by grasping the whole of the thigh in both hands. I then tried to internally rotate the thigh in his grip, and then he helped with the re-stretch. This really helped me feel how to activate the deep external rotators, too, and that helped strengthen them.

Also, the biggest improvement came during that two-year period in the Advanced class at the ANU, where we did the partner hip flexor exercise every week.

knees forward.jpg

turnout-2022.jpg

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Well done! I'd say your knees are about 60-70 degrees turned out - difficult to be precise - certainly further than mine, which are about 50 degrees (unless I "screw the knee", which means putting feet in full turnout with knees and hips bent, and then standing straight again - not advised). Maybe you can give me a more precise angle. Good work!

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