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Front Splits: Four Pulse Preps, taught by Olivia


Kit_L

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See here:

 

http://vimeo.com/ondemand/frontsplitsprep

 

If you want front splits with square hips and minimal lumbar extension, you need this program. Buy Liv a cup of coffee!

 

I will be posting on this pulse technique in my 90-day challenge post. It developed out of the ballistics protocol (and I am still using this approach for some exercises) but for some of the more subtle things one wants to enhance (and awareness is much enhanced with the pulsing compared to the ballistics) this is the way to go. More over at the other thread.

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Thanks! Just got it! I'll have to wait a couple of days before trying it out properly (a quick attempts on my study floor without a warm-up wasnt such a good idea I now realise). A few comments:

1. I've been using similar pulsing on and off for quite some time now. However I find it easy to overstretch with it so am very careful with it. In me, pulsing seems to work best on inner thighs. I also time it with the breath - stretch on the out-breath, come back on the in-breath - this means that you are taking fastish shallow breaths.Olivia might have been doing this anyway, if she hadnt been talking.

2. In ex. 1, the hip looks pretty much in line with the back leg (i.e. the femur is hardly extended - or may be one should say hyper-extended - at the hip). Yet if I try this I'm certainly stretching something along the front of the hip, though I'm not sure what. However, for front splits, the femur will have to extend at the hip by 45 degrees or so (ideally 90 degrees, but few can achieve that - so a 45 degree extension at the hip will leave the pelvis tilted forward by 45 degrees when one is flat along the floor). If I try the exercise, I find the glutes are contracting hard when lifting the knee, and I wonder if glute contraction is one of the things that drives the relaxation at the front of the hip.

 

Anyway, I'll start using this method and thank you very much for giving us a new tool in our armoury.

 

Jim.

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Jim, better to wait until you watch the whole program—in the pulsing piriformis exercise, her trunk is vertical and there is an enviable extension in the back leg! The hip flexor one works, I believe, the way you say (glute activation softening HFs), and more. I feel it where you say, but beginners will feel something different. Please report back after playing with it. 

 

To the rest of the viewing audience, Jim has truly excellent FS, so in one way may not be the best test pilot. :)

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Hey Kit/Olivia

I already got the front splits, however as you mention with less than optimal form. Especially external rotation of the back leg. Would this program be enough to counter these problems you think and maintain my current abilities? I realize it is very individual sometimes of course.

The outer hamstring stretch was interesting, I havn't felt such a sensation before while stretching my hamstrings.

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To Jim, thanks for your comments. In the intro. remarks to the full program I mention the part of the front of my hip that is targeted by the exercise in the program: it's a band across the very top of the thigh. I wrote on another thread on these forums recently that I feel that the remaining restrictions in my body are fascial, not muscular – the HF exercise in the new program targets that band/line of fascia more directly, and more intensely, than any movements I've worked on prior – and, we've been sieging the hip flexors for a number of years now, as you know!

 

I think there is something about the contraction of glutes, and the lengthening via pushing out through the back heel, that is very powerful (noting that full front splits requires a straight knee on the back leg). There's also massive sensation (not altogether pleasant) for me in the whole core, in particular the whole of the sacral region – I think this is really important. It doesn't feel like the glute contraction is allowing the fascia/muscles on the front of the hip joint to relax; rather, it makes the sensation hugely intense, but I'm keenly aware that I'm having to use a whole bunch of strength to stabilise against the force involved, hence the sensations radiating through the core.

 

As Kit notes above, I can get the torso vertical with hip extension, as in the piriformis exercise. However, when I'm doing front splits – so front leg working towards being straight – the combination of the strong outer hamstring effect on the front leg has the stretch in the back leg being only in the band of fascia I describe, not the deeper hip flexor muscles that one would suspect are more strongly targeted with an upright torso (and minimal lumbar extension).

 

To Joachim, try it and see what happens. In my experience with stretching, I have never found that adding more movement (removing restrictions that prevent a position) has led to a reduction in current capacities.

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Hi,

 

I just bought this one and looks to be much too advanced for me, although I did purchase a few other of Liv's follow-along videos (fantastic instructor!).

 

Before I go through the trouble myself, I was wondering if there is any sort of outline material of the exercises, so I can just bring it with me to the gym and know what to do, as opposed to having to have the video on me.

 

Thanks!

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Hi dog

 

You'll be absolutely fine with the four exercises in this program. For the hip flexor and piriformis exercises, you simply use a higher bolster in order to get the sensations where you want them. For the calf exercise, have the heel away from the support enough that you can do the pulsing. And for the outer hamstring, start with the stretching leg's knee as bent as you need it to be to get the body in contact: or, put a towel or similar in between your abdomen and thigh. All the exercises are scaleable.

 

No PDF to go with this short program: there are only four exercises after all. Watch the program a few times through, and you'll have the form points. Key is 'square the hips' in all the movements.

 

Cheers

Olivia

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Thanks Liv this is excellent! Can really feel deep sensations in tight lines, especially the piriformis stretch. The hip flexor stretch I feel right in the crease of the hip and it gets quite a workout. I have been working on squaring my hips in my front splits lately I can get them square, I loose a bit of depth but hey quality is what counts right? This will compliment it well I'm sure!

 

I'm not sure if I am performing the hamstring stretch correctly as I can straighten my knee after 5-10 pulses. I'm squaring my hips before each pulse, dropping the hip of the bent leg, sticking the bum out. I can still feel a stretch in that outer line the entire time. 

 

I have trouble with the calf stretch as they are so ridiculously tight even with grippy shoes on as I pulse my heel slides back and my foot slides down the post I'm using.

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I just tried the hip flexor stretch. An intriguing exercise, with some hidden depths I suspect...

 

I dont have a bolster, so used a little wall of yoga blocks, covered and anchored by a thickly folded towel - when I leant my elbow on this support as Olivia suggests, it became stable enough. One advantage (??) I found with using blocks in this way was that the edge of the upper block, even though padded with the towel, dug into the pressure point which increased the effect.

 

I had earlier wondered how taking some of the stretch off the hip (by having the femur and torso in line) would give an effective stretch. In fact,  it seems that is the whole point, at least in me. If in comparison I go into my max stretch (a deep lunge with pelvis as level as possible and torso upright) all the tissues around the front of the joint are stretched hard, and tissues from a bit behind seem to bulge forward to make the front of the hip/thigh solid and hard. But in the position Olivia shows, the joint is not at its maximum. Therefore there is some slack around the front, which means that the edge of the support can dig in and push deeper than if the joint was at its maximum stretch. This I suspect is the main benefit of the exercise in me (helped by having a sharper edge on the support).

 

I did the exercise as instructed - in me, there was a strong hollow just below where I guess the inguinal ligament goes. This is where the main effects were found. Using the exercise to massage deep in this area, left what is called "a delightful warm glow" in the area afterwards*. I also suspect that I gained flexibility more quickly than I would have expected, but I am not sure (I'd done a front splits some time earlier, but it was my worse side and I'd have normally expected to tighten up more in this time, but it is difficult to be sure).

 

So I'll certainly keep trying it and see what eventuates! Thank you!

 

As for muscle vs fascia limitation - as mentioned by Olivia. I suspect that also in me the fascia and ligaments are now providing the main limitation (though I dont feel any particular spots of tightness as Olivia mentions). My warm-up targets the muscles extensively, so maybe after the warm-up the connective tissue is left as the limiter.

 

When I first started ST, I found the partner hip flexor stretch a massively powerful stretch. It was shown to us by Kit in the first meeting I went to, and for me provided an immediate endorsement of the ST approach, the CR method, and partner stretching. So I now try to introduce it to my students as early as possible to show the benefits of the approach. However I have found that recently it no longer works on me, and neither does it on some of my more flexible students, who have their front splits already but would like more flexibility. As the CR method strongly targets muscle, I wonder if that means in me (and them) the muscle is no longer the limiter, leaving the connective tissue.

 

This raises the question of what is the most effective stretch pattern for connective tissue, and whether pulsing provides it. There is some evidence (Magnusson) that long slow stretches target connective tissue most, but it is possible that shorter sharper manipulations do so as well. When trying to get a long-term stretch of connective tissue, we probably have to go beyond the viscoelastic extension targeted by long slow stretches (which is reversible) but have to induce new growth of the tissue. We need to know what pattern of manipulation will stimulate the cells most. I remember from a long time back that there was extensive discussion of this on some other sites, suggesting that pulsatile manipulations were most effective. It was also backed up by some rather shonky basic science which was a distraction in my opinion. But I am sure that many people on this forum will be able to advise on the pattern of manipulations that target connective tissue such as fascia long-term.

 

As for Kits comment on my FS - I have a worse side - I confess. I need to get that up to speed (not helped by having a hernia repair on that side). But my better side too could do with improvement (that's the whole thing about stretching, isnt it? - we get greedy!) - so that in a performance I can drop straight into splits in good form, rather than dropping in crooked and straightening up before I hope anyone has noticed.

 

Jim.

 

(*Added later - I wonder if that was the iliopsoas at that point - while it certainly didnt go far along the line of the muscle, it was the same deep glow that comes from exercising the iliopsoas.)

Edited by Jim Pickles
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Emmett wrote:

 

(the quoting function in this software is just so broken): "Kind of like a very long lunge to get to splits."

 

Yes. IMHO, lunge to FS is the way to get there, though I also use both legs straight and a dual contraction, too. 

 

Jim, very interesting insights. I am waiting until the fruit is ripe, but I will be posting some images and videos soon. I have realised some fundamental errors in the way I work with my own body, and the whole ballistics > pulsing > revisiting the 'standard' ST toolbox has made a tremendous difference to my hip flexibility.

 

And like Liv (but in a completely different location) I believe/feel that stuck fascia in the pelvic floor/ischial tuberosity area is what has created the limitation in my outer hamstrings. It is all changing now though, and I have been able to get into areas I have not got into ever before.

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I am having a similar experience to Kit; tightness at the ischial tuberosity, as well as just outside the greater trocanter on the outer hamstring. I have always felt restricted in the left sit-bone when getting into that outer hamstring pulse position (as a start position to slide-lunge into FS), but the ballistic work has turned that restriction into tightness and soreness at the moment.

 

Over the past week I have had to spend two minutes contracting the left hip area just to slide-lunge to a point I am stretching the hamstrings. This spot is also the first thing I feel pike limbering in the morning (which stops me testing my new cold piking ability, damn it). At first I thought it was the glute max being stuck to biceps femoris; but no, the sensation follows into new range. Then I realised it may be the piriformis; but no, my piriformis range is symmetrical, yet I have absolutely none of the above restriction in my right side. However, both the piriformis and outer hamstring pulses here are incredibly intense on that upper-outer hamstring. This leads me to look at this restriction as a line rather than a specific muscle.

 

After doing the outer hamstring pulses, the move feels much less restricted and I now have that brittle feeling of damage I tend to get after stretching a newly-found tight line for the first 1-3 times, before the muscles begin to respond and soften. This is very encouraging, as it feels like I have hit the nail on the head! Very interested to note how this area feels tomorrow morning after a good sleep.

 

Thinking about my daily routine... I'm going to play with the piriformis/outer ham pulses as a supplement before FS pulses to see if it can get this spot cleared up.

 

This, mixed with the new range and freedom coming out of H2T's "first two weeks of pain", is pure voodoo. I am in absolute awe of how different my body feels.

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My progress report. I took a day off from this series yesterday as my hip joints were feeling pinchy (that's a technical term!) and this stopped me getting into the movements almost completely, in particular the piriformis exercise. Instead, I did some flowing/moving/transitions that I've been choreographing (will film and release in the near future), and then had a major breakthrough in my pike. Could hardly walk when I got out of bed this morning; the DOMS was super strong in hamstrings (right in the belly), and right across the sacrum. Eased that out enough before re-testing the pike: here's how it went – still not completely flat, but note 'no hands'.

 

http://www.kitlaughlin.com/pike-small.jpg

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To Matt Park ... to make the outer hamstring stretch more difficult, rather than having the front (stretching) leg directly to your front, have it as far across the midline of the body so that when you bend forward onto that leg, your chest will not be on the top of the thigh, it will be to the lateral side (hip, not groin side). Also, are you strictly keeping the whole of the front of the body – abdomen, ribs, and chest – in contact with the thigh as you get the knee straight?

 

With the calf exercise, that used to be me – my calves/ankles were like bricks! Perhaps try a non-slip mat under the heel and up the pole to see if that provides more friction. And, practise the same exercise statically for a while, with strong Contract–Relaxes, as this will improve your range of movement – this calf stretch is what unlocked my calves originally about 10 years ago (using the pre-exhaustion method, which we will film soon!), and then latterly practising the SLDP, as in Master the Pike, got into the whole posterior chain nicely.

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When I watched Olivia do the halasana (plough/plow pose)-to-pike transition sequence the day before yesterday, the effortlessness in her getting into an even deeper pike than the pic shows was beautiful to see. It's clear that (through some mechanism not yet well understood), her lumbar fascia was the only restriction to her pike, just like mine it's only the outer hamstrings. Finding out how to find, then remove, these restrictions has been amazing for both of us.

 

We intend to film the following transition programs too, as soon as we can: Floor transitions to pike (like the plough to pike mentioned above); Standing transitions to pike; Floor transitions to pancake; and Standing transitions to pancake. I have been watching Liv develop these; they are lovely, and will move you through all angles and planes of movement we can invent to get you to the end positions, meaning that no line will be left unaffected!

 

Side note: we have solved the upload bandwidth/speed problem this week, and I have designed a completely new way of recording sound, so the audio on the new programs will be even better than the Mastery Series. Whew: it's been a big two weeks.

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@ Tris: I am feeling exactly what you describe. The sheer amazement I feel when experiencing new lines of freedom (or movement) is hard to describe in words. I mentioned this somewhere else, but these fascial restrictions, for want of a better term, cannot be seen on any general anatomical map, but are brutally tangible, experientially.

I can't help thinking that the hours, many hours, that we have both spent in office chairs, while resenting it, has contributed to fascial 'stuckness' in exactly these lines (ischial tuberosity > outer hammie). We are on to something here, for sure. What I have in mind now is a program that works on just these stuck areas—which will work for complete beginners as well as veterans!

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Matt: I also hear you with the calves. I used to have no dorsiflexion whatsoever, but worked to this range with nothing but this exercise. Contraction is key. I literally spent more time pressing the ball of my foot - trying to "push the wall over" - than pressing the hips up into the stretch.
 
 

rather than having the front (stretching) leg directly to your front, have it as far across the midline of the body so that when you bend forward onto that leg, your chest will not be on the top of the thigh, it will be to the lateral side (hip, not groin side).

 
Will enjoy working on this when ready, but I'm struggling to understand this form. :huh: It sounds to me like the piriformis stretch? Is a picture of this possible?
 

We intend to film the following transition programs too, as soon as we can...
 
I have designed a completely new way of recording sound, so the audio on the new programs will be even better than the Mastery Series.

 
Yes, yes, yes! This sounds phenomenal.
 
Haha, I was looking for that little black mic box that has served you guys so well. What's the new setup? (PM if don't want to hijack thread.)
 
 

@ Tris: I am feeling exactly what you describe. The sheer amazement I feel when experiencing new lines of freedom (or movement) is hard to describe in words. These fascial restrictions cannot be seen on any general anatomical map, but are brutally tangible, experientially.


That is put so eloquently. Yes, brutally tangible! What an incredible couple of weeks...

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@olivia Problem solved! That is very tight when the leg is across the midline, it's quite intense, thanks!

 

@tris and @olivia Will definitely incorporate that advice for my calves thanks. I dream that one day I will have dorsiflexion..

 

I look forward to seeing the pre exhaustion stretching!

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Tris: imagine you have the left leg forward (stretching leg); place the left heel as far to the right as you can, across the midline of the body, then bend forward with the chest aiming as if the left heel was straight forward of the left hip, not across to the right.

 

MattPark: intensity was the key to me unlocking my calves originally – strong stretch, as-intense C–Rs as you can stand. Go hard, in other words (but don't hurt yourself). This was the one part of my body that needed the intensity to bring change – the rest of my body has opened up through more gentle approaches. I made this comment to Kit the other day, and I make it regularly to my students – try to do the opposite of what you are inclined to do: if you usually go hard, try the opposite and see what happens. Kit has written a comment about this earlier in this thread, if I recall correctly.

 

Emmet: awesome! I wonder if it's the stablisation required by the obliques, or the work they are doing to produce the hip squaring – likely both, I feel.

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