The splits is a goal that many of us share. With all the beautiful splits photos out there to aspire to how could you not want to work towards them. Would you be surprised if I told you that most of these splits are not a true front split? In fact, a large majority splitty people would not be able to do a true split with the correct technique.
Which brings us to the question, do you really have your splits?
Today we are going to go through the correct technique of the front split.
The correct alignment for the splits include several factors that will be discussed below:
When you are working your way into your split both legs need to be internally rotated. That means that you need to be turning the legs in towards the body. When you are working with your rotation the action needs to come from the head of the femur in the ball and socket joint of the pelvis. Think of it as a scissoring movement.
You never want to be turning out from the knees or feet. It wont change your alignment and you will damage your joints.
If you are struggling to get into your splits when you are holding the correct internal rotation, you may experience tightness running down the IT band.
The right and left hip bones known as the illiac spine need to be in line with each other. Notice your alignment when you are in a split. Does the front leg and hip draw forward while the back leg and hip draw backwards?
A good way to ensure you have correct alignment is by using a rod/pole broomstick. As long as it is not pliable and is a straight line.
Follow the video below:
When you are opening the hip flexors whether it is for the splits or a stretch you alway want to make sure that the lumber spine is straight in the anatomical position. Thus giving you a flat back.
To ensure the correct technique pull your belly button in towards the spine. Gently round the lumbar spine and scoop the pelvis forward and upward towards the sky.
If tight hip flexors are holding you back try these tensor fascia latae stretches to elongate the hip flexors, decrease the natural curve in the lumber spine and lift the the anterior illiac crest. (Fancy word for your hip bones.)
The shoulders need to be stacked on top of the hips. This technique will help you straighten the hips forward like two headlights on a car. It also ensures that your chest is not leaning forward which is a classic symptom of tight hip flexors.
Stacked shoulders along with a straight spine ensures the correct hip alignment if you enter with the correct method.
From a lunge position with the front leg extended and the knee straight begin to slide the front foot away from the body. Stop at the point where you need to slide the back leg away from you in order to go deeper in your split.
This position is your true front split.
The best starting place is to take a self assessment of where your front splits is currently at. From there your body will tell you where you need to go.
Take a photograph in your split. Make sure that you are trying your best to stay in the correct alignment as discussed above.
When you are analyzing the image go through all the factors we discussed to see where you need to work on.
For instance: These images have been taken over the years the first is at least 7 years old. Way before I knew the correct alignment for a split.
Looking at the image today with a deeper understanding the image shows me that my hip flexor was tight. There was not one tell tale sign there were several.
As you can see the back leg is not completley internally rotated, the hips are not in line. Meaning If I put a ruler from one hip horizontally my back hip would not be touching the ruler. There would be a great degree of space.
Secondly my lumber spine is not vertical, it follows a diagonal line with the body protruding to front leg. Another classic sign that the hip flexors are tight. Why? The torso is leaning forward to compensate the tight hip flexor. The inability to hold the position with a straight spine shows that the hip flexors are not open enough.
Thirdly the hands are in front of the hips due to the inability to straighten the spine.
Looking at image two you can see that the back leg is completely internally rotated (knee facing the floor) unlike in number one and the hips are squared. Shoulders are over the hips showing that I have considerably opened the hip flexors.
If you look at the inferior torso (bottom half) you can see that the hips are still tilting forward because the torso is not completely straight.
What you can see is that I have been implementing a training regime to open up the hip flexors.
The key take away from the image is that I still need to continue opening the hip flexors.
Chest is up, legs internally rotated lumber spine nearly straight, yet at a very minimal degree. A great improvement.
This assessment is all about feeling into your body and letting it tell you where changes need to be made.
Start by entering your split in the correct method discussed earlier. As you continue to let your pelvis sink to floor there will be a point where the body stops.
This is where you need to notice, what is stopping you from deepening your split. For instance if your hamstring is stopping you from dropping deeper that is an area you need to work on.
What you need to do is really feel into the hamstrings. Are you feeling the tightness in the middle of the leg, lateral (outer part) of the leg or the medial area (side closest to the body)?
Once you have identified the area that it is coming from you need to feel into the area to notice what type of restriction it is.
If it is muscular the affected muscle will feel warm and generally has a good breadth.
Connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments and nerves have a different sensation.
Tendons and ligaments will feel thin in the breadth of the area. If you push on the affected area it should not cause pain what so ever. Compared to if you pushed into a tight muscle, you would know about it. It will feel thin and pliable. For instance if you push it deeper into the body there is a good degree of room and movement.
Secondly ligaments and tendons are usually found in the areas surrounding the bones. This is because connective tissue is what binds the muscle to the bone.
Thirdly if you press on the area and follow its path along the body does it turn into a muscle as you progress working your hands along the pathway? That is also a tell tale sign for tendons and ligaments.
Nerves do restrict a large degree of movement. Primarily due to the fact that they don’t respond to static stretching. Thus most people do not know how to stretch their nerves.
If you lay on your back and bring one knee to the chest. Extend the ankle so that it is inline with the knee. Giving you a nice right angle. Wrap your arms around the thigh keep it close to the chest, without the thigh loosing contact with your chest try and straighten the leg (bring the foot closer to the face).
If you feel no pain yet a resistance of the leg being stiff that is your nerve restriction point.
Once you have identified what the restriction is its time to start working on it. Let’s keep using the hamstrings for an example. You feel muscle tension in the hamstring so you apply stretches that open up the hamstrings.
From there you will re enter your split and see if the sensation changes. You may find that you have to repeat this sequence several times until your body shows you another area of tightness.
This is because muscles do not act alone in the movement of the body, they work in groups. Once the initial muscle is release you may find a deeper sensation in the muscle group that are also tight. That gives you the opportunity to unlock areas you may not have been aware of that are causing you restriction. Secondly you may find that muscles not related to the muscle group are tight.
For instance tight quads, pull on the hip flexers, this pulls the anterior pelvis forward and down. This alignment causes tension in the glutes yet may represent in lower back pain.
Implementing this information will have you progressing at a much faster rate then what you may have been experiencing in the past.
We all love to stretch the muscles we look good in, are deep and minimally painful yet we avoid the hard, shallow and incredibly painful areas. They are the ones you need to work on. They are the muscle groups limiting your body.
It’s time to get comfortable with discomfort and reap the rewards.
Looking for more advice? Drop me a line I would love to help.
In happiness and health,
Check out my flexibility classes and online coaching.