How To Get Your Oversplits

oversplit
Oversplits

We have all seen those photos of jaw-dropping oversplits. The question begs how do you train for them? It’s actually pretty simple. If you are close to your split then you should start training your oversplit.

What are Oversplits?

Oversplits exceed the range of motion of 180 degrees. 180 degrees is the angle of a flat split.

Are Oversplits Dangerous?

An oversplit is not any more dangerous than a regular split, although there is controversy as to whether this is true or not. Some coaches say that it is not safe to train your back leg as the femur can easily dislocate from the hip.

I personally train my front leg and back leg. I am only at the beginning of my oversplits, therefor I am nowhere near the danger of dislocating the back leg.

While there is evidence and professional advice for both training the back leg and not training the back leg. The decision is ultimately up to you. If you get to the point of having a large oversplit in your back leg than you may want to contact a contortion coach,

In fact, some coaches see dislocation as a positive trait. The theory is that when you become extremely hypermobile you can slide your joints in and out easily. I have zero advice in this debate as I have no experience in dislocation.

The 5 Types Of Stretching

Oversplits

Passive Stretching

Passive stretching is a form of stretching that is assisted by the use of gravity. A good example of a passive stretch would be the splits on the floor or frog pose. The stretch is assisted by the athlete’s body weight, coupled with gravity to move deeper into the pose.

Passive stretching allows the user to extend the duration time of the stretch. When we extend the length of time held in a stretch it allows us to go deeper, into the connective tissue fascia. A great example of this practice would be a Yin Yoga class. Stretches are held at 60% intensity for a period of five minutes per pose. This form of stretching does not strengthen the muscles nor does it give dynamic or active flexibility. It is great for connective tissues and is restorative on the nervous system.

Active Stretching

Active stretching is muscle assisted stretches that builds strength and length in the participant. A great example of an active stretch would be a seated hamstring stretch. By flexing the feet and engaging the quadriceps it draws your body deeper into the posture using your own internal strength. Active stretching builds more coordination in the body. Due to the muscle engagement, the body can fatigue over a long duration thus they, can’t be held as long as a passive stretch.

Active Assisted Stretching

Active assisted stretching is muscle assisted coupled with help to go into the stretch. If we were seated in our active hamstring stretch in the example above we could assist the stretch with the use of our hands or yoga strap to draw the body deeper into the pose. This type of stretching is more prone to injury due to increased force. 

Dynamic Stretching

Oversplits

Dynamic stretching is active actions that move the body through a range of motion. An example of a dynamic movement would be running on the spot. Dynamic flexibility allows you to be limber in movement. Hence why it is great for aerialists and gymnasts. If dynamic stretching is performed too quickly it can shorten the tissues to protect the body so it is important to use this method of stretching with a scientific stretching regime. 

PNF Stretching

PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is dual form of active assisted stretching and passive loaded stretching. It is currently the most accelerated way of increase static-passive flexibility. 

An example of PNF stretching would be a standing quadricep stretch where the back foot resists against pressure applied through the quadriceps into the hand against the foot for ten seconds. Then the quadriceps passively release and pressure is applied through the hand into the foot to push the quadriceps into a deeper stretch for ten seconds. This sequence is repeated several times. This style of stretching needs to be approached with a gentle hand as it is easy to injure yourself from applying an excessive load of pressure.

How Long Should You Hold The Splits?

You want to hold your split for at least a minute. I also like to do hands-free splits on blocks or on the mat to help build strength in the hip joints. I like to do hands-free holds for 30 seconds. This helps you build strength that you can use when you are performing aerial movements.

How Often Should I Stretch For The Splits?

In a study that implemented a 4-week passive stretch protocol of the calf, they found positive changes in increased Range of motion from stretching. This occurred when they consistently stretched 3 times a week (Nakamura M, 2017). Most of our clients come only 1-2 times a week.

In a study that tested overhead throwing athletes (baseball pitchers). They found that a consistent stretching regimen of 8 weeks was sufficient to create statistically significant improvements in shoulder range of motion (Chepeha JC, 2018).

Oversplits is a long term game. You want to look at training a minimum of three times per week. You can stretch more often as long as you are not feeling and DOMS (Delayed Muscle Onset Soreness.)

Is It Bad To Sit In An Oversplit For A Long Time?

Oversplits

Yes and No. It really depends on what level of flexibility you are at. Some contortionists sit straight into their splits after a warm-up as those who are not as flexible would have to do a lunge series first to open the muscles to meet that range of motion.

If you are very comfortable in your oversplit you can sit in it for several minutes. You would need to only perform 40% of the full extension of the movement.

Therefore if you reduce your oversplit by 60% of its range of motion and still remain in an oversplit then you could sit in it for several minutes.

You would want to split your training regime into thirds being:

  1. Slow warm-up. Builds slowly and plateaus.
  2. Stretch routine that supports the peak pose.
  3. At the end of your stretch routine perform your peak pose.
  4. Cool down. Give your body some time to gently relax.

Muscles Involved In An Oversplit

Hamstrings

Semimembranosus

The belly of this muscle lays deep in the semitendinosus. This muscle allows us to flex the hips. If the semimembranosus is tight one will have a restricted range of movement when walking or running.

Semitendinosus

The central muscle in the hamstring group. This muscle allows us to extend the hip joint.

Biceps Femoris

A large lateral muscle in the group of hamstrings. This enables us to extend the hips and flex the knee. When this muscle is tight you will feel, knee and back pain. This muscle can easily be strained if you don’t warm up for your splits practice.

Adductors

Adductor Magnus

The adductor magnus is the strongest and largest of the adductor muscles. It is also the deepest muscles out of the three adductors. It fuses to the quadratus femoris making it belong to the hamstring group.

This can be damaged by high sidekicks and splits so ensure that you are warmed up when working on lengthening this muscle.

If the muscle is tight you will feel a pulling sensation in the groin.

Adductor Longus & Brevis

Are both anterior to the adductor magnus.

ITB Band & Hips

Vasus Lateralist

The exterior muscle of the quadriceps. This muscle can sometimes be confused with the ITB band.

Tensor Fasciae Latae

The TFL lays on the outer hip and connects with the ITB band. This muscle controls many of our hip motions. When this muscle is tight we can experience imbalances of the pelvis such as anterior pelvic tilt. Check out my TFL stretching guide.

Oversplits Routine

Front leg kicks

How To:

  • Standing up straight sweep your foot up as high as you can without compromising the spine.
  • Your spine should be straight.
  • The lifting motion is a rotation through the hips.
  • This motion warms up the hamstrings.

Side leg kicks

How To:

  • Kneeling on one leg.
  • Extend the other leg in a horizontal line.
  • Bring the extended leg up and down.
  • Repeat.

Back leg kicks

How To:

  • Coming from a downward dog.
  • Sweep your leg away from your body.
  • Aiming to get your toes pointing towards the sky.
  • Return the leg to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

Straddle leg lifts

How To:

  • Sitting in a straddle position.
  • Bring your hands on either side of the knee.
  • Try not to use them when pushing the leg upwards.
  • Lift the leg towards the sky.
  • Lower to the floor.
  • Repeat.

Lizard lunge

How To:

  • Start by kneeling on your mat.
  • Take one leg forward.
  • Bend the front knee.
  • Knee and ankle should be in line at a right angle.
  • Sink the hips deeply towards the mat.

Runners stretch

How To:

  • From lizard lunge.
  • Simply Straighten the front leg.
  • Gently draw the hip back of the leg being stretched.

Splits up the wall

How To:

  • Standing with your back towards the wall.
  • Fold forward until your hands reach the floor.
  • Support your weight with your hands.
  • Bring one leg up the wall so that you are in a standing split.
  • Draw the hips closer to the wall.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Back Leg Oversplit

How To:

  • Place your prop on the mat. (Block, pillow, etc)
  • With your back foot on the prop come into your split.
  • Hold.
  • Try holding with no hands.
  • Fold forward.
  • Fold back.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Front Oversplit

How To:

  • Place your prop on the mat. (Block, pillow, etc)
  • With your front foot on the prop come into your split.
  • Hold.
  • Try holding with no hands.
  • Fold forward.
  • Fold back.
  • Repeat on the other side.

How To Train Oversplits Video

What Are Some Flexibility Activities?

A great way to stay on top of your stretching regime is to incorporate activities that involve flexibility.

Yoga

Yoga is great for all-round flexibility. The Hatha yoga practice ensures that all lines of the body have been addressed in one class.

Yin yoga is great for flexibility too. Yin yoga has 3-5 minute holds, this allows time for the nervous system to reset and to start releasing muscles and connective tissue.

Pilates

Pilates is great for dynamic flexibility. The classes involve resistance flexibility training. Dynamic flexibility is the range of motion that is achieved in motion. That is the type of flexibility we use in aerial, gymnastics and dance just to name a few.

Rockclimbing

Rock climbing is a great way to increase strength and gain more flexibility in the superficial backline. The movements performed when rockclimbing stretches out the hamstrings, calves, and muscles along the spine.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the oversplits,

Make sure you take some before and after photos so you can keep measuring your progress.

In happiness and health,

Jadore Vanessa

Related Articles:

5 Beginner Contortion Poses and Training Regimes

24 Exercises For Dynamic Flexibility

How To Measure Your Splits Progress

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