Posted on May 05 2014
Having a flat front split is a key goal for most pole dancers, for good reason - splits look beautiful, on & off the pole! Here we share some of our best tips for working toward a flat front split on the floor. We will deal with centre/straddle splits in another tutorial.
Firstly, which muscles are we targeting when we stretch our front splits? Gaining flexibility in our hamstrings and hip flexors is most important when we're trying to get our split. Most positions in which you fold forward while your leg is straight will target your hamstrings, while bending backward slightly while in a lunge position will target your hip flexor. Tip 5 is a link to stretches that target these muscles.
Top tips for front splits.
1. Practice often, even for short periods. While a long stretching session is ideal, sometimes we just don't have much time between pole classes to devote to stretching. Often, I'm surprised how much progress students can make when they implement even just 10 minutes of stretching at regular intervals. Developing the habit of stretching is just as important as doing each stretch correctly. Reflect on your daily routine - you'll most likely find that you have 10 minutes a day in which you could incorporate stretching. Stretching while sitting in front of the TV/working on the computer/checking facebook really works! I often eat dinner sitting on the floor in straddle! If you're stretching without a prior warm up, be extra gentle, never push to the point of pain.
2. Relax your MIND. Your body should still be active during splits, but to develop a deeper stretching practice it's essential to train your mind to relax. Once this happens, your body will start to accept stretching, you will progress faster, and it will be much more enjoyable. Start by holding your splits for 15 seconds, then with time, work up to holding them for a minute or even two. Try focusing on your breath & notice where you're holding unnecessary tension (e.g. shoulders, face). Slow your breath down & listen to your internal dialogue. Be aware of negative thoughts, but don't hold on to them.
3. Keep your hips square. Keeping your hips in line with each other as you face forward is important for stretching the hip flexor of the leg that's behind you. By keeping your hips square, you will gain flexibility more quickly, and your body will remain evenly balanced. Balance between the left and right sides of the body will be important when you start to do standing splits/leg mounts/needle scale/handstands. To keep your hips square, focus on keeping the hips in line as you go down. When you start to feel the hips opening out sideways, draw them back into line using strength & stop here until you feel you can go lower with your hips square. Use yoga blocks to rest your hands on for support, so you can relax your shoulders. When you're performing or are on the pole, you might let your hips open out to get a deeper split, but keeping your hips square during training will get you on the floor in splits much more quickly.
4. Start practicing oversplits before your splits are flat on the floor. Many students think they need to wait until their splits are flat on the floor before they start oversplit stretching (splits with either the front or back foot raised). Not so! In fact, oversplit stretching can start when you are 10cm (4 inches) or more from the floor & will help your splits become flat much quicker! Use a foam yoga block to raise your front foot of the floor (heel resting on the block). Place yoga blocks or other supports under your hands, keep your hips square & relax your shoulders. Repeat with the back foot raised (top of the foot resting on the block). Once you've stretched your oversplit, take the block away and stretch your splits on the floor again. You might be surprised how much closer you are to the floor!
5. Target your hips & hamstrings. Here are videos of stretches that target your hips and hamstrings by master trainer, Kit Laughlin. This video shows an excellent wall lunge targeting the hip flexor and here is another video showing a lunge hamstring stretch. Both are excellent stretches to do prior to going into full split.
6. Always train both sides!
From indi @ indipolewear