The beginner's guide to flexibility

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Van Zandt, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Interesting stuff! Isn't the splits (as in, where you sit on the floor with your legs out sideways, as opposed to standing high kicks etc) fundementally a static passive exercise? So you're saying that to get good at the splits, you shouldn't practice the splits?

    (I'm not being facetious, I've just always found theories on flexibility difficult to understand)
  2. righty

    righty Valued Member

    Hang on, I'm confused now.

    Would it be too much to ask to let it be known exactly which parts of the original post should be disregarded or changed?
  3. Frodocious

    Frodocious She who MUST be obeyed! Moderator Supporter


    Brain now hurts.

    Actually, I'm really glad I don't have to get up earlier to do dynamic stretches!

    A couple of questions...

    How does this relate to general flexibility, say for grappling?

    How does it relate to flexibility issues caused by lifestyle or injuries, e.g. tight hip flexors due to sitting at a computer all day or poor back posture etc. Should passive stretching/mobility drills still be used to improve these, or would weight training (e.g. lunges, face pulls etc) be better?
  4. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

  5. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle


    I'm designing it to be part of a complete 16 week progression. These are the two days that will done each week for the first month.



    • The warm up will most likely be slowly reduced after I read your book.

    • As you will probably notice, the sets are slightly reversed in the second day from the first day. The first exercises in the workout are the ones that get the most benefit, so I don't want to restrict a certain type of movement to the end (when I'm tired). I'm trying to find a good balance between horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull, quad dominant exercises (bilateral and unilateral), hip dominant exercises (bilateral and unilateral), and core (stabilization, rotation, etc.).

    • The total may look long, but it can be completed within an hour including warm up + cool down. The warm up is around 6 minutes, the main body is around 20-25 minutes, and the flexibility training and regeneration will probably come to around 10-13 minutes combined.

    • Next phase (July) will probably be working with more unilateral hip and quad work and within the 12-15 range. The third phase (August) will work within 6-8 rep range, and the fourth phase (October) will be in the 10-12 range. This is Nonlinear periodization, and I've read that it is typically the best for most lower level to intermediate athletes.

    I look forward to hearing your response! :)


    The template for my set up was made in a Macintosh Application called Keynote. If anyone wants the template, I'd be happy email him/her the file.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  6. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Heh :D I understand where you're coming from.

    Splits are a static passive exercise if you just sit there and try to wait out the tension. This is called relaxed stretching, which is now seen as bad practice because relaxed stretches have a negative effect on your strength.

    Flexibility should only be increased by methods which develop strength. To get good at splits, do isometric tensions in that position (referred to as isometric stretching or PNF).
  7. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    To summarise:

    • Do squats, lunges and deadlifts 2-3 days per week, to strengthen the muscles which stablise the hips and knees.
    • Do isometric front and side splits after your strength exercises. Follow the guidelines in the original post.
    • If you practice kicks, do these before the strength portion of your workout. Fast kicks (in the air, and on pads and bags) come before slow kicks (which are a strength exercise).
    • If you insist on warming up, do joint rotations followed by the kicks you will practice in the main part. These kicks should be done at a gradually increasing range and velocity over several sets.
  8. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    The principles of flexibility training remain the same for all sports. Grapplers would use isometric tensions in positions specific to their sport, targeting areas such as the hip flexors and abductors more than a kicker would.

    Poor posture is due to flexibility imbalances is best corrected by strength training. Most cases of poor posture that I come across are actually due to lack of/improper strength training in the first place.
  9. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

  10. fabrizio

    fabrizio Valued Member

    This is great stuff Van zandt... can't wait till your book comes out.

    I always do relaxed stretching once I have finished my muay thai lesson... do I carry on with this or should I do isometric stretching instead ?

    You talk about slow kicks for strength training, how do you do this if your tight , Even when I have warmed up, shadow boxed where I find it difficuly to kick, did dynamic stretching, it can take me a few rounds on the pads for my kicks to become ok.
  11. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    My advice would be to stop doing relaxed stretches and stick with isometric splits.

    Slow kicks are exactly as they sound; whatever kicks you practice in class, do them at half or one-quarter normal speed. Don't worry so much about height for now - focus on technique and the height will come as your splits improve.
  12. fabrizio

    fabrizio Valued Member

    Thanks again,

    If relaxed stretching isn't needed what do you do about stretching your arms, shoulders and back.
    Also with isometric stretching; I have done this with the butterfly stretch and that was after I had done about 6 or 7 relaxed stretches before. I tried to do a side split with out any relaxed stretching before and it was very painful and couldn't really do it.
    The front split is pretty impossible at the mo, not sure what I can do about that.

    Is all this down to not enough strength training?
  13. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Use the isometric method in positions which you would traditionally use to "stretch" those parts of your upper body.

    Yes, it is a sign of weakness in extended positions. Your muscles tense up because your nervous system does not feel safe in that range.
  14. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Do you see any major problems with my first two days of the month, Van Zandt? I complete the first day yesterday, it was great! I sweated buckets, drank even more, and then collapsed for the rest of the day. The weights that are in that screenshot are actually not the final weights that I used, just so you know. I used more weight, (40lbs for the lunge) and my knees were able to handle it without any problem. ( :banana: ) My adductors are mildly sore, but it's hard to tell whether that is because I lowered the rep range and upped the weight on my adductor flies or because I did isometrics. I'll give it another 2 sessions and see how it goes. Feels great!
  15. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    By the way, you say that relaxed stretches aren't necessary and may be harmful. I've read that studies showed that doing relaxed stretching actually increased the strength gain by 30%. I read it in Alwyn Cosgrove's program design book, but I can't quote it online.

    Also, if we don't do relaxed stretching, what can we do as part of the cool down after a workout? I do light isometric stretching right after my last strength exercise and then massage and foam roller. Any suggestions?
  16. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    On the days you don't do isometrics, you can end your workout with just the massages you currently do.

    I also (partly) answer your first query in my latest blog entry.

    All the best,

    Dan :)
  17. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Thanks, Dan! Great entry, by the way!

    As an update, my training is going very well. My knees have been holding up great, and the isometrics are doing great as well. After the first day my legs were sore (not extremely so, but it was definitely there) and it lasted for 2-3 days. After the second application of isometrics, my legs were barely sore at all!

    I'm going to add hamstring pulldowns to my workout too, although I think adductor pulldowns would put too more pressure on my knees then they could handle right now.

  18. proteinnerd

    proteinnerd Valued Member

    What sort of resistance loads are we talking about for adductor and hamstring pulldowns? With me as an example, as I weigh 80kg should I be looking to do adductor pulldowns of at least 40kg per leg? What sort of rep range are we talking about as well? I think Kurz recommends the standard sets of about 10-15 per leg. Does that sound about right?

    Also with hamstring pulldowns, what sort of range of motion should we be using? Is waist high enough, or should we be allowing the leg to go as high as possible?

  19. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    I'm going to wait for VZ's answer to your first question. I don't know for sure.

    As for the height, I think for both adductor pulldowns and hamstring pulldowns you allow your foot to raise to your waist height but no higher. Thomas Kurz says that any higher will activate other muscles and not isolate the muscles targeted (in this case, hamstrings and adductors).
  20. zooka

    zooka New Member

    How to perform hamstring pull downs, adductor flies and adductor pull downs? Because the Internet doesn't seem to know.

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