The beginner's guide to flexibility

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

  1. AL0n3'

    AL0n3' New Member

    Hello everybody, i was reading this post and found out its very interesting, but i have few problems and questions to ask, first of all about this:

    "Get a pain in the top of your hips when you do the side split? Rotate your pelvis more. That pain is you jamming the top head of your femur (thigh bone) into your acetabulum (hip socket). Bye bye cartilage, hello hip replacement! Seriously though, you got to rotate your pelvis if you want to touch your crown jewels (if you have them) to the floor."

    what do you mean by rotating pelvis, i get this kind of pain and it hurts like hell and limits my kicks and side splits tremendously, so a little help with that.

    And next about horse stance [kiba dachi] 3-4 min's thats a bit hard for starters, but i guess i'll get there in time.

    And for the adductor fly's, when i do them mostly i feel my abs working, is that normal or mybe i do them wrong??

    For isometric that hurt like hell at starters im on the same page :D
  2. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Hi, ALOn3.

    Van Zandt explains this on his blog.

    "The problem is caused by a lack of pelvic rotation, which is a common trait in people who start flexibility training or martial arts training in adulthood. The sticking sensation is certain ligaments resisting against abduction (spreading of the thighs) and the pain is the top head of the femur (thigh bone) jamming into the acetabulum (hip socket). Rotating the pelvis permits proper alignment of the hips so that the ligaments can relax (thus ceasing the resisting against abduction) and prevents the top head of the femur jamming into the acetabulum.

    To rotate your pelvis properly, try tilting it forward (hip flexion). Point your groin to the floor and lift up your coccyx (tailbone) toward the ceiling. It might help to imagine that a rope is attached to the ceiling and it has been hooked into your coccyx, pulling your butt upwards (a bit like the action that occurs when your big brother or sister gave you a wedgie as a kid). You will know when you do it right because you will immediately go lower in the side split and the outside of your hips will not hurt when you throw high side kicks."


    Try starting with 1-2 sets of 45 seconds to 1 minute and work up from there. Horse stances are great (in fact, Van Zandt told me he knew someone who got the splits by just doing horse stances and isometrics). :cool:

    That depends your answers to these questions.

    • Are your feet directly above your hip sockets?

    • How many reps do you do at a time/set?

    • How many sets do you do?

    • Do you wear ankle weights?

    • Are you doing them quickly or slowly?

    What kind of pain do you get when you do isometrics? The "pain" from isometrics should feel like muscular fatigue and not joint pain. If your hips are hurting then stop isometrics temporary until you get the right form. Also, are you sore after isometrics?
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2010
  3. AL0n3'

    AL0n3' New Member

    Could you post a video, because im not sure if i get it, but i'll try my best. As for horse stance i guess i don't have any other option other than start from beggining :D

    I use 1kg weights on my ankles, and i try to get my feet as straight above hips as possible and i belive that puts the pressure on my abs, don't know

    Well when i do isometrics, i try to maximize the split that hurts and when i tens-up it hurts like muscle pain, i had a bit pain in the hips mostly because of that "lack of pelvis rotation pain", but there was no sorness

    Thanks for replys man :)
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2010
  4. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    As long as you're doing them the way they are shown in this image you're doing them right. Remember, do them slowly (around 3 seconds per rep).


    That's good. Your abs are probably activated because they're stabilizing your trunk, hips, and legs. My abs activate during my flies too.

    How old are you, AL0n3? You should be *very* cautious about doing isometrics if you're younger then 18.

    As far as I know, your muscles should not hurt during isometric stretching (or any kind of stretching). I think that Van Zandt meant by saying they hurt is that they are not comfortable/they don't feel good. They should probably just tense up and maybe cramp a little, but not hurt in a bad way. Your hips should not hurt at all. If your muscles only feel uncomfortable during the stretch then it's probably okay. There is very likely a problem if they hurt though the stretch and then afterwords as well.

    I'll research that and let you know what I learn.

    No problem, my friend. High kicks and the splits are goals that a lot of people have, me included. Not too long ago, I had no idea how to reach those goals but thanks to Van Zandt and his articles and posts here I am well on my way--despite being only 16. I enjoy sharing what I've learned. :cool:
  5. AL0n3'

    AL0n3' New Member

    Im 20 :) so i guess im old enough :) i read this whole thread and saw how you try to help people, ur a good guy. As for Van Zandt he's a god!! :D
    I was always dreaming about splits and high kicks too, now i am determinated to go for them and do my best! with your help ofcourse!! :D

    Now i must do something about my hip pain and rotating pelvis, thats what was bothering me for almost 2 years now. I knew i can stretch my legs further apart but that hip pain blocked my legs :/ so i guess with theese exercises ill put the pain away!?? :eek: and i'll be finnaly able to kick some head!! :D
  6. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    About rotating your pelvis (during stretching and kicks), use this image as a reference for the side split:

    Not This...

    Or This

    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  7. takahura19

    takahura19 Valued Member

    Can some give me tips how to do strength exercises. I would like to strenghten muscles which we need for flexibility. regards
  8. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    The information is easily available to you, Takahura, all you need to do is read the thread and Van Zandts articles at his website (HERE: You should also read the "Stretching for High Kicks" thread.
  9. Caleb Demarais

    Caleb Demarais Valued Member

    An excellent thread. I have a keen interest in flexibility training (I have all of Kurz and Tsatsouline's books), particularly with how it relates to kicking. Thank you for this information Van Zandt.
  10. proteinnerd

    proteinnerd Valued Member

    While most of the info here relates to increasing your ROM and doing the splits, i have a question regarding general stretching as part of a cooldown or to reduce DOMS the next day.

    I went snowboarding yesterday and when I got home was a bit stiff and was about to do some relaxed stretches to hopefully reduce any soreness the next day, then I remembered that relaxed stretches are now the devil. I wasn't about to launch into a 30 minute isometric session especially considering I had done them the last 2 days as part of my flexibility training.

    Do they still have a place as a general cooldown which is not part of specific flexibility training designed to increase your ROM or are they to be avoided completely?

    What's the latest consensus?
  11. TaeAno

    TaeAno Certified Ninja

    thanks, this is really helpful!
  12. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    First thing to remember that no amount of relaxed stretching will reduce post exercise soreness. PES (also called DOMS) is due to training too hard, too often, or too soon (unaccustomed exercise, particularly eccentric contractions), or a combination of all three.

    I say relaxed stretches are a bad idea because the first hand evidence I've seen is that they are potentially harmful and may impair your progress ( compared to just using isometrics alone). Flexibility is best developed by building strength in the full range of movement.

    My advice to you, however, is to try a three phase approach. Phase one consists of doing only relaxed stretches. Phase two consists of doing isometric stretches and relaxed stretches. Phase three consists of doing only isometric stretches. Each phase should last several weeks (but the same length of time for each phase), and you should record your progress during each phase. Then compare the results at the end. Whichever gives you the greatest gains is the method which works best for you.

    At the end of your workout, a massage or foam roller will facilitate recovery better than any type of stretching.
  13. Caleb Demarais

    Caleb Demarais Valued Member

    Van Zandt, I normally hold my isometric stretches for 15-20 seconds. Is this long enough? Thank you.
  14. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    For overcoming the myotatic reflex (that tensing you feel when your muscles are saying "uh-uh" to the new ROM), I'd say tensions lasting 7-10 seconds will do. For building long-term strength (so your muscles instead say "aaah" - in the nice way!), tensions lasting 30 seconds are sufficient. Funnily enough, there is a limit to how long you should tense during isometrics and longer than 30 seconds just seems to tire the muscles out without actually building strength. Weird, eh? :)
  15. Caleb Demarais

    Caleb Demarais Valued Member

    But you say if a person hits a plateu in their stretching they should tense harder and longer. how do they do this if they can only tense for max 30secs?
  16. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    I wouldn't be surprised if that had something to do with the TUT (Time Under Tension) concept. Basically, instead of counting reps you figure out how long each set lasts (in TUT) to see how many actual seconds your muscles are being stressed.

    Someone actually designed a chart that showed the rough ranges of TUT. If I remember correctly, they should be somewhere along these lines: 1-20 sec. (pure strength), 21-39 sec. (strength-hypertrophy I think), 40+ sec. (strength-endurance).

    In fact, it would explain why lifting heavy weights are so effective for strength gain. Lifting a 2-3 rep max is pretty close to an isometric tension, and I suppose the heavier the weight the closer it gets.
  17. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Like Patrick said, the key is total time under tension. Pavel Tsatsouline touches on this in his book, Relax into Stretch. If you've hit a plateau, simply do more 30-second tensions in your sets. Example: as many 10-second tensions as it takes to reach your limit for that set, then do a 30-second tension as per previous instructions, relax for several seconds (but remain in the position) and then do another 30-second tension (without increasing the stretch).

    Patrick, any idea where I might be able to view a copy of that chart? Great info by the way. :)
  18. Caleb Demarais

    Caleb Demarais Valued Member

    Ok thanks i think I understand more now. Excellent thread, please keep posting.
  19. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Thanks. :)

    I'm still trying to find a chart from a more familiar and reliable source of info (like T-Nation or, but here is one that looks good: LINK

    Also, here's an article on T-Nation that discuss partial reps (which would decrease the ROM and the intensity of T.U.T. to some degree): LINK
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2010
  20. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    No problem. Any further questions, feel free to post away.

    <shameless plug> Also check out my blog. ;) </shameless plug>

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