Splits, splits, splits! Focus on your back leg if you want to improve your splits.
A great way to ensure that you don’t over-stretch your hamstrings, a super common injury for aerialists and over-eager stretchers, is to take them out of the equation.
1. All you have to do is place blocks under your front knee. You want the blocks to lift the knee enough that your front hamstring does not feel much stretch. Keep the inner thigh in the front leg pushing in (i.e., adducting) even if you’re slightly turned out.
2. Shift your focus to the back leg. Use your hand to guide the thigh into internal rotation (knee down) as you push the back hip forward and down.
3. To ensure that you’re not leaning forward onto your front thigh, draw your belly button back into your spine and draw your ribs down. You’re trying to take some of the arch out of your low back without tucking the pelvis.
4. Challenge your quad (rectus femoris) flexibility by trying to keep all of those engagements and bend your knee (heel to butt) without lifting your hips. This is really hard for me! You’ll know you’ve maintained your internal rotation if the toe points straight up to the ceiling. If it goes all CRAZY out to the side, your TFL is probably tight.
5. If everything looks a-ok, you can strap your back foot, and begin lifting the bottom of the ribs forward and then up to the ceiling. Push down through your front, leveraging your upper body backwards to increase your hip extension. To avoid dumping into your low back, keep a deep abdominal connection between your public space and sternum by thinking of your public bone drawing slightly up to the ceiling without changing the position of your pelvis.
Here’s one of my favorite exercises to improve active shoulder flexion while in end-range thoracic extension. Cat Scratchers are great for Mexican handstands!
You can use a band, strap, or block between your elbows to encourage engagement through your arms.
1️⃣ Face the wall seated on your heels with your knees touching it. (If this exercise feels easy, just move your knees progressively away from the wall.
2️⃣ Bring your hands and rest them on the wall, palms facing each other, elbows straight.
3️⃣ Elevate your shoulders and externally rotate, wrapping your scapula around your armpits (like in a handstand).
4️⃣ Press your hands into the wall and start to slide them overhead. Look between your hands and lift your sternum while drawing your sits bones back in opposition. Stop when your sternum rests on the wall. (If you cannot reach the wall, lift your butt off of your heels just enough so you can without changing the position of your pelvis.)
5️⃣ Continue to wrap around the armpits and lift your arms off of the wall for 5-10 pulses. (If you cannot lift off of the wall, lift your butt off of your heels just enough so you can without changing the position of your pelvis.)
6️⃣ (Slide back down the wall if you have slid up.) Curl the pelvis and ripple to the spine to return to your start position.
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