Updated: May 20
The How’s and Why’s of Nailing a Closed Front Split
July 11th, 2020
In our first blog on the anatomy of the front split we covered not only the anatomy of a front split but also the key differences between an open and closed split. If you missed it make sure you access it here and check it out before continuing with this blog.
In today’s blog we now break down why it’s important to focus on training your closed split correctly and avoid overtraining your open split. So let’s go straight into the deep end..!
Why do we bother with a closed split when an open split feels so much easier?
Well yes, it’s true, most people find it much harder to achieve their closed splits, but for others nailing an open split is just as difficult. And just because you feel comfortable in one doesn’t mean you’ll automatically feel good in the other. How you feel in a split line is completely dependent on your individual strength, joint mobility and muscle flexibility. Which is why we vary so much person to person in our split lines when we start out.
The main reason why it is important to nail your square splits from the beginning is all to do with muscle imbalances, aesthetics and injury.
When our pelvis rotates to an open split, the front leg follows into a slight turn out which reduces the stretch through the front leg lateral hamstrings and lateral hip muscles. At this same time the rotation through the back leg reduces the tension through the back leg hip flexors. But the problem is that quite often the lateral hamstrings, lateral hip muscles and hip flexors are often the tightest.
So, we end up not engaging the muscles that need the greatest work being strengthened at length. Also, not to mention in an open split we extend and laterally flex one side of the lower back. This can irritate the facet joints if not done with care or if repetitively loaded.
So, whilst having an open split works well for performances on stage, training them frequently can further exacerbate any muscle imbalances, lead to overused and weakened muscles of the hips and pelvis, and irritate the the spine. All of these things can lend itself to an injury down the track.
By squaring your hips, you’re aiming to balance the weight of your body symmetrically in an anatomically correct position. So definitely save the time by working on your square splits!
So you’re saying to never train my open split?
Not at all! You can and should train your open split occasionally, but your primary front split goal should be to achieve a beautifully balanced and square split to promotes injury-free flexibility.
How can I improve my front splits?
Make a conscious effort to stretch with your hamstrings and hip flexors squared. You will likely notice this provides a deeper stretch when exercising like this
Similar to stretching with square hips, make sure you strengthen with square hips. Work hard on keeping your hips, knees and ankles squared when training movements like lunges etc.
Don’t relax into your stretches, always maintain muscle engagement. Keeping active in your stretches helps reduce the risk of injury and ensures you’re loading/stretching the areas that need it most
Constantly check in with your hip/pelvis position. When starting out it’s easy to lose your square positioning so focus hard on keeping it level
Don’t push through an uncomfortable stretch or pain. It should feel challenging for the muscles to perform but never painful
Address any injury concerns you have with a physiotherapist. Not only can a dance/aerial physiotherapist address your imbalances, but we can tailor a flexibility program to your needs
Invest in a good flexibility program with a flexibility/mobility coach (such as FLEXERSIZE with Eley May - see below for details)
Ok I’m guilty of not having correctly trained my true front splits before now.. Can this affect my other flexibility training?
Unfortunately yes, in addition to potentially putting yourself at risk of injury, training your open splits can actually lead to some frustrating imbalances and lack of mobility with other tricks like your backbend/wheel.
To nail your backbend, you require good length through the hip flexors & good adductor strength. But you may notice that overtraining an open split can lead to gluteal & hip flexor tightness along with weakness through the groins. These imbalances can then present when attempting to square your legs in a backbend. This often comes across an inability to bring your feet in line with your hips (wide base of support), point your kneecaps up to the roof or keep the toes pointing forward as shown in the pictures below.
Fig 8: Backbend side view Fig 9: Correct leg position Fig 10: Incorrect leg position
This issue can also show up in advanced flex tricks such as your needle scale where you may struggle to bring your foot to your head in a straight line. A few simple & great ways to check whether you’re able to square your hips include in a lunge or in standing quad stretch. If you’re unable to actively square your hips in these positions, the foot and/or the knee will rotate.
A great test is to set yourself up in a quad stretch like in figure 12 and see if you’re able to keep your hips square when you release your hand. You’ll likely lose some height in the stretch, but you’re leg should'n’t rotate/twist if you’re engaging the correct muscles.
Fig 13: correct leg position Fig 14: Incorrect leg position Fig 15: Correct let position
How long will it take me to get my front splits?
Well.. how long is a piece of string? Everyone is completely different when it comes to strength and mobility. So instead, I encourage you to focus on your technique as this will lead to quicker improvements and keep you out of harm’s way. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey because you will be amazed about how much you learn about how your body works along the way.
Now that we have covered everything we need to know about front splits, join me for part 3 of our front splits blog series, which focuses on some great mobility & strengthening exercises that can be used to work on our front splits.
Want to speed up your front split progress?
Online telehealth appointments can be booked with the Pole Physio via our ‘Book Online’ page that can be found here. Assessment and tailored rehabilitation are provided in accordance with best practice and evidence-based treatment to help you unleash your 'poletential'.
Until next time, train safe.
The Pole Physio
This information is general advice only and we are not liable for any injuries that may occur during training.
This page has been created to provide wonderful knowledge with the pole community and sharing of this page to pole friends and pole related facebook groups is actively encouraged.
Flexersize is a movement syllabus that combines the use of a variety of stretching, strengthening and stabilising techniques to in turn increase Flexibility. With 25 plus years of movement experience as well as over 15 years of flexibility coaching, Eley May (Flexersize founder) Is most passionate about empowering her members to learn how their bodies moves from both an intellectual and Intuitive level. With a background in competitive Rhythmic gymnastics and coaching, Professional dancing and womens Figure competitions, Eley has explored many different styles of movement for almost her entire life. Because of her knowledge from both an experienced and intellectual level as well as a passion for helping people to break through their movement barriers, Eley’s clients and members experience incredible results via both her personalised and structured online flexibility programs. If you’re ready to take your flexibility training to the next level with a more structured approach, be inspired by our community of beautiful movers from around the globe, be invited to our FREE Members only FLEXERSIZE FRIDAYS live stretch sessions (6pm AEST) and have a whole lot of fun along the way, then head over to www.flexersize.com.au, we can’t wait to help you kick all of your bendy goals!
If you are ready to level up with your flexibility training, check out her current programs including Beginner Front Splits, Advanced Front Splits, Middle Splits, Back bending For all and Intro to Active Flexibility Programs.
If you are after more personalised training in person or online, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to join her private coaching waitlist.