I Don’t Regret How I Got My Front splits. But Here’s What I Would Do Differently.

 

I got my full front splits when I was 33. 

Prior to that, I had taken ballet as a kid and forced myself into a split when I was 12. I probably (definitely) hurt myself and didn’t really attempt it again until…

…I was 32 and in a blaze of ill-gotten glory dropped down into a split from a Fireman Spin on the pole.

I pulled my hamstring and had to ice it for months. Dude - you would’ve done the same thing: DMX was all “X gon deliver to ya
Knock knock, open up the door, it's real
Wit the non-stop, pop pop”
on the speakers real loud and I HAD TO DO IT OKAY.

Ok. Dumbass, I know. But seriously, listen to that song and tell me it doesn’t make you wanna do something revolutionary and stupid. Go on, click the link, here it is again. I’ll wait.

That nightly Hamstring-On-Ice bit was the bitchslap I needed to get my flexibility in order. I hate being cold. And I don’t enjoy icicles on my body. 

Well, that one thing is definitely not stretching on a bed of seaweed on the beach.

Well, that one thing is definitely not stretching on a bed of seaweed on the beach.

I got serious. I created a stretching routine for myself since there were no classes around for me to take at that time. I did research, watched stretching videos, and created a plan. I entered what I call “Thee Serious Stretching Phase” of my life. I stretched 4-5 times a week for about 45 minutes each session.

It went pretty good – I ended up going from about 7-8 inches off the floor to a full split in about 8-9 months. What you have to understand though is that I was consistent – every week I made time for that shit because I had A GOAL (drop splits, bish).

If you are not consistent with your stretching, you will not get your splits. PERIODT.

You must be consistent. And to be consistent, you must really want to do splits because I’m here to tell ya that stretching can be

  1.  Painful; and

  2.  Boring.

Ok, so like I said you gotta have a goal to get you through the hard times when you don’t want to stretch. Drop splits ran through my head every time I wanted to eat Cheetos and lay on the couch. On those days, I’d instead eat Cheetos and stretch on the floor.

Currently, I do drop splits fiftyeleven times per week (approximately). So you see, my 8 months of work paid lovely dividends in my dancing because that move became a solid part of my signature.

When I think back on “Thee Serious Stretching Phase” , I get a good feeling. It feels good to be dedicated to something. Also, even though the work I put in was

  1. Painful; and

  2. Boring (at first)…

…I came to look forward to my stretching time. It became relaxing. It started to feel good and calming. Not boring, not painful.

Now – I don’t regret how I got my splits because my method was very effective and safe. However, if I had it to do all over again, I would make a change knowing what I know now. 

There’s one thing I would’ve added to my routine.

Active flexibility training. 

I didn’t really know about that when I was stretching before. I did do a little bit of active stretching, but for the most part I was working to loosen and lengthen my muscles in passive stretches. 

Passive stretches are fantastic. I love them and they are super-effective. But adding active stretches for the muscles that are opposing the muscles you are trying to lengthen will only make your splits that much easier to slide into to. 

Not only that, but active flexibility training will build your strength and give you much better control through a fuller range of motion. This means that as a dancer, you are able to more fluidly and easily move through all kinds of movements – making you slinkier, sexier, and yes – more flexible. 

For example, let’s say you are working toward your Twisted Ballerina. Many people working on this move think that the flexibility they need to achieve is only in the chest, shoulders, back, hip flexor and quad (as if that isn’t enough, good lordt) but you also need that glute of the back leg to be strong enough to lift the entire leg up so that your hand can grab it.

The Twisted Ballerina. No, it’s not painful at all why do you ask.

The Twisted Ballerina. No, it’s not painful at all why do you ask.

So, in addition to stretching those hip flexors and quads making them nice and long so that the leg can full extend, that glute needs to also be trained to help out and lift up that hip flexor and quad. 

There are many varieties of active stretches beyond the example I just gave that I utilize in the warmups and cool downs that I teach in my pole classes. I also have a class specifically dedicated to active and passive stretches for the splits, back, and shoulders. I’ve seen firsthand how the combination of active and passive stretching has gotten my students into their Jade Splits, Allegras, Twisted Ballerinas, Chopsticks and many other tricks quicker and with less pain while on the pole. 

Since adding active flexibility training into my practice, I feel so loose and free to move how I like.

It feels really good to have access to the range of motion that my body has now due to active flexibility. Even if you don’t give a lick about getting a split in your lifetime (If that’s the case I don’t even know what you stand for) gaining increased range of motion makes life in general more successful (have you ever squished a bug on a wall by kicking your leg up and using the bottom of your boot? Live your best life and try it, friends).

xxBrandi