Strengthen for Splits

Variations for Increased Flexiblity



If the Splits (Hanumanasana) had a personality, it might be one of the most vocal in the room. Aesthetically, it’s quite bold. The shape of the posture makes it evident that it requires a great deal of flexibility. In order to acquire the right amount of flexibility, you must strengthen for Splits. But if flexibility means to lengthen muscles and strengthening contracts muscles, how is this approach effective? In today’s video, Matt shares how employing techniques such as the facilitated stretch help increase flexibility while strengthening. Not only do you prepare your body more effectively for flexibility, but you also bring your body closer to balance. Because Splits is a deep posture, you need to be shrewd in your approach. As always, Matt offers cues that are both intricate and systematic, allowing you to safely explore while increasing your flexibility at the same time. 

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First, what is a facilitated stretch? If you’ve been practicing with Matt for some time, you’ll know that this is a technique that he frequently utilizes in his classes. This is because it allows you to build strength and flexibility at the same time. A facilitated stretch occurs when a muscle is engaged while in a lengthened position. It’s essentially a conversation that takes place from the brain to the muscle and the Golgi tendon organ, which sends a message back to the brain about the amount of tension that’s taking place. When that happens, the brain recognizes the amount of engagement and sends a message back to the body to release the tension in the muscle. Instead of forcing a stretch, your body recognizes that it is in control and therefore safe to respond in kind when flexibility is required.  




To strengthen for Splits, it’s important to know the end range of your flexibility. Pull back from where you normally settle into as you set up this variation, so as to successfully implement a facilitated stretch. Being able to strengthen for Splits means moving away from your tendencies. As you’ll see in the video, there are opportunities to “push, pull, and turn” within your exploration. These actions will both change the level of sensation you experience and inform your next steps. For example, turning your pelvis closed might increase a sensation that provides the opportunity for you to press your front heel down and forward while pulling your back knee forward. These actions create a facilitated stretch for the hamstring in the front leg and the hip flexors of the back leg.

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Now, in the 2nd variation, the key action that gets layered on is to lean forward. Even though more flexibility in the hamstrings is required here, you are still working to develop their flexibility even further. Again, Matt encourages you to work at roughly 60%–70% of your end range. The act of leaning forward demands more of the hamstrings of the front leg, so continue to check in with what depth is appropriate. While you can begin to lean into more of a stretch sensation by going a bit deeper (once you’ve strengthened), going deeper does not mean that you compromise strength and integrity. If you notice a laxity in some areas of your Splits, you can do things like curl your back toes under. This keeps the pelvis closed and maintains more activation in the hip flexors of your back leg.

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An intense posture like Splits will really speak to you. It will expose your tendencies, which may be hard to face. Often, the familiar path is to lean into the areas that feel open. But in order to strengthen for Splits, it’s imperative that you lean into the more “challenging” areas within the posture. Pushing beyond your limits is not the answer here; what is meant is that moving carefully minimizes the risk of injury. When this happens, you will not only come closer to the posture in the short term but also develop more balance in your body in the long term.

Matt’s Splits Immersion will guide you in creating “intelligent flexibility” in your hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and glutes. Carving a new path and creating new patterns means more confidence in how your body moves, both on and off the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Mobility Immersion



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