Friday, 26 March 2010

Let's horse stance our way into the side splits

If you can't do the side splits, join the club. It's an enviable sign of flexibility and like so many things we cannot do, we may have been blaming our 'unlucky' genes for not bothering to try. Yes, it's a painful concept for us lacking the ability to even watch someone do the graceful movement. Nevertheless, unlike conventional wisdom, it can be done with months or even weeks of training, as Kurtz explains that if you can do the half split, you have enough hip flexibility, just not enough strength ( He says that the side splits maybe in reach of us all.

His method starts with the horse stance. For those who don't know what a horse stance is, it's a stance used in karate and other martial arts as a foundation to other moves and stances. In particular to achieving the side splits, you place your feet about twice your shoulder width apart before lowering yourself between your legs so that your thighs are just above parallel to the ground. May I add this is a deep horse stance in comparison to others that more resemble a standing-up position, such as in Tai Chi. There are many variations to the horse stance, but as you will be trying to achieve the splits, it will eventually stop looking like a horse stance as you move your feet further and further apart.

Bboy Ryouku (, Paul Zaichik ( and Thomas Kurtz ( have all pointed out the irrefutable relationship between strength and flexibility. Progressive stretching may help do the splits, but Bboy Ryouku explains that lack of strength causes muscle tension instead of the relaxation needed to reach the side splits. Kurz explains why the tilting of the pelvis is essential for those last few inches into splits and Paul Zaichik has already demonstrated in a few youtube videos how important strength is to hold static high kicks. The idea is that we develop strength to be able to hold the horse stance from a relatively easy width, increasing the distance between our feet until eventually ending up with a very wide horse stance with our groin inches from the floor. From there, we should be very close to achieving the side splits.

Bboy Ryouko explains the method perfectly here, amongst many other things in an old post:

Thomas Kurtz explains his method here:

And below is Kurtz' method for maintaining the side splits. You will see how he develops the splits from the horse stance.

This is definitely a future challenge for me. I'll let you know if Thomas Kurtz' method works.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

It took 25 Days to do just One Proper Push Up

The push up was started in the prone position (with the torso on the floor) and then the arms pushed upwards whilst the body was kept straight before lowering the body and torso back to just above the floor. At that point, I pushed upwards again, and then lowered back into the prone position. Maybe that counts as two, but hey! Still psyched over doing one!

My challenge is however, incomplete, as the aim is to do 10 consecutive push ups.

If you've struggled with doing push ups, feel free to email me about it at or get my little push up guide here

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Core Isn't There Just To Look Pretty

Imagine if we tried to get out of bed, sit up or stand up straight without using our core muscles. What about if we tried kicking, spinning or even doing a push up? We still engage the core muscles, and yet, it seems people only want to work their core muscles to gain a certain aesthetic look; the six pack, the V-line. Bruce Lee questioned that without a strong core, what would support the arms for punches, or the legs for kicking let alone jumping.

The core has variable definitions, but everyone seems to agree it's the body minus the legs and arms (the trunk/torso) or the muscles that connect the upper body to the lower body (2). These muscles include the abdominals, the obliques, the back muscles, the hip flexors and rotators and shoulders (3, 4). These muscles provide strength and flexibility even if you can't see them.

Good core strength helps posture, alleviates aches and pains commonly associated with back problems and helps stabilise the body through nearly every movement that is made (2). Dancers, yoga practitioners and gymnasts possess amazing core strength as their disciplines call for it, and you don't necessarily see female gymnasts with six packs that men have, but they still can do incredible feats of strengths without the core muscles being seen (5).

There are so many different exercises to work the core muscles that you choose a series of your favourites targeting particular areas of your core. Some harder ones include V Ups and Headstand Leg Raises.

Here is a list of 19 core bodyweight muscle exercises;

2.Side Crunch
3.Double Side Crunch
4.Sit Ups
5.Reverse Crunch
6.Reverse Crunch Twists
7.Single Leg Circles
8.Russian Twists
9.Hip Twists
10.Double Crunch
11.Flutter Kicks
12.V Ups
13.Straight Leg Raises
14.Plank Ups
15.Side Plank Raises
16.Hanging Knee Raises
17.Headstand Leg Raises
18.Side Plank Twists (with Rotation)
19.Hanging Leg Raises

View the Core Bodyweight Exercise Guide here.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

And On The Seventh Day, We Rested

Well, I didn't rest until the eighth day of my push up training and I wasn't really intending to take a day of rest at all. Time flew by, and I hadn't done a single push up, but the next day, I found doing negative push ups a lot easier. It was if I was stronger after I rested for a day.

According to Tudor Bompa and Michael Carrera, energy stores in the form of glycogen (formed by glucose) are partially depleted during strength training sessions, and it has been reported to take 5 hours of rest to restore glycogen levels by 55%. Taking 24 hours of rest is advised as glycogen stores are restored to almost 100% of pre-exercise levels. When we don't allow our bodies to replenish their glycogen stores we're left with fatigue and the next strength training session will produce suboptimal results (Leslie Bonci).

T Bompa and M Carrera further explain that protein metabolism or breakdown occurs as long as 48 hours after strength training. They also state that protein synthesis occurs during the resting phase and is greater than protein breakdown, but they make a strong case, stating that without enough rest, increases in muscle strength and size will be diminished.

It may seem counterproductive, but taking a day's rest will help to increase your strength. So if you get to a stage where you find yourself struggling with the same strength load and know you can do better, take a day or two off, and go back to it. You may be surprised at how much better you can handle the same strength training exercise.

Tudor O Bompa and Michael C Carrera Periodization Training For Sports 2nd Edition 2005
Leslie Bonci 2001

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