The frontal splits, or front splits, is considered one of the most complete hamstring stretching routines to increase flexibility. All the hamstring stretches will help prepare you for this yoga pose, but it’s also good to practice this pose by itself because it is very powerful. Keep in mind that when your full body weight is hovering right over your hamstring, it is easy to push too hard in this stretch. Please be very careful and follow the stretching routine guidelines closely to prevent injury.
Make sure to be completely warmed up first. Get your muscles ready for a strong stretch with 10 minutes of jogging in place, jumping jacks, or other cardio exercise.
Start on your knees…
STEP 1 Extend your right leg in front of you and flex your foot, toes toward the sky.
STEP 2 Slowly and carefully slide your right leg forward until you feel some resistance.
STEP 3 When you feel a good stretch in your hamstring, make sure to plant your fingertips firmly onto the floor or on top of a yoga block.
STEP 4 Use your hands for support to control the amount of weight and pressure that is on your hamstrings. You do not want it to be painful. You want to feel a strong stretch—but no pain. A tolerable amount of discomfort is acceptable.
Breathe deeply and steadily in and out through your nose the entire time. Engage your quad muscles (the front of your thigh). This will help to protect your hamstrings. By “engage” we mean to contract muscle and hold it tight ad flexed. Your hamstrings are the big muscles on the back of your legs. They will loosen up very quickly, so you should see results even during your first session.
As you feel your hamstring muscles loosen up, slide your front heal a bit more forward and flex you foot. Remember, toes to the sky and support your weight with your fingertips on the floor on either side of you. Take at least 20 deep breaths before switching sides.
It is very important to stretch both sides. Within 3-5 weeks you should be all the way down on the floor while doing your splits. You need to build the strength as well as the flexibility needed to do the splits. That way your muscles will feel comfortable in the extreme position that is the yoga splits.
Every time you stretch, stay in your maximum stretch position longer. This will help you hit your goal quicker. After each stretching routine session remember to cool down. Just 5-10 minutes of walking should do it. Some people will be able to achieve the splits in 3-4 weeks, however, if after 5-6 weeks you are still not quite there you will notice that you are remarkably more flexible than when you started. Keep at it and you’ll get there!
I am just starting out in my body makeover journey and I know that adding a stretching routine is critical to improve my flexibility and prevent injury. Stretching and increasing flexibility is one aspect of most workouts that is completely overlooked and underrated. I thought the best way to start is to jump in with both feet and try out one of the most popular and intense workouts: P90X Stretch.
The program is advertised to transform your body in 90 days and consists of 12 super-charged, super-intense workouts. It is designed to take you from a beginner level to an advanced level of overall body fitness. Many people have had fabulous results with the P90X program, so I thought the P90X Stretch was a great place to start.
First of all, it is about a 60 minute stretching routine, but worth every minute. P90X Stretch is a comprehensive stretching routine designed to hit every muscle from neck to ankle. The video takes you through very simple and step-by-step instructions with a heavy emphasis on breathing. Breathing is a major part in all yoga routines and it is not skipped here either.
“Stretching is the one thing that will help you achieve a higher level of athleticism over a longer period of time. The X Stretch routine is an integral part of the program that will help prevent injuries and avoid plateaus. The extensive full-body stretches that make up this routine use disciplines from Kenpo karate, hatha yoga, and various sports to ensure that your body is fully prepared to meet all P90X challenges head-on.” Tony Horton, P90X creator.
P90X Stretching Routine
Although this is the “easiest” of the 12 workout programs in the P90X set, it is far from a walk in the park. Tony takes you through each stretch with a calm voice and he invokes a peaceful state of mind throughout the stretching routine. At the end of the DVD I felt great; I was relaxed and invigorated.
The P90X program is intense to say the least. According to Tony, X in P90X stands for extreme. There are modifications throughout the entire workout to accommodate the beginners like me as well as the advanced students with phenomenal flexibility. This is a handy component of the program so that you can use these modifications when you are just starting out and then gradually work into the variations as you become more flexible.
Implementing a stretching routine into your training will improve your performance in any sport. Tennis requires cat-like reflexes with short bursts of strength and speed. These short movements may not allow the muscles to extend their full length. When muscles are strenuously worked they become tight and can lose their elasticity unless properly stretched. Yoga exercises can increase the body’s range of motion and restore the elasticity of the muscles. Without muscle elasticity you will not be able to perform at your highest potential. A solid stretching routine can give you that edge on the court.
Using yoga techniques makes it possible to retrain the muscles so they learn that it is acceptable to go beyond their normal limits. Most tennis athletes play in a constant state of muscle tension. Yoga trains the body to relax muscle tension. Learning to begin your game in a relaxed state could mean gaining an extra step on the ball.
Yoga breathing exercises can help improve endurance and stamina. When exerting in sports or exercise we often hold our breath as a way to create strength. Yoga trains the body to create strength through breathing control. Holding your breath at points of exertion takes a great deal of energy that could be used during long sets or matches.
It is simple to learn the correct breathing form while doing a yoga pose. Exhale during the execution of a pose until you feel the muscles’ full length of stretch (maximum resistance). Never hold your breath. Breathe normally and listen to your body. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then release the pose slowly. With continued practice of yoga poses you’ll soon be able to apply breathing techniques in everyday routines.
The Spine Twist
One yoga stretch that is great for tennis players is the simple spine twist. Adding this to your stretching routine is excellent, especially for rotational sports. It can help increase flexibility of the shoulders, back and hips. Remember to apply the breathing technique to this pose. This stretch will help you maintain sideways mobility of your spine. It is easier to watch this one rather than to try to explain
Mind & Body
The physical benefits of yoga, like increased strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility, help tennis players meet the demands of the game. Your body is constantly being thrown out of balance while playing tennis. Your elbow and wrist take a beating along with your knees, calves, and ankles. As you lunge for passing shots and during the serve your back get twisted and jerked. Anyone who has played knows that tennis is very hard on your body. Adding a stretching routine to your training can help restore the balance and flexibility of your muscles.
Try these yoga poses to increase your flexibility and give you the edge on the court.
1. Tree pose (vrksasana) to strengthen the legs, open the hips, and improve balance and coordination.
2. Triangle pose (trikonasana) to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings, open the chest, and promote balance.
3. Warrior II pose (virabhadrasana II) to strengthen quads, calves, and Achilles’ tendons; expand range of motion; and teach you to move from the hips.
A total body conditioning and flexibility stretching routine is essential for the avid tennis player. Yoga techniques could be the edge you need in developing your game. Yoga can improve your game on many levels, most notably working on your flexibility, power, balance, injury prevention and mind control, all which will improve your tennis game and overall well-being.
While implementing a stretching routine into your workout is very important, performing it correctly is equally as important. There are several simple guidelines to follow that will protect you from injury while stretching and will also help minimize muscle soreness after your workouts.
We’ve all heard this before, but breathing is the perfect “counter” for us during our stretching routine. Take deep breaths as you stretch. It is a good rule of thumb to hold each stretch for a total of 5-6 deep breaths or about 30 seconds and up to 60 seconds for really tight muscles or problem areas. As you exhale each time, extend slightly deeper into the stretch. When you inhale you should relax the stretch slightly and contract the muscle.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t bounce as you stretch. This opens you up to muscle tearing and injury. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears, called microtears, in the muscle, which will leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. This scar tissue will tighten the muscles even further, making you less flexible.
Don’t overstretch. Your body will tell you its limits…listen to your body. A stretch should be tight, but not painful. If you overstretch you might create an automatic myotatic reflex that will actually cause the muscle to recoil and tighten up to try to protect itself from tearing and injury. You know you have gone too far if you feel pain as you stretch.
Do warm up your muscles first. If possible try and make the warm up as similar to your workout activity as possible. For example some light jogging in place prior to going for a run. Cold muscles simply don’t stretch. Get the blood flowing through your muscles by first performing a minimum of 5 – 10 minutes aerobic work.
When to Stretch
Are you supposed to stretch before or after your workout? That is a very good question. The answer is both. Before running or working out it is important to warm up muscles and get more oxygen to them. A great warm up is jumping jacks for a few minutes then a brief stretch of each of the major muscles. After running or working out, a good stretching routine will help to remove lactic acid from the muscle. This in turn reduces muscle soreness, which promotes better flexibility. You can also perform your stretching exercises while resting between lifts during your strength training.
After your workout when you are all sweaty, take a hot shower first and then stretch. The hot water will help relax the muscles and you’ll get the best stretch.
Follow this general guideline for a safe stretching routine.
Studies have found that when you follow your warm-up with a stretching routine you will increase your range of motion. While flexibility can be genetic, it can also be developed and improved by implementing a solid stretching routine into your workout.
Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you start a stretching routine.
You can find inspiration anywhere for keeping your stretching routine fun. Recently, I had a much needed massage for some muscle knots in my lower back. These knots had started some pain in my hip and I was told that I needed to start stretching my hips to prevent the muscle knots from reforming. Why can’t I stay motivated when it comes to stretching? The reason that came to mind for me immediately, was how this is the most boring part of my workout and usually I just skip it. Now I HAD to start a stretching routine and I needed a way to make it fun.
I need fun and flexibility…immediately I think of cheerleaders, but without the actual cheerleader present, boredom would set in very quickly. So my next thought was of Mixed Martial Arts fighter BJ Penn hopping around on one foot while some guy was lifting the other foot over his head and Joe Rogan saying BJ could put his leg behind his head without using his hands. Now I don’t know if you have ever tried to put your foot behind your head, but I found that to be an impossible feat. Try it now. Can you do it? I had to check out the video on YouTube in order to wrap my mind around how you could even attempt it without using your hands. When looking for a way to implement my passion for MMA into my stretching routine, I found this video of Eddie Bravo on: Flexibility and Work Ethic. He is demonstrating what he requires of someone to earn a black belt from him at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. He shows how to stretch the groin and hips in different ways, including the lotus position. He talks about how your knees, hips, and groin all need to be stretched and to continue stretching in order to maintain that level of flexibility. I won’t be earning a black belt from Eddie Bravo any time soon, but it does give me a goal to reach for my flexibility.
When I need some motivation or inspiration for a new workout I always look to mixed martial artists that train at the highest level of competition. They have tremendous cardio endurance and core strength, which is exactly what I want from my workouts. The flexibility these guys have is definitely something that I will be trying to emulate in the future.
I don’t think that I will need to kick someone in the head or do the Jean-Claude Van Damme side splits to punch an attacker in the groin, but you never know, right? All kidding aside, these things will never happen, but increasing your flexibility will increase your speed and balance while decreasing your risks for many types of sports injuries.
What are you interested in that can be translated into your everyday stretching routine? Do you sit and watch TV in the evenings? As Eddie Bravo talks about in his video, this is a perfect time to work on your flexibility and you will start seeing the benefits in your normal workouts in no time! Sticking to your stretching routine will be much easier and more fun if it incorporates something you find interesting or something you enjoy doing.
Here is Eddie Bravo’s DVD. In his best-selling jiu-jitsu book, Mastering the Rubber Guard, Eddie Bravo lays out his entire half guard game, his entire butterfly guard game, and the secrets of the infamous Rubber Guard. Now, for the first time, Bravo unveils his entire guard system on DVD. The box set includes three DVDs that contain hours upon hours of easy-to-understand instructional training and live rolling. The collectors set covers the half guard, the butterfly guard, the entire Rubber Guard, escapes back to guard, and Spider Web. Unlike the majority of martial arts instructional DVDs that can bore a viewer to tears, Mastering the Rubber Guard (DVD) contains hours of bonus footage, including comedy sketches, Eddie Bravo music videos, and never-before seen footage where the Victory Belt Staff punks Bravo at the 10th Planet Academy with a pretty girl and an angry 300-pound meathead.