'Oversplit' is a term used to describe a split that achieves an angle greater than 180 degrees, ankle-pelvis-ankle. The term can also describe training for this line by using props such as blocks or a hammock to allow a person to move into a range greater than flat, even if the 180 deg line is not achieved. While an oversplit requires greater than average flexibility, it can be beneficial for adults to start to 'train’ oversplits before a flat split is achieved.
Are over-splits dangerous?
Bodies are resilient, adaptable and can be conditioned to do amazing things, including oversplits. In general, flexibility training is low risk, and there are many things you can do to reduce that risk further. Read more here.
For most people, if you get the set-up right, there is no more risk of injury training a split in usual ways versus an oversplit. Flexibility training-related injuries can be broadly classified as chronic overuse, too much load over time without adequate recovery, and acute overload (Read more here ) If someone loses control, slips or falls during a stretch, it can cause an acute overload injury. These injuries can occur due to precarious oversplit setups, such as many yoga blocks stacked without support. The way into the split must be controlled, and there needs to be a way to get out safely if required.
What about if I'm hypermobile?
Many people with joint hypermobility, such as those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) or Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD), can and do train oversplits safely. As always, the appropriateness of an exercise depends on the individual and their goals. Oversplits training can be more challenging for hypermobile people as increased joint range requires greater control to stabilise, and deficits in proprioception (sense of joint position) impact balance. Oversplits training can be modified. For example, for some people with knees that hyperextend, it may be useful to support knees to encourage increased range at the hips. Learn more about loading Joints that hyper-extend here.
So when am I ready to train oversplits?
There are no hard rules, but for most people:
- You have been training your splits consistently for at least a few months. This allows your joints to condition and muscles to strengthen in ways specific to splits.
- You feel confident training splits and can ‘sit with’ (tolerate) the associated uncomfortable emotions and sensations.
- You have access to a set-up that allows you to get into your split with control and exit smoothly and safely.
Benefits of training over splits
If you can comfortably achieve a flat split on the floor, and want to achieve a deeper split, training oversplits is one of the best ways, but there are benefits to training oversplits, even if your split has a little way to go.
Over splits can change how and where you load your split
Props can be used to bias body parts that you want to load in your stretch. For example, blocking the back leg of a front split can preferentially load the back hip into extension, While blocking up the front leg tends to increase the stretch more in the front leg.
Oversplits can increase confidence and demonstrate progress
While training oversplits isn't entry-level, for most people, the challenge is more mental than physical. Some people feel that ‘only very flexible people can oversplit’, so they believe its not something they can train. However, it can be a big confidence boost and demonstrate progress when over-splits are added to training.
Oversplits can increase your tolerance to stretching further
If you feel like you have been stuck at the same depth for a while, training oversplits can enable you to get deeper more comfortably by changing your brains perception of the task. For example, if your split is usually about one yoga block from the floor, your subconscious starts to expect this distance from the floor when your training splits. So if you block your split, you may get deeper than usual just to fulfil the expected response, ie one block from the floor. Our conscious and subconscious expectations can be very powerful.
The next blog post in this series will consider different ways of training oversplits and when you may use each variation.
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