Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Now - I know a first glance, this sounds like something bodybuilders inject in there arse whilst in some kind of downward dog position. But despite its unusual name, it is far from that - let me explain.
Mark's been training here at R5 for a good few years now, and lets just say, his flexibility has always left a lot to be desired. In all honesty, his flexibility/mobility has been par for what our training has required. We've stretched just about every session but after a certain point (and despite some aggressive forced stretching from me) it unfortunately plateaued.
2 weeks ago Mark got back from a skiing trip and with him returned an extremely bold idea. He said, I want to do the splits. And I want to be able to do it in 4 weeks. With a pessimistic smile on my face I said "Ok, have you got any idea of how you might do that?". Which to amazement... he did!
For the next 20 minutes we discussed a program that Mark had come across called Hyperbolic Stretching. The author Alex Larsson claimed his program could take anyone in the general population and have them front and/or side splitting in just 4 weeks.
Immediately but bullshit meter hit the roof - however, I agreed to read the 63 page document to see if this had any legs what so ever. Usually if something sounds too good to be true, it more often than not is. But after reading the program that night, I came to the unforeseen conclusion that it might just be possible.
I don't want to give too much away as this is a paid program (which is available to purchase on the Hyperbolic Stretching website) But essentially it's a combination of mobility, static stretching, aerobic exercise, flexibility specific strengthening exercises, with the hyperbolic stretching to finish.
Larsson recommends fitting his program in around your current training schedule. It's split into two sections. Half is done prior to your workout. The other half post workout. As I read through the contents, I had a good understanding of everything mentioned. Everything apart from this mysterious Hyperbolic Stretching.
I soon discovered it was a method of stretching I do regularly with clients called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). It's a combination of tension and relaxation of the muscle whilst in its fully stretched position. By contracting the muscle at that stage, it confuses the fibres into thinking they have more give. Meaning each time you relax, you're able to edge the stretch out further.
This method is pretty aggressive but it shone a glimmer of hope on what was initially a crazy idea.
That same night, I made a note of every detail on the Hyperbolic Stretching routine and developed a 4 week program. Mark would increase his sessions here at R5 from 3 to 4 when he could. Which corresponds with the frequency recommended by Larsson. The next morning a starting picture was taken of Mark in his current maximum front split position (see below) and the road to doing the splits began.
(Mark in maximum front split position at the start
of Hyperbolic Stretching program)
In week one I decided it was best we focus solely on trying to achieve the front split. Mainly due to time constraints within our sessions, but also to give Mark the best opportunity on completing at least one given his initial level of flexibility.
A week later and four sessions in, there was definitely some improvement. It hadn't come without it fair share of torture (Mark will vouch for that) but we stuck to the progam religiously and it was certainly paying dividends.
Entering into week two of the program, it wasn't just Mark's flexibility that was improving. His squats have looked smoother due increased range of motion in hamstrings and hips. And numbers are also going up! As more fibres become free, they're able to contract harder giving Mark more power and explosiveness resulting in increased strength.
The static stretching we did a the start of each session has also seen big improvements during week two. Just sitting in a squat position is now far easier. I'm starting to realise how much of a missing piece this was.
We've just finished week two on the hyperbolic stretching program and the third picture has been taken. Unsurprisingly, even more depth to his front split.
It's hard to see how much improvement is being made on a session to session basis. I also get very involved in the hyperbolic stretching to assist Mark in staying upright and edging every inch we can in the 'stretch and reach' phases. So I can't gauge improvement from a distance.
But looking at the photos above it's clear there's another big jump from week one to week two. We're about to head into week 3 and Mark and I are really excited about how much further we can take this.
In just 2 weeks there's been more improvement than we thought was even possible (see photos below). Whether or not we'll be able to achieve a full front split position in just 2 week remains to be seen but we'll be giving it everything we have to get even closer.
They'll be another update in 2 weeks time so be sure to check back to see how much further we managed to get. Fingers crossed for a full splits!