Nothing says, “Who’s that goalie?” like the full side splits. It’s definitely a signature move and gets the attention of opposing players, parents and scouts. Flexibility is the obvious key to performing this move—but how do you develop that flexibility without injuring yourself?
Well it’s easier than you think. Really!
Some people are just born flexible, and the rest of us have to work at it. The key to developing flexibility, i.e. increasing your safe range of motion in a specific position, is as much mental as it is physical. Let me explain.
Your muscles attach to your bones via tendons and they are full of small nerve endings called proprioceptors. Amongst other things, they let the brain know if there is danger of any kind. When there is, the muscle contracts to restrict the motion and protect the joint and muscles. (In extreme cases, this is a muscle spasm.) When muscles are contracted and still stretched they can tear, causing inflammation and pain. Even in minor cases, you can get micro tearing of the muscle or ligamentous tissues, which will lead to chronic soreness, stiffness and even inflammation like tendonitis. Again, not good!
Repetitive micro tearing from incorrect stretching technique will lead to scar tissue, shorter muscles and a decreased range of motion—exactly what you don’t want.
To develop your flexibility or range of motion, you need to get your brain and nervous system on board. You need to in a comfortable position where you nerves are not telling your brain to “pull back” because of danger. Like I said, it has to be easy.
The key is long holds. You will need a stopwatch or timer, because five minutes will feel like forever. Warm up all of your muscles with dynamic stretches and range of motion movements. When you are ready to increase your range of motion, ease into a comfortable splits position, supported by your hands on the ground, and hold it for a minimum of five minutes. Initially, your butt will be very high off the ground, but you will see dramatic easing between the two- and three-minute mark. Gently move forwards and back gently to soften into the pose. This is more yoga than hockey so don’t think you need to do anything; just relax.
In most players, this position will represent approximately 80 percent of their maximum range of motion. The last two and a half minutes will develop the last 20 percent. Remember, don’t push, instead focus on your breathing and sinking deeper into the pose on your exhale. You will feel soreness after these stretches, because you are working on many layers of tissues, not just muscles. If the soreness doesn’t go away after 30 minutes, you pushed too hard and have to back off the next time.
Perform this stretch twice a day, every day and you will be amazed how flexible you get in 10 to 12 weeks. With splits there are anatomical limitations that may limit you from going all the way down, but when you do drop into your maximum you won’t injure yourself.Back to Top
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