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Jake Lawrance

Possible to reach contortionist like flexibility?

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Jake Lawrance

Hello GB! 

 

Recently I've been watching Ricardo Sosa who is a contortion equilibrist with some extreme straddle and pancake flexibility. 

 

The question is.. Is it possible to become near as flexible as he is although you are past your 'learning' age of 13-14.

 

Obviously I understand flexibility is incredibly difficult to improve as you age, but if it is possible, what would a stretching routine look like if you wish to get onto Ricardo's level? 

 

 

 

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Joshua Naterman

Unless you have a genetic abnormality in your connective tissue, no.

 

Part of flexibility involves influencing how the joints themselves take shape, which is why if someone hasn't pitched throughout childhood (preferably) and adolescence (for sure), they will almost certainly never make the majors, and will probably have a much greater occurrence of labral tears.

 

The pitching arm's shoulder socket (glenoid fossa) becomes shallower and wider due to the repetitive motion. It becomes specifically shaped for pitching, allowing a greater range of motion than a normal person's shoulder, which allows for longer time of acceleration during the pitch, which means faster pitches.

 

This comes with a price, which is that their shoulders are more vulnerable to dislocations, so they have to be a lot more careful about SITS (rotator cuff) muscle work.

 

 

The ligaments themselves also stretch much more readily in children, which can be both good and bad.

 

There's a reason why, to be the very best in something like gymnastics or contortion, you absolutely have to start at a young age. There's more going on than just a few extra years of training and technique refinement. The body becomes adapted, quite literally optimized, at a structural level, for what it is doing. Some of these changes last a lifetime.

 

Doesn't mean you can't get really good, but you're not going to do the splits like the guy in the video unless you have spent an enormous, enormous amount of time stretching (probably at young ages) and/or have excessively elastic connective tissues (which has its own issues associated with it).

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Pasha Muravyev

What Josh said is probably accurate, but here's a data point of where you can get to with a late start (sorry, the page is in Russian).

 

The man's name is Gao Min yuan, and he started stretching for several hours a day at 60 years old. Now he's in his 70s.

 

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http://www.ageofhappiness.ru/blog/gao_min_yuan/127/#&slider1=7

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Joshua Slocum

The only way you'll ever know how far you can get is if you start stretching. You may never reach the extreme limits of contortion, but if you work hard, you'll certainly be able to achieve some impressive feats of flexibility. 

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Philip Chubb

You'll get further than you probably are now. A split in each direction, full pike, pancake, and bridge are all possible for you, I'm sure. But like Joshua said, the extreme amount he has is probably from starting early. You also have to consider that if you can enter that range of motion, you had better be VERY strong in the range of motion. Because it will be much easier to fall into it without a warm up and when you do, it is going to hurt. Achieve the basic levels of flexibility first which will put you far ahead of everyone else. Then see if going further is worth it

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Jake Lawrance

Thankyou for your responses guys, very informative! (I know little about flexibility :P) Yes I am getting near to both the splits and nearly a full pike. 

 

It's a shame though as I suspect everyone would love to press into a handstand as good as that! 

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Joshua Naterman

stretching for several hours a day

I have said this before, but this is usually not a practical approach for working age people :)

 

However, if you have (or make) the time, you should expect impressive results.

 

Just make sure you keep the muscles around the joints strong, because this level of flexibility DOES make your joints inherently less stable.

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FREDERIC DUPONT

(...) It's a shame though as I suspect everyone would love to press into a handstand as good as that! 

 

I don't think you must be capable of sleeping inside a Rubik's cube box to acquire a decent press to HS :wacko:

You'll get there with proper method and persistence. :)

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Joshua Slocum

I don't think you must be capable of sleeping inside a Rubik's cube box to acquire a decent press to HS :wacko:

You'll get there with proper method and persistence. :)

 

Sure. At the extreme end of inflexibility, you can just learn to press through a straddle planche  :P

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David McManamon

One more video may add to this discussion:

The training of Jacek Malinowski.

A high pain tolerance and an absurd work ethic may yield excellent results.  Flexibility is quite simple, sitting around all day is very bad, light stretching will lead to gains, serious stretching will lead to more gains.  

Once you build a solid foundation, start to push your limits and see how far you can take it.

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acrobatlegend

Wow those are some amazing videos. I can't say much about contortion, but I can tell you that I couldn't touch my toes when I was 17, and after many years of stretching I can now pancake and do full splits both sides. 

 

As a side question, does being that flexible (as Ricardo) hurt your tumbling power? I have a friend who is a gymnastics coach and he says that he thinks the reason he can bound so high (to do double backs and double fronts) is because he is so inflexible and can store up that tension in his legs and body. 

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Joshua Slocum

As a side question, does being that flexible (as Ricardo) hurt your tumbling power? I have a friend who is a gymnastics coach and he says that he thinks the reason he can bound so high (to do double backs and double fronts) is because he is so inflexible and can store up that tension in his legs and body. 

 

Your friend is full of bovine fecal matter. I can do double backs, and I'm pretty close to double fronts. I have a middle split, I can touch my palms to the floor with straight legs without warming up, and I can do a pancake with my chest and stomach on the floor.  

Good tumbling comes first and foremost from good form. You also need a good amount of strength to hold your body rigid and tense your calves. There's nothing that puts your limbs through an extreme range of motion, so there's no reason why inflexibility would help. 

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acrobatlegend

Your friend is full of bovine fecal matter. I can do double backs, and I'm pretty close to double fronts. I have a middle split, I can touch my palms to the floor with straight legs without warming up, and I can do a pancake with my chest and stomach on the floor.  

Good tumbling comes first and foremost from good form. You also need a good amount of strength to hold your body rigid and tense your calves. There's nothing that puts your limbs through an extreme range of motion, so there's no reason why inflexibility would help. 

 

 

I guess I was thinking more like, a super extreme amount of flexibility being bad for tumling. Like Ricardo in the video. Would someone like him be less powerful tumbling for whatever physical reasons because of his super flexibility?

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Joshua Slocum

I guess I was thinking more like, a super extreme amount of flexibility being bad for tumling. Like Ricardo in the video. Would someone like him be less powerful tumbling for whatever physical reasons because of his super flexibility?

I do not believe so, for the same reason stated above. Extreme flexibility may impair your joint stability near the extremes of your ROM, but tumbling, and punching in particular, does not involve any extreme ROM.

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FREDERIC DUPONT

hey, this is an interesting question/discussion, worthy of a new thread...

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yuri marmerstein

It is absolutely possible to reach contortion level flexibility from no background, though probably not quite Ricardo Sosa level.  Off the top of my head, I can think of two very high level pole dancer friends. both currently in their early 30s who had no prior athletic background before starting pole dancing at the age of 26/27.  They both take their stretching seriously and have come a long way. 

 

However, contortion is a long and painful road, so be prepared. 

 

 

Tumbling is about being quick and explosive, which at the right times requires one to be very stiff.  People with high levels of flexibility like dancers or contortionists have trouble learning how to tumble because they are not used to being stiff.  Being flexible is not bad for tumbling, it's just that you have to learn how to engage your joints to be able to take the high loads place upon them. 

 

People with extreme flexibility simply have to learn to turn if off at the right times.

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Joshua Slocum

Also, having a good bridge is quite beneficial to tumbling, as it allows you to perform a better back hand-spring. 

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Jake Lawrance

Goodness, this post has elaborated quite a bit! Don't think I'd be able to stretch several hours a day unless I'm doing splits during my studying O.o I'll definitely see how far I'd be able to get this year, although I can't imagine myself breaking past a 180* split. 

 

Also I never was spectacularly flexible, took me about 4 months to touch my heels straight legged :)

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Pasha Muravyev

Here's an article that was sent out to my living group today. It basically reiterates the common knowledge that static stretching before exercise reduces your power output during it (I'm aware that this has nothing to do with flexibility/power ratio in general)

 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/reasons-not-to-stretch/

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Jake Lawrance

Ah I learnt about static stretching before exercise quite awhile ago actually, it makes sense which is why when finishing off with shoulder stability exercises I find it helps to stretch out the upper traps and pectoral/anterior deltoid to reduce it's activity.

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Karl Kallio

static stretching before exercise reduces your power output during it

That article quotes studies that suggest that static stretching alone isn't a good warm-up (Surprise!).  

 

From what I remember the reduction effect was immediately after long, hard stretches, and lasted for a few minutes. So if you do your flexibility work at the end of the workout or in a separate session you won't notice any problem, or even just separate the two things by a brief period.  As in warm-ups are for preparing your body to do well in it's existing ROM and flexibility work is to increase ROM it's probably easy to maintain the two things separate.

 

I can't remember where I saw this information, sorry for the lack of references.

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Vagabond

I red that too. Also, I think it's okay to do some quick deep stretches during the warm-up (preferably by the end), so long as your muscles don't really have time to relax. Per example, do the 3 splits for 10 seconds each. It's not long enough for your muscles to completely relax, so it doesn't impair them. While doing flexibility, I also generally avoid stretching for too long. I'd rather do many sets of less than a minute, with active components included in the same period of time. I stretch that way because I want my muscles to still be activated even in big ROM position.

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