We use a combination of fascial release and muscle rolling techniques using polished wooden sticks, and the Stretch Therapy™ contract-relax approach for a fantastic final stretch position. These techniques, done once or twice a week, will get you down there, in time.
The problem muscle pair for middle splits is gracilis and the inner hamstring (semimembranosus), for most people. If you're one of those people who feel is a thin line of tension on the inner thigh when you try to do this movement that goes down across the inside of the knee, then it's most likely this pair. Very frequently, this pair of muscles are literally "stuck" together—this is completely normal if you are not already really flexible and are using this range of movement regularly. If you are not, though, you will need to "unstick" this pair, and that's what this technique plus a "contract-relax" approach to this stretching exercise is designed to do.
Dave is getting down into side splits using our favourite approach, which basically is supporting yourself on your arms, doing strong contractions with the adductors, and then lowering yourself in a controlled way from this position. But what a lot of people find is that this muscle here, gracilis, just on the inside of the leg, especially where it crosses the knee and just above there, can feel extremely tight and uncomfortable. So what we've come up with is a roll stretch approach to loosening this fascia and muscle. So this is how we do it.
I've got the thinner of the two sticks here. We take the stick here, being careful of course not to get too close to the groin. And then I'm going to hold his fine position with my head and pull the stick towards me, and then slowly slide the stick down, pausing in different places. Now, you can slide it or you can actually roll it like this, as I'm doing. Rolling is a bit more gentle, but sliding creates a bit more heat. So depending on which effect you want in your body, choose between those two. I'm using a combination at the moment. And I can feel that as I pull the stick up like this, it's bearing on one what seemed like a very narrow piece of tissue. It's probably maybe a centimetre and a half, or two centimetres wide and that's gracilis itself in his case.
So we go down to just above the knee here, like this, still pulling the stick towards me, creating pressure on that muscle rolling, pull, hold, roll. And is that low enough? Is that, or do you want me to go a bit further?
Okay, so that's one side. He doesn't lower himself. If we go into the other side, so I quickly pull, slide and roll. Pull. And I'm using my head to keep his thigh completely still while he does this. Pull, pull, pull. You get the idea. All the way down to the knee. Then he does another contraction. We'll count the contraction down. Five, four, three, two, one, stop. Takes a breath in, and this is critical. Relaxes the body completely and on a breath out, slides the legs further apart as you can see. You can probably see two things here. One is, he's doing the splits in the most difficult position with the feet facing the floor, and also his legs are perfectly 180 degrees apart and he's just moving the hips slowly forward and backwards from that point of maximum stretch.
Why don't you to just roll your legs out? Just roll the legs out this way. Rolling them out this way makes the hip joint itself more flexible. And the other aspect too, to this is that when you have the legs turned out, you'll find that the hamstrings take the major strain of the demand of doing side splits rather than the adductors. And you can find some point in between those two where the stretch is most easily achieved for you. For me personally, feet pointing up to the sky loosens up the hip joints completely, and I'm then just limited by hamstring flexibility only. How does that feel? That's pretty good with no warm up. Okay.