You've been working on your front splits in the hope of one day nailing a flat jade split to die for! So what I'm going to say next may come as a surprise... I'm afraid that whilst achieving splits on the floor is awesome and will certainly help, it alone (in flexibility terms, strength & technique is a whole other subject) is not enough to nail that perfect Jade.
Lets just first look at flexibility and what that actually means. There is not one person who I have ever spoken to in the pole and aerial world who does not want to be more flexible. Good flexibility equals looking amazing in tricks such as Jade, Allegra, and heck Rainbow Marcheko may even be on your list! It makes our lines look better and everything just flow nicer. Flexibility can be defined as the capacity of a joint or muscle to move through its full range of motion. Put simply, how far we can move, bend or twist.
When talking about stretching in order to increase flexibility, things can get a little complicated. There are different types of stretching which can be applied to different outcomes, depending on your end goal. Today, I am going to talk about passive and active stretching/flexibility.So here comes another definition: Passive stretching is where we hold the stretch by means other than your own muscular power. A perfect example of this is the splits. We are using the floor as the power, or resistance to achieve the stretch. Active stretching is when we achieve the maximum range of movement by using our muscles to get there. So, when we lift our leg up in front of us and hold it there, we are using the strength of the opposing muscles, quadriceps (antagonist) to generate a stretch within the targeted muscle groups, hamstrings (agonist). Aha, there is a reason behind that part of stretch class after all, its not just an evil endurance exercise. This type of stretch is usually harder to hold and therefore we tend to hold for about 10 seconds max.
Passive flexibility won't necessarily transfer directly onto those moves you're working hard to nail on the pole. If we continue to use Jade as an example: The hamstring of your front leg is stretching from the force exerted from your arm pulling/holding it down. Therefore, the front leg in a Jade split is utilising passive flexibility. But what about that back leg? What is holding that down? Your quadriceps (antagonist) are contracting to relax the opposing muscles of the hamstring (agonist) so to get that back leg down, we need to use active flexibility. This is true for a lot of moves on the pole, particularly as we get more advanced. Other examples where active flexibility will make a move are Machine Gun and Chopsticks. If we don't work on building strength in our active flexibility, we will find these moves incredibly difficult.
Here's the blow ! Most people will have a huge gap between their passive and active flexibility. Good passive flexibility is by far the easiest to achieve. Well that totally sucks, given what we have just discussed, hey! But here's the good news, by working on our active flexibility, we will also strengthen our passive. In addition, good active flexibility means stronger muscles which means the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles are less likely to become injured.
So, todays message: Splits on the floor does not always equate to splits on the pole. If we want to look awesome in our bendy moves on the pole, we must train both passive and active flexibility.