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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pavel Tsatsouline


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Maybe there is a better category for this post ... but I was wondering about Pavel Tsatsouline's techniques and/or Thomas Kurtz (Stretching Scientifically). I just read a few things on the web regarding the methods that they support and I ordered one of their books to see what the hype is all about. Has anyone tried these techniques and have anything to say about it? Did I waste 20 bucks on the book? ;>


Here's some links if you have no idea what I am talking about:





I watched a preview of one of Pavel's videos, he starts it out saying, "Commrade, I trained russian commandos to do the splits in 6 months or less, now, that I've turned into a rotting capitalist dog, I'm gonna teach you too, when I'm done with you, you should have the flexibility of a mutant or else." It's gotta be worth atleast the laugh from hearing that!

Edited by elise
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I dunno. He keeps saying on the website that he can teach ou to do a full spit "without any warmup". Seems pretty contradictory to everything that the experts on this site agree is safe. I have no idea what the methods he uses are, so I can't comment beyond that.


I was able to stretch into a full split on the right side after about seven months of training. We do a lot of isometric stretching, and I've found that it has improved not only my flexibility, but dramatically improved my stability and strength. My "standing" leg is really able to work to maintain rotation and support which has helped me to stabilize my knee and hip joints and eliminate some problems I've always had with pain in those areas.


I would never attempt any intense hamstring stretching without working up a good sweat first and doing some simple exercises to loosen the hips ie..after a barre would be sufficient. It's good to have an instructor watch as well, to make sure you're not placing undue stress on the joints with a slight misalignment. A front/back split can be very stressful on the knees and hips if you allow your legs to turn in or out. I always make sure to stretch the hip flexors as well as the hamstrings before a split.


Remember that obtaining a split isn't an end in of itself for ballet. It's the technique involved in working the stretch which gives the most benefit.


I'm curious to hear about these methods though. I 've never heard of these guys.

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well it seems what they are saying is that the muscles and tendons are already long enough to complete things such as the splits (in most cases). and that instead of trying to stretch these tendons to achieve splits you need to train your body to relax and allow you to complete the task. that it isn't the length of tendons holding you back but rather the muscles/brain simply not allowing it. from what i can tell it's used quite frequently in martial arts. in my head it all makes sense but you never know, sometimes these people are pretty good at convincing folks the world is flat and what have you! i guess we shall see what happens when the book i ordered arrives.

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flexibility test


This is the URL I was looking at. It seems like what they're saying is that some people may not have the joint mobility and tendon length to even be able to achieve a split in the first place, for various reasons. These positions are used to test that mobility. What's bothersome about this though is that people will naturally tend to lift and tilt the pelvis and misalign the torso in order to obtain what they think is the correct position. Only an outside observer (a teacher) can correct this. It IS the muscle length which neeeds to be "trained". This is correct actually, but I'm still wary of the whole idea of stretching without warmup.


Fully "relaxing" into a stretch can be dangerous as well, although there's various schools of thought on that issue. I have personally found that a contraction with resistance, whether it be the floor or my hands, followed immediately be a stretch (relaxing but still maintaining some degree of muscular control) has been very effective for me. After speaking with several teachers and professional dancers whose opinions I trust, this seems to be a fairly common method of stretching.


Let us know the about material in the book once you get it. I'm totally curious :dry:


I'm not a teacher yet, so I think I'll reserve any further opinions on the subject until one of the moderators has contributed.

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One only can wonder at WHY the Russian commandos would want to do splits.


Perhaps to make themselves into convenient small self-mobile bridges so that the rest of the platoon can cross over them? Maybe it was psychological warfare? I know I'd stop whatever I was doing if somebody opened up on me with an AK-74 while going into a straddle split!


Stretching cold is one of the Bad Ideas of all classical ballet. See what these guys have to offer, and let us know.

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well my book arrived yesterday and i've read the introduction parts. i haven't started the stretches yet but i thought i'd put a little review of it so far.


he dedicated this book to his mother and includes an old photo of her doing the splits in a little ballet costume as a child. i found that quite cute.


first he explains why stretching is not the way to become flexible. this is basically his reasoning behind the book along with the analogy that if you can put one leg out to the side at a 90 degree angle, and you can put the other leg out to the side at a 90 degree angle, then nothing should be stopping you from having them both out, in the straddle splits. he says "like your land rover, your legs boast independent suspension." in other words there is nothing but skin connecting your two legs. so his reason for not being able to do the splits is that it's neuromuscular.


he then explains a few techniques to fool your brain into letting you do these things. "waiting out the tension," "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation," isometric stretching, "contrast breathing," "forced relaxation," and "clasp knife" stretching. and he explains when and when not to do each kind of stretch technique. he's got some psysiology in there about how muscles and things work.


he then lists and explains 24 different drills. explaining that if you can only do them 2 times a week it is "better than a slap in the face with a wet fish." there's a few more sections on strength and plateau busting strategies, and then 13 more advanced stretches.


there's quite a bit of reference to his other books, "fast & loose," "super joints," and "bullet proof abs." as well as a bit of weird humor, he always refers to the reader as "commrade."


it seems to make sense to me. and mainly the stretches aren't anything you haven't seen or done before. i think the main premise is that instead of just stretching all the time, you need to think about what you are doing and relax. trick your brain into letting your body do the splits. so basically now i think the only way to see if this is a bunch of hooey is to actually do these techniques and see what happens. and either i'll be a "superflexible mutant" or i won't be walking any more :>

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Sounds like a fun book - thanks for the amusing review! :wink:


Please let us know if you do become a superflexible mutant. Then I might have to buy the book...

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he does explain why commandos would even want to do the splits and he says that mainly because it's a goal that helps them get over the pain. so no real fighting advantage to the splits i guess ;)

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  • 2 months later...

Hi Elise


I was just wondering how you got on with 'Relax into Stretch' - have you managed to turn youself into a superflexible mutant yet?!


One of my aims for this year is to work more effectively on my flexibility, which hasn't responded much to the stretching I've done in the past. I bought 'Relax into Stretch' and Thomas Kunz's 'Stretching Scientifically' (which is a lot more comprehensive, but lacking in wacky humour!) with this in mind, and am curious whether I can expect the dramatic improvements they promise.


I have to say that I've been impressed reading 'Stretching Scientifically', although I've not tried any of its methods yet. It doesn't hold any secrets that can't be found elsewhere, but its descriptions of the whys and hows of stretching are the clearest I've come across, and have helped me to see where I've gone wrong in the past. It's also extremely concerned with safety, which gives me a lot of faith that I'm not going to damage myself!


I'll keep everyone informed how I get on,but in the meantime I'd be interested to hear of anyone else's experiences.

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sadly i haven't been overly motivated, which isn't a surprise. but being a new year and all perhaps i will get a move on finally.


i do try and stretch using the techniques in the book when i am at class and it seems very effective. so far my best improvement has been getting closer to a pancake sitting in straddle position on the floor.


just imagine what would happen if i stuck to it every day! i'll keep you updated!

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I have the book too, and cannot understand most of it. The translation is not the best and often confusing. I am trying to relax into my stretches and it seems to help.



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