Many of the people starting out in flexibility and their journey to be a contortionist seem to suffer from a selection of similar issues. It’s easy to get your head into all of the stuff that looks cool and impressive – it isn’t a competition, when ultimately if you don’t prepare correctly you, as a beginner contortionist will ultimately lose out in the long run.
You’re a beginner contortionist but you don’t want to start at the beginning.
Everything we do in life is based on progression. Crawl, walk, run. You don’t go to the gym for your first time, load up a barbell with 200kg and have a go at squatting it do you? Flexibility is exactly the same, especially when it comes to training for contortion. You have to progress your contortion stretches correctly in order to get to where you want to be. If you’re just starting out and you can’t do any actual poses, that’s fine, start building your foundation. I know it’s boring and it doesn’t look as cool as the cheststand that you want to start working on, but this will pay dividends later on. This is especially important when thinking about things such as alignment. A number of contortionist poses require good alignment in your practice to help keep you safe as well as helping your progress. Keeping your hips square in splits, for example, is super important.
Take a look at some beginner poses
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You ask loads of questions, but you’ve not started stretching yet.
Asking questions is great, and I greatly encourage you to ask questions of those more advanced than yourself in order to better your practice. There is a point, however, whereby you just have to dive in there and start learning practically. It is after all called practice not study. One of the most enjoyable things about training to become a contortionist is figuring out how your body works in its own specific way (everybody is different!). Once you’ve got some actual training time under your belt you’re in a much better place to ask questions, as you’ll have started to gain a better understanding of how your body works in different exercises.
You don’t approach contortion training in a smart way
This one really isn’t your fault, you’ve just started and you’re really not sure as to what you’re doing. Especially if you’ve never ventured into physical activity before, or at least not in something that has flexibility as a main component. Something that comes with time and dedication is that you start to learn how your body works and reacts to things, unfortunately it takes just this, time.
So how do you train smart if you don’t really know what you’re doing? You take things slowly and you explore things in a logical way. For example, you might be starting on a foundation skill like splits, before you just jump right into trying to do them, look at the component parts and think about the exercises you might need to do in order to train these parts. Splits are accomplished using your hamstrings and hip flexors, so these are the areas that you should focus on.
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Not knowing how to ask the right questions
Again, this comes with time – you can’t ask about something that you don’t know exists, right? Even if you don’t know what you’re asking about initially, it’s the way that you ask that matters. For example:
“Does anyone know any good hamstring stretches?”
This is such an open-ended question that it’s hardly worth asking or answering. What are you trying to achieve? Where is your currently your ability level? Have you tried anything before? Is something not working, or do you literally have no idea where to begin? So many unknowns!
A better example would be:
“I’m an absolute beginner and I’ve started trying to work on my front splits, I’ve found some stretches online, but I’m not sure if they’re the best for what I want to do. I’ve included examples.”
This is a much better way to ask as you’ve set out your intention, we know what you’re level is and you’ve provided examples – best in the form of photographs. This allows whomever you’re asking to have enough information to give you a helpful reply.
Working on on your strengths, and not your weaknesses
This is something unique to beginners, however it is a good idea to build productive habits from the outset. Even if you’re getting started you may have areas that you are naturally inclined to gravitate towards. Things such as the innate ability to split, do a decent bridge or having particularly open shoulders are definite advantages. These can however very quickly become the focus of your training because it is easier for you than some of the other aspects of training, such as conditioning, or a certain aspect of the foundation flexibility that you should be working on.
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