Regenerative ~ Reconstructive ~ Rehabilitative

The Splits, a brief study

The Splits
A study of the Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Massage
For performance

Introduction

As a martial artist, and having been one for over 20 years with little success in side kicking or roundhouse kicking an equal height opponent in the head with any power or balance, I have been pre occupied with the doing “the splits”. Specifically, doing what is called the “Chinese Splits”, straddle splits, or side splits, where the legs are abducted to 180 degrees.

These splits differ from the “Front Splits” which require one leg to be flexed to 90 degrees while the other leg is extended 90 degrees, creating full 180 degree spread.

The reason for wanting to accomplish this goal is a matter of utility and functionality. The flexibility required to accomplish a side kick or roundhouse kick to an opponent’s head with enough force to knock an opponent out, without damaging the soft tissue of the hip or leg or losing one’s balance, increases the speed and power of lower line kicks. It also increases balance, speed and reaction rates.

Further, flexibility of the hips can reduce the effect of existing soft tissue damage in the lower back, hips and knees, and reduce the chances of injury to these areas from the related activities.

Anatomy

In order to accomplish doing the splits, first we have to understand the various soft tissue and osseous tissue affected.

First we need to look at the structure within the human body- the skeleton. The “hips” are comprised of two large, flat, bowl shaped bones called the pelvic bones (innominate bones or coxal bones). Each pelvic bone is comprised of three separate, but fused bones- The Illium, the Ischium, and the Pubis. Superiorly, the coxal bones articulate with the sacrum. Inferiorly, the coxal bones join together at the medial edge of the pubis separated by a disk of fibrocartilage, creating a slightly moveable joint called the Pubic Symphisis.

The pelvic bones articulate with the head of the femur at the acetabulum of the pelvis, located in the bowl of the Illium, forming a Diathrotic (or Synovial) ball and socket type joint capable of The femur is the long bone of the leg. Proximally, it is comprised of the head, the neck, the greater trochanter and the lesser trochanter. Distally, it articulates with the proximal head of the tibia and is overlaid by the patella.

The soft tissue is primarily affected by the doing the side splits, obviously, and therefore no discussion about the splits would be near complete with an understanding of what these structures are and how they are affected.
Soft tissue can be broken up into 4 different categories- joint capsule, ligamental, tendonal /muscle, and superficial fascial tissue.

The joint capsule of the hip- as well as all other joint capsules in the body- is comprised of a thin layer of fascia comprised mostly of collagen fibers which is an extension of the periosteum of the bone. The joint capsule acts not only to help stabilize the joint, but to contain synovial fluid, or the joint’s natural lubricant. It’s the deepest layer of connective in the body.

Ligaments are strong, sometimes thick, bands of fiber featuring a high percentage of collagen fibers with a greatly lesser amount elastin fibers. This creates a form of soft tissue with little flexibility, but perfect for ensuring structural integrity of the skeleton.

The following ligaments are directly affected by the side splits:
Sacrotuberous Ligament Spans from the Ischial tuberosity (“sits” bone) to the edge of the Posterior Inferior Illiac Spine (PIIS) and posterior edge of the Sacrum. Serves, in part, as the origin for the lower fibers of the Gluteus Maximus…..

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