A split a fire walk an act of faith

Victor Popenko's 1994 book Flexibility, Strength, Endurance, became abestseller among the Russian Mafia enforcers, who pride themselves on being the best-conditioned bad guys in the world. Popenko writes:

"The key to mobility is relaxation. Usually the body possesses great stretching reserves but the stretched muscle is resisting by trying to contract, and this resistance must be overcome with the psychological mindset on relaxation.

Stretching exercises must be performed slowly and carefully, with a fixation of the stretched position for a minute or so. While holding the stretch all your intentions should be on relaxation, a reduction of tension in the stretched muscles. Such mental concentration enables one to reach stunning results.

Appropriate images and pictures sometimes help the relaxation mindset. For example, imagine that your legs are the ends of a rope easily spread apart as you perform a split. Visualizing heat is very helpful. Mentally wrap the spot with most muscular tension with a hot towel in a few layers. As this hot application heats up, the muscle softens up and relaxes.

Be persistent in your desire to relax the stretched muscles. Every time you succeed, you have succeeded in stretching yourself a little further."

A suspended side split, like a fire walk, is an act of faith. This is not psychobabble, this is a fact.

There is an intimate connection between the limbic system, which governs the emotions, and the neural networks that govern muscular length and tension. Scientific studies show that fear and anxiety, as well as pain, reduce flexibility.

With that in mind, maximize the safety of your stretches—and their perceived safety. If it takes three chairs, a step stool, and a spotter to make you feel safe during your splits—so be it. The reasons for your fear may not be real, but it wipes out your flexibility for real just the same.

If you do not believe that you can do a wishbone, you never will. And vice versa. Confidence and yoga-like tranquility allow extreme flexibility to happen.

Although not a must, various tools for relaxing the body and the mind from sports psychology and Oriental self-improvement disciplines—such as the Jacobson's Progressive Relaxation Technique and Chi Kung meditation, will ease your ascension to the rank of superflexible mutants. The unique vibration drills of Russian champions from my book and tape Fast & Loose! are guaranteed to be of great help.

Another relaxation tip. Drs. Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff, renowned sports scientists and the authors of Supertraining, advise controlling muscular tension in the face and hands, because it reflects overall tension. Indeed, your face and your hands have a much greater nerve supply than the rest of the body—you could say that they own the controlling interest in your relaxation stock.

Relaxation Tips

• Focus your intentions on the relaxation of your muscles and mind.

• Appropriate visualizations, for example heat, help relaxation.

• Anxiety and pain reduce flexibility. Reduce them by progressing at a comfortable pace and maximizing the safety of your stretches.

• Consider taking up meditation, the Jacobson's Progressive Relaxation Technique, or some other relaxation technique from sports psychology and Oriental self-improvement disciplines. The vibration and passive movement drills from Fast & Loose! are awesome.

• Control muscular tension in the face and hands because it reflects overall tension. Literally 'wipe' the tension off your face with your palms, slowly and firmly, from top to bottom.

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