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Working A Sassier Angle: Get A Better Straddle In 30 Days

 

 Is your straddle more sad than sassy? Do you celebrate every inch beyond 90 degrees? Take heart, Dear Danglers – help is on the way!

The Anatomy of a Straddle

 When I say “straddle”, I’m referring to the wildly indelicate position we adopt while inverting in the air, stretching our inner thighs, or falling down the stairs. It looks like this in the air…

 

Miss Hannah Risner's Aerial Straddle

 

… this while seated….

Miss Hannah's Floor Straddle

 

… and this while falling down the stairs.

 

Laura falling down the stairs. In a straddle.

 

Several factors go into whether your position is wow-worthy, namely:

  • The structure of your hip joint
  • The flexibility of the inner thigh muscles
  • The strength of the gluteal (tushie)muscles
  • How much padding you have in said area
  • How many times you’ve fallen down the stairs (kidding…. mostly)

 

How to Make It (More) Awesome

 

  1. Stretch your inner thigh muscles while seated in a straddle. Remember: only go to strong sensation, never to pain! Now, play with the position of your torso – take it forward, over one leg, over the other, etc. Play with flexing & pointing your feet. BE GENTLE – you want to be able to walk tomorrow.
  2. Strengthen your “straddle pulling” muscles. Lie on your back with your legs up a wall. Straddle, and engage the muscles of your tush & outer thigh to puuuuuuuuuuuull your straddle wider. Jump around to get rid of that muscle spasm you just gave yourself. Now, do it away from the wall (for you yoga types, you can also work this from a modified shoulder stand position).
  3. When conditioning in the air, squeeze those same muscles you just used & see if you can get some extra inches – strength matters almost as much as flexibility!

As usual, consistency counts. Take three minutes every day for the next 30 days to work your straddle, and you’ll be thirty days closer to sittin’ pretty like Miss Hannah up there. Happy straddling, peeps! Love and pull-ups , Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, FB, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are posting things these days!

Many thanks to the beautiful and always sassy Miss Hannah Risner for posing for photos!

 

Photos: Laura Witwer

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19 comments on “Working A Sassier Angle: Get A Better Straddle In 30 Days”

  1. Pippi Parnasse Reply

    Dear Ms. Laura,

    I would gladly take your 30 day challenge. Except it’s hard to quantify the results to see objectively how well the challenge works. What do you recommend to measure progress? Measuring tape? A protractor? It’s hard also because there are two angles to be considered: how far you can straddle your legs apart, and how far in you can pike towards them.

    If you have a reliable means of measuring, I’m in!

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Bravo, Pippi! The easiest way to measure progress is to straddle against a wall, and have a friend put a piece of tape where your feet hit. Measure again in 30 days & see where you are!

  2. Sabrina McNeal Reply

    I, too, like Pippi am taking the 30-day challenge. Although everyone’s body is different, one of my biggest issues is my lack of flexibility. I didn’t hit my goal of having a split last year (but it’s much better). Again, your newsletter come at exactly the right time!!!

    Will let you know how it goes…also, measuring progress…should I measure from heel-to-heel or toe-to-toe?

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Go Sabrina go!!!!! I’m a muscle girl, so flexibility is a hurdle for me too. In the case of stretching, slow and steady really does win the race (where as fast and furious almost always ends in injury). A little stretching every day will yield results! I like to measure heel to heel, but it doesn’t matter – just be consistent with it each time. Let me know how it goes!

  3. Sheri Reply

    I just found your website today. My struggle is doing a straight-leg straddle up; my legs always bend. I know how it’s supposed to look but I cannot get the right feeling. I’m at a loss; do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Absolutely, Sheri! Try going in reverse until you can do it in slow motion. Get into your straddle position, then lower down with straight legs slooooooooooooooooooooooowly. It’s called reverse training & works really well for straddles. Hamstring flexibility can also factor into it – make sure you’re giving your hamstrings a thorough warm-up & stretch before each class. Hope that helps! Keep me posted! 🙂

  4. Lauren Reply

    I have been looking at your website for awhile now. I started aerial silks 2 months ago and I am getting really frustrated with straddling. So far I can lift my legs up to a 90 degree angle right out in front of me but it feels like I have the heaviest butt on the planet and I cant seem to get the lift up higher so I can flip over. Any tips on how I can do it? Thanks. 🙂

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Hi Lauren! You’re going to hate this, but you’re right on track! Inverts are HARD. That said, you can up your chances of success by “reverse training” them. From the ground, jump back into your straddle (cheat however you need to!). From here, you’re going to reverse your straddle – coming down SLOWLY until your feet (softly) touch the ground and your arms are bent back to their beginning position. Also? Work your pullups. 🙂 Your butt will be over your head before you know it!

  5. Kristi Reply

    So straddling is something I’ve had a hard time with in general. I’ve been doing silks for over a year, and just now almost have it, and some days I can even hold it for a few seconds. I’ve been trying to hone in on which muscles are the weak link in being able to hold my straddle – not sure if they are just weak or if I’m not firing the correct ones. I have excellent hamstring flexibility, so I think it may be lower abs and/or back muscles that I need to work on? Also, I have access to a studio only 2-3 a week. Can you recommend any good exercises that I can do outside the studio to help build strength for inversions?

  6. Lauren Reply

    Everyone I speak to about straddling says the same thing: its hard!! But I think we naturally think we should do it and we go back to when we were kids and we would hang upside down like monkeys on bars. I have been doing aerial for 9 months and I took Laura’s advice about trying it in reverse and it does help! I started hanging by my knees on the lyra, grabbing on with my hands and going into a straddle and lowering it slowly. It gave me a good idea on what my body is doing and when I finally decided to try straddling again I could do it – once – but you have to start somewhere. 🙂

    • Kristi Reply

      Yeah, I am actually way more successful on lyra doing straddles – might be a mental thing? Straddles are definitely my biggest goal right now! I’ve been working on pull ups for a long time, so I’m definitely going to integrate toe touches (or whatever I can do) into my pull up routine! Man, aerial is so rewarding, isn’t it?

  7. Lauren Reply

    I think it is a mental thing, I can straddle in the hammock even when the silk isnt supporting my back but when I try it on the silks I get half way there and only a few times have gone all the way over. I read somewhere once that if you even slightly think you can’t do something your brain will automatically hold back. Interesting! I love aerial, I even did a one hour private lesson with Laura in Brooklyn in May of this year and it was so much fun. 🙂

  8. bayleigh Reply

    Thank you for your blog. It is an insightful and fun read. At my studio they do the frog to increase straddle flexibility, but both my knees were replaced so they don’t get into the position. I do stretching on the floor and against the wall as you suggested, but still struggle to get further than a right angle. I should say that it has previously been fairly easy for me to gain flexibility and my side splits are very very close. But the straddle has my stymied. Have you anything else in your bag of tricks, experience, and collective wisdom that I could try? Would appreciate any thoughts. Thank you!

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Hi Bayleigh! There could be a number of things giving you a challenge with your straddle. You mentioned that your knees have been replaced – this is a biggie! Several muscles (the vastus medialis comes to mind) attach at the hip and knee. You may find that the surgeries on your knees are affecting how wide an angle you can get. Additionally, the structure of the hip itself may be giving you a run for your money – some folks are put together a little tighter here (deeper socket, etc) than others. That said, there’s always room for growth! It’s worth keeping in mind that flexibiity in our “trouble zones” takes a looooooong time to significantly increase, and consistency is crucial. Keep at it! Make sure you’re stretching a wide variety of straddle positions – seated (forward bend, over each leg, flexed foot, pointed foot, etc), lying (legs up a wall), and standing (sumo squat and use your elbows to gently press the knees open). Go GENTLY – just to strong sensation, NEVER to pain. Good luck – please do let me know if you find something that works well for you! 🙂

  9. Cassie Reply

    Laura!! I am in LOVE with your blog- thank you so so so so much for posting so many things! I am a beginner lyra practitioner (I take a class once a week and have been doing so since October! yay! Definitely want to become a performer one day) and have recently dedicated myself to trying to stretch every day….one thing i’ve noticed when trying to practice my middle split/straddle is that my outer thigh muscles (along the hips/side of quads) tend to cramp?? making stretching hella difficult. Could you potentially recommend why that might be/a stretch for that area? 😀 I’m extraordinarily inflexible due to years of exercise abuse with no stretching..definitely kicking myself for that now. Oh well, I know that with time I’ll improve- i’m loving the journey and how much stronger i’ve come! I was able to invert for the first time last week 🙂
    Thanks for being such an inspiration!! I am definitely an avid reader now 🙂

    Best,
    Cassie

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Thank you, Cassie!!!! The good news is that those cramps mean that you’re strongly engaging the outer thigh, and using essential tension in addition to floor positioning to work your stretch. WIN! The downside, of course, is the cramps themselves. Try a “4” stretch (lie on your back, cross one ankle over one knee, draw the knee towards the chest), or lie on your back, leg straight up, rotate your leg inward (so your toes point towards the center of your body), flex and sickle your foot, then keep both hips on the floor as you bring the extended leg across the body (you may only get a few inches of movement). Hope those help a bit! 🙂

      • Cassie Reply

        Ahhh yes that makes a lot of sense! I’ll definitely give that stretch a try tonight- thanks so much! 🙂

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