Gymnastics, Flexibility and Emptying Your Cup


At first, I thought of naming this post “On Mixing Apples and Oranges or Empty Your Cup” but then, who would find it? Now, to the point . . .

A former gymnast writes:

> Hi Thomas,
> I’ve recently begun using your program to increase my flexibility. I
> used to be a gymnast, and I could actually do all the splits. However,
> now when I do the side split, the limiting factor is not in my hips,
> it is in my knees. Whenever I do a side split or the isometric side
> split stretch with one leg raised, I get sharp pains in my knees. The
> pain is concentrated in the ligaments running along the inside of the
> knee, and it is only there when I relax into the stretch. When I tense
> the muscles running along the inside of my legs, the pain goes away.
> Is this normal? What should I do to fix this?
> Thanks in advance,
> — James


When you were a gymnast you were young, and your hip joints had a different configuration from that of an adult. The form of leg stretches that worked for you then won’t work for you now that your hip joints are mature. This I explain in the book Stretching Scientifically. Further, your mass is greater now than it was then, so the stress on your knees is now greater in relation to the strength of their ligaments.

To put it briefly, your problem is caused by “not emptying your cup.” (Not familiar with Zen lore? Click here.)

To put it in a more blabbing way, you are trying to use my method while sticking with the gymnastic form of stretches that works best with children. You cause your knee pain by not following the form I show, which is designed for adults, because you can’t get past your gymnastic habits.

And yes, the pain you feel on the insides of your knees when you relax into your stretch is normal—that is to say, this is the expected result of an anatomically inefficient form of stretching.

The movie below gives you a clue how adults should stretch for splits.

Request for help:

One of our authors and my friend, Piotr Drabik, has disappeared in September of 2006 after he landed on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii, where he was seen on airport security cameras. He arrived there from Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), through Salt Lake City, Utah, and Honolulu, Hawaii. We (his friends at Stadion Publishing) were assisting in the investigation of his disappearance. The investigation was ineffective and eventually the case was dropped by all involved authorities.

If you have seen him on or after September of 2006, or know anything about his whereabouts, please e-mail us at infoATstadionDOTcom.

More about Piotr Drabik and his disappearance is at

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