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Fitness Questions From Instagram (August 2021)

My pancake seems to be totally stuck at a certain angle (chest to thighs level) and I can’t get any lower! In your journey did you find you had sticking points and do you have a recommended routine for the pancake? Anything you may have used? I also find if I squat or deadlift in any capacity at all, I end up super tight and almost undo all my good work with the flexibility……….did this happen to you, or did you find a way around it?

This is interesting and definitely common. Pancake for me was the friendlier of the flexibility ‘big 4’ – and by ‘friendly’ I mean it came easiest and seemed to be less temperamental than the front splits.

Although I did find a wide variation some days where I could touch down (head to floor) after not much warming up, and other days I could really hammer it and still not get fully down! As I’ve said before, this can vary due to a plethora of factors. Many of which are things like sleep, recovery, hydration and even more intricate details……..

I am finding the jump between head to floor and chest to floor is proving a big step but this makes sense, as when you get more advanced it takes longer to make more progress. As for your situation, something that helped me was to do the opposite of what I had been doing. So when PNF drills flatlined a little, I went to weighted drills and when weighted tapered off, I began using less and less weight to where I was essentially targeting my compression aka PULLING in more and more, and not relying on external weight.

This could be worth a shot for you too!

As for routines, initially when I first started dedicating time to getting the pancake, I did a general leg day and attacked the pancake after the strength exercises. And my approach was relatively simple:

– 2 mins passive tension clearance stretch;

– 1-3 sets of 10 second contract/relax cycles while in pancake with a 30 second end range stretch/hold at the end of each set.

Basically a 10 second passive stretch, then an active pull-in followed by more of the same. Some days I needed one set to get all the way down, other days I couldn’t get down even after all three sets. I did find gradually over time though, I needed one set on average to get down. When this became the norm I switched the routine to……

– 3 x 10 reps + 10 second hold of weighted pancake good mornings.

At first I needed weight to push me down but gradually the weight got heavier and heavier, to where I was almost training my hip extensors and spinal extensors more than my pancake mobility. From here on out I reduced the weight gradually down to no weight at all – and this forces you to compress/pull in to the pancake as much as possible.

At the time of writing, my peak pancake range of motion is a chest to floor pancake. Stomach to floor pending!

Whenever I try to extend my legs out from a tuck in a back lever, I always seem to arch my back and this ends up leaving my legs higher than my torso! Do you have any tips on how to fix this?

Well spotted! Most people don’t even consider the ideal scapula and pelvis position in the front/back lever – more so the back lever because it’s the ‘easier’ of the 2. As you rightly say, a protracted scapula and posteriorly tilted pelvis constitute a ‘perfect’ back lever.

It’s hilariously common in street workout circles to see the classic banana back lever where the low back is massively arched and the shoulders/chest are totally disengaged, and the athlete is basically hanging on their shoulder joints/structure.

I honestly feel as my glutes have gotten stronger/more ‘functional, the better my PPT line has become. And it makes sense as the posteriorly tilted pelvis position requires active extension of the hips!

What I would do is work on setting the pelvis while in the inverted hang (at whatever progression you’re using) and lower down to horizontal/lever level while fighting to maintain the shape as much as possible. Even if this means only doing controlled negatives for now, until the hold becomes more accessible.

I think even though this approach will take longer, it’s far better to tackle it this way once and for all, instead of having to fix it and rebuild it all down the line!

I recently calculated my calorie intake (approximately) and it turns out it’s 700-1000 calories a day on weekdays, although I do ‘cheat’ at weekends. I’m trying to reset my metabolism and get it working better again so I can handle more calories, and HOPEFULLY gain some good weight. Any ideas on how to go about doing this? Do I just eat more or work up slowly, or is there an even better way?

Wow, that’s INCREDIBLY low if that’s accurate? You must be seriously letting the wheels fall off at the weekends too if you’re not losing weight at this figure!

This isn’t my main area of expertise but you’re essentially talking about ‘reverse dieting’; as the name implies: slowly increasing calories incrementally after a period of very low calorie eating. Lots of bodybuilders and physique competitors do this after they’ve peaked for a show.

The rationale behind this is the body needs to slowly readapt to higher calorie intakes otherwise you’ll end up rebounding massively and gaining significant amounts of body fat.

What I would do is up the calories from 700 to 1000-1200 for a week and closely monitor your weight. In an ideal world you would gain very little weight and then repeat the process in jumps of 2-300 calories. Eventually you’ll find a figure where you will gain some weight and notably so. At this point I would then drop the calories by 2-300 again and that should be your maintenance.

How long this will take is very individual but you need to be patient or you’ll end up fat and not able to see your dick. Furthermore you’ll move worse and worse (goodbye pull ups/dips) and your strength – weight ratio will plummet even on weight based exercises.

God knows why you were eating so low in the first place, though?! There are 100lb small framed girls who are STARVING on calorie intakes that low!

I hope you enjoyed these topics. If you want your question tackled, no matter how obscure it may seem, hit me a DM on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or drop me an email:

See you for more next month!

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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