Schematics of the contortion barre
How to use the contortion barre
The contortion barre is a tool that will make it make it possible for you to bend even more and improve your strenght, but also improve your balance. The latter is especially thanks to that gravity makes most work for you. I was introduced to it by former contortionist Laura Guerriero and she learned me both how it's supposed to be made, but also how to use it. I use it both in my own training, but also when teaching others. As usual here you will have to use your imagination to find which exercises could be best done using the contortion barre, but most of the exercise in the schedule can be applied to the contortion barre. My recommendation is that you do them assisted and if possible with weights, but if you don't have someone to assist you you can use it too, even if it'll be more difficult to get into the positions in the beginning. The combination of your imagination, gravity and an assistant is unbeatable and will help you improve your flexibility and strenght much faster than you think. If you have weights of the kind used in aerobics or fitness here's the chance to make use of them, but if you don't have any weights have your assistant help gravity a bit by very firmly pulling you downwards and holding you there normally (!) for at least one minute, but preferably more and still letting you work on the balance. In the beginning this will be both difficult and very uncomfortable, but as they say "no pain no gain" and the problems will disappear sooner than you think. Below are a few examples on how to use a contortion barre and some comments to them. However remember that they only are examples and that there are many more. Just use your imagination.
As you can see the contortion barre can be used with good success for training frontbends. In this position you will improve both your strenght and flexibility and your goal is to get your head and shoulders between the legs and stay there. Then the assistant should take your hands and pull them downwards towards the floor and keep you in the position for at least 2 minutes, but preferably longer. Do at least 15 repeats staying longer in the maximum flexible position for each repeat and increase the height to at least 1 meter during the process. The legs must be strapped!
Also this position will improve both your strenght and flexibility and initially you will need assistance to get into it, but after some time you shouldn't be assisted when getting into it. There are two ways of doing this exercise. The first one serves in increasing the especially the strenght in your back muscles, but also your back flexibility. From a hanging straight position bend backwards bouncing towards being able to grab your legs, then release and bounce backwards repeating at least 25 times. With time try to make the bounces slower so that you change to bending backwards instead of bouncing. The second way of doing the exercise is when you are in the position above. This time the exercise serves your flexibility. When hanging with your back bent backwards either have your assistant put his hands where your back is bent most and very firmly push downwards or one hand on your chest and the other on your thighs and push them towards eachother and downwards and in the maximum flexible position keep you in the position for at least 2 minutes, but preferably longer. Do at least 15 repeats staying longer in the maximum flexible position for each repeat an increase the height to at least 1 meter during the process. The legs must be strapped!.
If you wish to improve the flexibility in the upper back a good method is to have both your hands and legs in the straps as shown above and just hang. It's much more comfortable than it looks. If possible put weights around your back helping gravity a bit more or have an assistant to either push your back downwards or swinging you. For the best result stay in the position for at least 15 minutes and preferably at least 30 minutes. As you can see it's possible to do different variations of this position, but the most important is that you never get out of the backbend while doing different variations and increase the height during the process to at least 1 meter. Remember to have the legs strapped at all times!
In this position you'll hand with one leg in the barre and let the other fall down backwards till you can reach it and then you pull it even further backwards. The gravity will help you much with the latter. Also have the assistant help you by putting one hand on your chest and the other on your thigh and push them towards eachother. When the most flexible position is achieved the assistant should move the hand from the thigh to the thigh of the leg you're hanging in and hold steadily there while at the same time very firmly pushing the leg bent back downward until it's not possible to go further and then hold you in the position for at least 2 minutes. If you're able to do oversplits the assistant can also hold you by the thigh of the leg your hanging in for steadyness and then in bouncing motions push downwards the thigh of the leg bent backwards. The result will be that you will swing from the position shown above into oversplits and back again using the hip as a lever. Repeat at least 15 times with each leg and if you do the swinging with the hips as lever swing at least 50 times with each leg. Increase the height during the process to at least 1 meter. Remember to have the leg strapped at all times!
This position is warmly recommended for you when you can master backbends quite well. It requires that you practice at a height of at least 1 meter and will help you to the backfolds. Hang on the vertebrae you wish to fold as shown above, relax completely and have the assistant place one hand on your chest and the other on your thighs and push them towards eachother and downwards very firmly and hold you in the most flexible position for at least 2 minutes, but preferably for longer like 5 minutes so that the back encircles the bar in the end. When hanging on your most flexible vertebrae the assistant should hold you in the position for at least 10-15 minutes and longer the more you advance. This can be very uncomfortable in the beginning and you will probably feel the vertebrae popping and hear clicking sounds, but this is nothing you should worry about. Just stay relaxed at all time. It's not dangerous and what is happening is that your back is moving into the most extreme backfold possible and then your vertebrae partially dislocate from the pressure of the bar applied to them. Therefor it's very important that you do every repeat on a different vertebrae! After a not too long time your back should produce a very tight backfold easily encircling the bar completely without you needing any assistance and you will be comfortable in the position! Do at least 15 repeats with a different vertebrae for each repeat and if you have the possibility do this twice daily, in the morning and one in the evening. If you initially begin from a few cm above the floor increase the height to at least 1 meter during the process.
Here are two examples of using the contortion barre hanging from the hands while doing different exercises. It is very important that you hang at least 1 meter over the floor and strap your hands so that you don't fall down!