If this is the first you’re reading/hearing about using ballistics for the development of flexibility then I recommend going and reading my article on the head to toe protocol, as well as watching my ballistic stretching video.
The pancake itself is an incredibly beneficial position to have, especially for disciplines such as handbalancing, having a solid pancake will help significantly if you’re training for a press handstand, for example.
The ballistic pancake stretching routine requires that your seated pancake be comfortable and that you are able to forward fold around 60-45 degrees, taking completely upright as 90 degrees.
If you don’t meet these prerequisites, then you have to work on your pancake via different means. I have various videos on youtube that would be beneficial such as my Horse Stance videos, or my Loaded Hamstring Stretch video for stretching the muscles that are involved in the pancake. If you’re just starting out with stretching then my “Emmet’s Blackboard: Loaded Stretching” video is incredibly useful for understanding how to stretch effectively.
That being said, my most comprehensive work that I’ve produced on the pancake can be found in mine and Mikael’s Handstand Factory Press Program.
As this is another specialisation program, it’s best done every day. It can be done 5 days a week at an absolute minimum, but 6-7 is recommended.
Similar to the head to toe, this will result in DOMS for the first few weeks at most, just grit your teeth and go through it, if you’ve done the head to toe then you will know how worth it this style of training is.
This routine does differ from the head to toe, in that the only stretch that will be done for this is the pancake itself.
The work is:
3 sets of 20 pulses in 5 directions (shown in the image below)
Rest as much as is needed, some people may need 5 + minutes, others can get up, walk around and just go straight into the next set.
As before, the pulses should be done at between 40-60 beats per second. Don’t rush through the reps, as you won’t accumulate enough time in the end position for it to be effective. You need to learn to find the balance between being able to generate just enough momentum to reach new ranges, and being able to accumulate time in that end range.
Two important things that if used effectively will supercharge this routine:
- Using targets to pulse to:
Set your sight on a target on the floor just out of reach and then try to reach it with the pulsing, go beyond it and then target something else. You’ll find that not only will find you go deeper, faster, you’ll be distracting yourself slightly from the sensation
- Switch on the hip flexor to pull you deeper:
Contract the hip flexors and quads, pulling you forward. Maintain this shortening of the contracting side while pulsing, and you’ll find you can pull significantly deeper
The routine is to be run for 4 weeks, by which point it’s recommended you take a slight deload so reduce the overall work that you’re doing, but the cycle can be repeated as many times as needed.
Beyond the pancake
Once you’ve achieved your pancake, you may be happy with where you’re at. In which case as long as you maintain (read: use the range frequently) it, you will rarely have to work on it again. Unless you want to go beyond.
Developing over pancake can be productive, by greatly increasing your range in this position it solve issues such as not being able to get your belly to floor in pancake, it also has the potential to bring pancake into your cold range of motion.
You can begin working on the overpancake once you have got your face or chest touching the floor
This method differs from the traditional overpancake work of raising your legs up by instead raising the floor up. You’ll find that using this method will free up your hip articulation significantly when folding forward and can even be used in a complementary manner with the more traditional method.
A more narrow pancake is used for this as well as not having the kettlebell on the back, this is to prevent you falling forward and off the boxes when your weight comes forward.
2 – 5 sets of 30 – 60 seconds of work 2 x a week
The 30 – 60 seconds of work can either be done in the form of repetitions, so 3 – 6 reps of ramping up the contraction for 10 seconds, or for a pure straight hold. Experiment with what works best for you!
Good luck and have fun with these pancake materials. Feel free to use my hashtag #emmetlouis and I’ll be able to see how you’re doing. Any questions then comment below and I look forward to seeing how you all progress!