T Nation

Thoughts about Contortion and Graceful Athletism


It's not for everyone. It's not even a sport,just like bodybuilding is not a sport,but an athletic form of art.

Contortionists may train for hours a day, enduring agonizing poses for minutes which feel like hours.
A heavy set of lifting to failure feels sort of uncomfortable,but it does not compare to the pain of holding a stretch,where the pain treshold level is held for tens of seconds at least while in lifting the few last reps which may evoke a grunt take up a few seconds.
Another thing is you can get away with lifting 1-2 times a week or spread it out over the week and do a tiny bit of work every day, while a contortionist has to work the same muscles all the time,always reaching for the limit.

Females are generally more flexible than males so they get a slight advantage,and the larger number of females attending contributes to a 'gay' or sissy reputation for the art,just like ballet,figure skating or the various graceful sports that are basically closed to men like rhytmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming.
On a population level,I would wager the gender gap in flexibility is enchanced by the pressure for males to be strong which means lifting and lifting means tighter,shorter (more inflexible) muscles, in the absence of serious stretching.

When a woman pulls off fancy dance moves and gymnastics routines, it is apparently considered more aesthetic than when it's a man doing it,even if he's doing it just as well and there's no reason why he would not be.

I think this is evidenced in the fact that when artistic gymnastics or skating (where,in either case,men's performances are expected to be more minimalistic with less 'extra' dance elements) is shown, the women tend to take up bulk of the attention while in all of the other sports which emphasize simple judging and lack an aesthetic angle the men's sports get the spotlight.
The latter thing I would call objective, since men's performance is objectively of a higher level and there are more men engaging in it which further raises the standard.
However,no such argument can be made for the relatively few sports where women are spotlighted.
If a woman wants to play ice hockey or lift or do martial arts where they get to kick men in the testes (not to say that is very representative of martial arts but it's something they get to do which does not go both ways)

then it's allright but a man cannot break into the female dominated sports very easily because he's simply outright banned,cannot find equipment or coaching or simply finds the social stigma too much to bear.

So that's how we can see contemporary sport as accommodating gender stereotypes where women get to be the aesthetic kind and men are afforded the role of a doer.


I went to cirque du solei a couple months ago and they had these 3 contortionists there.

I was horrified

one would stand on her hands and bend backwards so her pelvis was touching the top of her head.

Than another one would climb on top of the first one and do the same thing

I was waiting for them to snap in half and keel over

I was also really high


like this

not a fan