Splits exercises
January 30, 2009 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Help me design a stretching/exercise program to allow me to do the splits. What stretches should I be doing? How long should I hold the stretch? Any particular exercises I should be practicing? What's a reasonable timeframe for developing this skill?

I'm a healthy 27-year old male. I would classify my current flexibility as okay but not great--I can touch my toes without bending my knees but not much more than that; I can comfortably put my legs at a little more than 90 degree angle in a seated straddle stretch.
posted by philosophygeek to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
My yoga instructor claimed that if you did the splits (twice - once with left leg forward, once with right leg forward) to the best of your abilities for two minutes a day, you'd be able to do them in a month. I've been meaning to give it a try, but haven't.

I'd say try that, and maybe throw in some high kicks or something like that as well?
posted by backwards guitar at 10:18 AM on January 30, 2009


I tried to work on this a few years ago to no avail. I stretched every day to be able to do the splits with one or the other leg forward (I can go down further with the left) and to do them with legs side to side. I saw noticeable improvement but was never able to do the splits all the way. I tried to do this over about four or five months.

I was also doing at least four hours of intense dance classes a week at the time, but no other major workouts. Having taken a few yoga classes now, I can see how they would help.

I suspect some people just might not be able to do the splits, but I have no proof of that.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:23 AM on January 30, 2009


You need one of these I-Flex units. If you study the picture, I bet you can figure out how to rig one yourself.
posted by 26.2 at 10:26 AM on January 30, 2009


It took me about a year of stretching 2-3 times per week to be able to do the splits. I wasn't actively trying to be able to, it just came on its own. I was a teenage girl involved in dance at the time.
Some stretches you can do:
Sitting with your legs in a V as wide as you can go without feeling like you're hurting yourself, fold your upper body over as far as you can go without hurting yourself onto your left leg, your right leg, and center. In each position, alternate flexing and pointing your foot and see if you can move down a little bit further.

Standing with your legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart, lean your body over your left leg, your right leg, and center as far as you can go.

Laying on your back with one leg extended out, lift the other leg above your body and pull it down toward your head as far as you can go without hurting yourself. Alternate flexing and pointing your foot. You can also do this with the other foot flat on the floor with your leg bent, if that's easier to start with. When you do this, make your your butt/lower back are not coming up off the ground.

The key with all of these is to not pull too far and injure yourself. If you do that, then you'll set yourself back the amount of time it takes to heal.

Once you've gotten fairly flexible through these exercises, then you can stretch in splits position. Trying that to start is a good way to accidentally hurt yourself because you're putting your weight down, and it's easy to slide too far.
posted by fructose at 10:35 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't start out by trying to do the splits, you'll just pull or strain something. Several of these exercises helped me: the "runner's stretch" - sitting down, place one leg straight in front of you, and bend the other leg so that the sole of that foot touches the inner thigh of the outstretched leg. Keeping your back as straight as possible, and both "sitting bones" on the ground, lean forward and try to touch your chest to your knee. (If you try to do nose-to-knee, you'll end up rounding your spine, which you don't want to do.) Do several of these on one leg, then switch to the other, then back, etc. Doing "butterflies" helps to stretch and loosen the inner thigh muscles - sitting on the ground, bend both knees and bring your heels as close to your crotch as possible. Now move your knees up and down slowly as if you're flapping wings. Try to eventually touch both knees to the ground simultaneously. Lastly, sitting on the ground, stretch both legs out in a wide V position. Again keeping the spine as straight as possible, lean forward and try to place your chest on the floor. You'll probably have to work at this many, many tries before you'll get all the way flat, so take it gently and slowly. If you feel a stretch, that's good, but if you feel pain STOP.

After you've done several sets of these stretching exercises, then try to do a split. If you continue the cycle daily, you should notice improvement after a few weeks, getting the crotch closer to the ground with each try.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:42 AM on January 30, 2009


This website should give you everything you need.
posted by np312 at 10:44 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding what fructose said. When I was 13, I wanted desperately to join a local dance troupe but being able to do front splits was an audition requirement. So I stretched every day for about 30 minutes in some combination of the following, and sure enough I was able to do splits with either leg forward in about three months.
Sitting with your legs in a V as wide as you can go without feeling like you're hurting yourself, fold your upper body over as far as you can go without hurting yourself onto your left leg, your right leg, and center. In each position, alternate flexing and pointing your foot and see if you can move down a little bit further.
This is a great one, and the benefit is that you can do it front of the television at night. Set goals like "being able to comfortably touch toes," "being able to bring chest flat down on top of thigh" when positioned over a leg, or "being able to bring chest flat down onto floor" when torso is positioned over center.
Laying on your back with one leg extended out, lift the other leg above your body and pull it down toward your head as far as you can go without hurting yourself. Alternate flexing and pointing your foot. You can also do this with the other foot flat on the floor with your leg bent, if that's easier to start with. When you do this, make your your butt/lower back are not coming up off the ground.
Another good one. I find this is one is even more effective with a partner to help (picture here). In the beginning, the partner is helpful because he/she can focus on bringing the upper leg into position while you focus on keeping your back and other leg straight, plus butt on floor. (As fructose pointed out, if you arch your back, raise your bottom or bend the other leg, you aren't getting as good a stretch.) When you are more flexible, the partner is good at pushing the upper leg farther than you would be able to do on your own.

Another good "in front of the TV" stretch is to sit on the floor, back straight, with legs bent fully at the knee and heels brought in toward your crotch -- the Butterfly Stretch (as mentioned by Oriole, upon preview). Goals are to be able to bring heels all the way in, and have knees as close to the floor as possible. Slowing lowering your torso forward adds a good stretch (to I guess the hamstring? You can feel it in the back) in this position also.

(One thing I would change from the photo, though, is that the model is holding the tops of her feet. It's instinctive to hold your feet right there, but then you unconsciously begin to pull the tops of your feet toward you, which isn't good for them, especially if you are sitting in that position for 10,15, 20 minutes. Brace your hands instead by crossing them and grasping the opposite ankle.)

Speaking of hamstring, seated hamstring stretch is a good one to have in the repertoire for splits, too.

The key to splits is how often you stretch. It's far better to do 10 minutes a day, every day, then 2-3 hours once a week.

And, ditto what everyone else is saying: when you're properly stretching the muscle, you should feel mild discomfort but not actual pain. Don't push it too far or you'll lose everything you've gained.
posted by pineapple at 11:01 AM on January 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


DON'T go down as far as you can, realize that the height perfectly aligns you with a piano, hold that position while you practice the piano, and move out an inch after each song.

I was able to do splits as a kid and lost the ability (probably due to lack of use) as a teen.
I figured holding almost splits instead of a piano bench would be very smart multi-tasking... ended up with a hernia and no splits.
posted by simplethings at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2009


There were a few stretches I used to do that got me right up to the point of being able to do front splits. Both start with one leg out in front of the other, like a weak split.

First stretch: bend your front knee and keep the back one straight, sit into the lunge (having chairs on either side of you helps with balance and not going too deep).

Second stretch: bend both knees so your back knee is on the ground, grab that foot/ankle and pull it towards the back of that leg.

Third stretch: Back knee on the ground, front leg straight, bend at the waist over the front leg.

The first two are particularly good at stretching the quads, which were always the harder muscle to stretch for me.
posted by hatsforbats at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2009


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