[adrotate banner=”26″]If you think learning how to do the splits is just for gymnasts, Cirque du Soleil acts, dancers, and Jean Claude Van Damme, you’d be wrong. Even if you can barely sit on the floor with your legs in a “V” shape without feeling the tension, splits could be in your future.
But maybe you’re thinking, why would I want to do the splits? Well, for one, think of how many people you could impress on the dance floor. And two, you could probably win a lot of bets since most average people are unable to do the splits (although we don’t encourage gambling.).
Seriously though, there are many benefits to being flexible, including: reducing risk of injuring, increasing blood flow throughout the body, lowering back and body pain, supporting a better posture, allowing for better range of motion, and creating deeper relaxation in muscles.
Many people tend to think of doing stretches before and after exercise. And even then, the focus might just be on getting the muscles loose enough to do the work. While stretching should always accompany the workouts you do, it should be approached with the same level of importance as your fitness routine.
It’s possible people struggle with completing quality stretching because there is rarely a goal to work toward. A loose hamstring or quad just doesn’t have the same appeal as does shaving a minute from your mile time, or adding five pounds to a barbell. But that’s where the splits come in. Unless you are very flexible, doing the splits may seem really out of reach, but it doesn’t have to be. By stretching each day–even 10-15 minutes, the splits can be a very reasonable goal to have.
Stretches for Doing the Splits
Below are some stretches to help you build a daily routine. Work on holding each for 30-60 seconds. Stretching is best to do when your body is warm, so doing some quick exercises to get your body heated up is one way, but after a hot bath or shower is a good time, too.
- Straight-Leg Seated Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. If this is uncomfortable, sit on a yoga block or folded blanket and let your knees bend slightly. Hinging from the hips, bend forward, keeping your back straight and focus on bringing your chest to your knees. Only go as far as you can without having to round your back.
- V-Leg Seated Stretch:Using the same tips and instructions as the straight-leg stretch, open your legs into as wide of a V as allows you to feel a stretch without feeling pain in your knees. Prop yourself up as needed, and stretch forward and over each leg.
- Butterfly Stretch: From the V-Leg Stretch, bring the soles of your feet together and move your heels back toward your pelvis until you feel a stretch in your groin (but no pain in your knees). If this is a good enough stretch, hold here. For more of a stretch, hinge at the hips and bend forward as you did with the first two stretches.
- Kneeling Bent Leg Lunge: From a kneeling position, lunge forward on one foot so that your knee and foot are aligned on the lunged leg. Widen your stance for a deeper stretch, keeping good knee-foot alignment. Sink into the stretch as if someone were pushing down on your shoulders. Keep your butt tucked underneath you instead of letting it curve out behind you. Repeat on both legs.
- Kneeling Straight Leg Lunge: Repeat the Kneeling Bent Leg Lunge, but keep your forward leg straight instead of bent. Repeat on both legs.
- Kneeling Reverse Bent Leg Lunge: From the Kneeling Straight Leg Lunge, raise the heel of the support leg (the leg bent on the floor) using your hand to hold your foot. Pull the heel toward your rear. If needed, add a towel or mat to soften the floor pressure on the knee.
The more you stretch, the closer you’ll likely get toward achieving not only the splits but also better health and quality of life. So keep at it each day, and wherever you land with your goal, you’ll be more flexible the more you work toward it.
What is your favorite stretch (upper or lower body) to do? Share with us in the comments!