Performing the splits is perhaps one of the most difficult moves to master in athletics and the performing arts. While some people are genetically gifted and can perform the splits with ease, most people must follow a disciplined stretching regimen that becomes progressively more difficult. Perform a thorough warm-up before beginning a stretch routine, the American College of Sports Medicine cautions, using dynamic stretching before a workout and building toward static stretching.
Dynamic stretching is part of a specific warm-up designed to emulate the movements and ranges of motion you will be performing. To learn the splits, you need to perform dynamic stretching primarily in the legs. There are hundreds of dynamic stretches you can perform to prepare yourself to do the splits. The important thing to remember is to keep the dynamic warm-up specific, so that the joints are completely warm before beginning static stretching. Effective dynamic stretches for the splits include leg swings, deep squats, hurdle walks and lunges.
Static stretching is a steady, passive stretch held for at least 30 seconds, designed to increase the range of motion around a particular joint. A progressive static stretching program is the most important element toward learning the splits. There are hundreds of individual stretches to work toward performing the splits, but an effective static stretching program, according to fitness author Brad Appleton, should include the lower back stretch, lying buttocks, groin and inner thigh stretch, calf stretch, seated hamstring and quadriceps stretch.
Use a partner to help extend your range of motion during static stretching, as well as to perform proprioceptive neuromuscular function stretching. This form of stretching involves a partner placing resistance against your stretch and then allowing you to relax your muscles. This contract-relax pattern calms the proprioceptors that inhibit stretching and can help you achieve remarkable improvements in flexibility. PNF stretching of the groin and inner thighs is particularly effective for learning the splits, notes the fitness website Run the Planet. Examples include the PNF groin stretch and PNF hamstring stretch.
The exact stretches you perform are not as important toward learning the splits as progressing the program so that it becomes increasingly difficult. Start by performing stretches in a dynamic fashion, actively mobilizing your limbs around the joint. Build up toward static stretching, holding each stretch for just 10 seconds and building up toward several sets of 30 seconds. Stretching should never cause pain, but you should strive for a feeling of mild discomfort each time, Appleton explains.
- Resources for the Personal Trainer; American College of Sports Medicine
- Stretching and Flexibility-Working Toward the Splits; Brad Appleton
- Run the Planet: Performing Splits
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.