Learn to do the splits: 5 stretching exercises

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The splits is maybe the gymnastics exercise people most aspire to. But while easy to do as a child, for adults it’s a real challenge. We show you what you need to know.

How healthy is it to do the splits?

One thing is clear: flexibility training keeps muscles and ligaments supple and enables us to stay active and mobile into old age. Of course, it doesn't have to be the splits, as flexibility can be trained in many different ways. Nevertheless, learning to do the splits is a dream that many people hold and, with patience, can be achieved even at an advanced age. The crucial factor is the right preparation, because only then are the stretching exercises effective in training flexibility and don’t hurt the body.

The key advantage of splits training: having a goal in mind makes flexibility training even more fun.

Learn to do the splits: training basics

  • Warm up well: all muscles should be warm before doing the stretching exercises. You can warm up with this cardio training session or core training exercises.
  • Give yourself time: depending on your present flexibility level and age, it will take a few months to really see an effect. When stretching, only go as far as you can without causing yourself pain. A gentle pull is naturally allowed.
  • Take care to perform the exercise properly: holding your pelvis or back at an angle will often enable you to sink lower into the position. However, this trick isn't worth it: not only is it bad for your back but the muscles that need to be flexible for the splits are stretched less and the effect is therefore diminished.
  • Stretch on both sides: do all the stretches on both sides, even if you're more supple on one side or can sink lower into the position on one side.
  • Use your breath: many people find that breathing deeply helps increase their flexibility. Taking a conscious exhale may result in a deeper stretch.

Stretching the back of the leg

Getting into the splits requires flexibility in the back leg muscles. This includes the calf muscles and the rear thigh muscles called hamstrings. There are countless exercises you can do to stretch these muscle groups.

Exercise 1: calves

Pull toes towards the floor. At the beginning, the leg may also be slightly bent. Advanced: Grasp the calf with the hands, later the ball of the foot.

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At the beginning, the leg may also be slightly bent.

Exercise 2: Hamstrings

Pull toes towards the head, keeping upper body upright. Advanced: Lower the upper body deeper and deeper, keeping it straight.

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Pull toes towards the head, keeping upper body upright.

Stretching the front of the leg

The front leg muscles also play a role in doing the splits. Little happens without the hip flexors, or iliopsoas.

Exercise 3: hip flexors

Push the pelvis forward while keeping the upper body upright.

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Keeping the upper body upright.

Exercise 4: quadriceps

Keeping the pelvis and upper body upright, grasp the back leg with the same-sided hand.

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Grasp the back leg with the same-sided hand.

Exercise 5: splits position

Take yoga blocks, books or boxes for support, using both hands. Slowly ease into the splits position and only go as far as you can with your pelvis and upper body straight.

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Only go as far as you can with your pelvis and upper body straight.

Regular stretching exer­cises for the front splits (on a regular basis)

Regular stretching increases flexibility. But the time it takes until an effect is felt varies distinctly from person to person. To achieve results, the exercises should be performed several times a week.

Claudia Schilter, yoga instructor, recommends:

«Regular yoga practice helps people stay flexible or become more flexible. This doesn’t happen overnight but those who practise yoga regularly will notice progress over time. Since spending a lot of time on the yoga mat, I’ve definitely become more supple and mobile.»

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