When you first start stretching, you may not notice the improvement immediately. It can be hard to see progress when it is small, such as being able to rotate your neck one degree further or stretch one extra millimeter. The best way to be able to see your success is to give yourself a definable goal, such as learning how to do the splits.
Why you should learn the splits.
Reduced lower back pain
Learning how to do the splits will have a major impact on your body. They can help with hip and lower back pain since you are stretching the muscles in these areas. By loosening these pain spots, you relieve pressure on tight muscles.
This means less need for treatment and for pain medications. (Stretching is supposed to aid medical care, not replace it. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.)
Better mobility and range of motion
Every muscle is connected. By learning the splits, you will be able to bend over easier, sit up straighter, and move with ease.
Splits are a fun party trick
Many people love to show off at parties, and the splits are perfect to do so! Whether you want to imitate your favourite drag queen or show off your youth and prowess, the splits are an easy way to impress your friends.
What do the splits look like?
Right and left splits
Otherwise known as your front splits, these stretches have one of your legs extended straight out in front of you and the other straight behind. Your legs are typically completely pressed against the floor and your torso is sitting up straight.
(Fun fact: There is a type of split called the over-split. This is where your legs stretch farther than 180 degrees, and you often need equipment to achieve this. They are riskier and not for everyone, but they are cool to look at!)
These middle or straddle splits are where your legs extend straight out to your right and left sides. Similar to the front splits, your legs will press along the floor and your upper body will be straight.
What muscles are involved in the splits?
There are several muscles used in the splits: hip flexors, adductors, glutes, hamstring, and groin muscles. Apart from your hips and lower back, WeStretch also focuses on stretching out your feet, ankle, and lower leg muscles.
Stretches for the splits.
Lunges are incredibly helpful in doing the splits. Regardless if you are doing forward lunges or side lunges, these poses allow you to stretch and strengthen at the same time.
WeStretch offers different varieties of lunges, such as dropping your back knee to the floor and leaning forward, or twisting while you’re in a lunge. These provide variety and works on several of the different muscles that help you achieve your goals.
Touching your toes
When you touch your toes, you are stretching out your hips and lower back. This promotes freedom and mobility around your hips so that when you go to do your splits, that is one set of muscles that are already loosened.
WeStretch has you touch your toes normally, but there are many ways to advance your stretch. Try pointing one set of toes as you bend over, completely straighten your legs, or even touch your toes with one leg crossed in front of the other.
The straddle position is the foundation for the middle splits. It strengthens your core by having you sit upright. You stretch out your hip and thigh muscles by trying to spread your legs as far apart as you can (without hurting yourself.)
You can always advance this stretch by sitting closer and closer to a wall, spreading your legs a little further each time. This is a great hip-opener exercise.
WeStretch stretches your legs in every possible position while in a straddle sit. You might be leaning over one leg, twisting your torso, or folding one leg over the other for a good stretch.
This pose allows you to stretch out your torso and hip muscles. Apart from making your splits feel more effortless, this pose also allows you to stretch out your back, which is great for your posture!
The pigeon stretch is the quintessential yoga stretch for relaxing tight hip muscles. While on your stomach, you bend and slide one leg towards the opposite hip, keeping your other leg straight behind you, and you gently lay forward into the stretch.
Flexing/ pointing your toes
How does pointing your toes help with the splits? Keeping your feet and ankles loose prevents cramping throughout the leg as you stretch. Pointing and flexing your toes stretch various muscles running through your ankles and calves, running up your leg. Plus, your splits will look better with nicely pointed toes.
How does WeStretch work on the splits?
The first time you do a pose in one of the WeStretch split routines, it is only for 2 seconds. The initial stretch is getting your body warmed up and flowing through the range of motion.
After that, you will do a few different repetitions of holds ranging from 5-30 seconds, depending on your stretching history. Each time you repeat a stretch, you’ll notice that your stretch will deepen each time.
Not holding any stretch longer than thirty seconds at most, reduces the chance of injury and muscle fatigue. When you take breaks, you allow your body to rest and improve each time.
Find these split-specific routines under any of the dance options in the activity customization screen. Each stretching routine is unique and built for you the moment you decide to stretch.
Tips and tricks for gaining your splits
While you won’t gain your full splits overnight, you can make significant daily progress.
Much like how your orthodontist can’t straighten all your teeth in a single day with braces, gaining the splits in a day is unlikely. However, you can definitely make significant progress in a day. Do at least one 10-20 minute stretching session a day to begin to see and feel the results.
You’ll stretch best when warm
Stretching your muscles when warm is the best way to encourage greater flexibility. Try some gentle exercises before doing your splits, such as walking or even a different type of stretching routine. You can even work on your stretching routine after a hot bath if you want to make the biggest improvements.
Some people are naturally more flexible than others- and that’s okay!
A few months ago, I tried my own thirty-day splits challenge and I’m proud of the results. My right splits were near perfect, my left splits were pretty good, and I still struggle with doing my middle splits. I know I will get them eventually, but small progress is still progress!
Having good health will help
Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and eat good foods that fuel your body. Staying healthy will help you recover from the micro-tears, which are normal in exercise. You will also have enough energy to push yourself appropriately through your stretching routine, and feel great afterward! After all, physical exercise is only one of the keys to good health and wellness.
Stop when it hurts.
If you ever feel any pain, stop immediately.
If it feels inflamed or swollen, start by placing an ice pack on it. If it feels tight, use a heating pad. If the pain is significant or it doesn’t fade, visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Allow yourself a little bit of bed rest to help with pain relief.
While stretching is typically a safe exercise, it is possible to overdo it and cause injuries if you push yourself too hard. Be conscious of what your body is feeling while stretching and only do what your body can do that day.
Now that you know how to get started learning your splits, it’s time to get started! Download the WeStretch app today to achieve all your stretching goals!
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This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns.
Written by Kayla Willsey
Updated June 2, 2021