Learn how to do the splits with our step-by-step guide. It’s surprising what you can achieve in 6 weeks!
While doing the splits probably seems a world away from your cross-legged default desk chair position, the improvement trajectory is steep.
“I’ve had students who have never done the splits who managed to achieve them in a matter of weeks,” says dance teacher Lara McGirr. (She’s also had students who practise for years with no success, mind you.)
If you’re setting your sights on legs 11, the key points are patience and persistence. While consistency is important, it’s also critical to listen to your body. If your body’s not playing ball, it may need a few days or a week off. The good news is that even if you bunk out and start again, your progress will be quicker the second time around.
What are the perks?
Apart from feeling chuffed, with regular splits practice you’ll help to prevent injuries caused by other exercises by conditioning your hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors and quadriceps.
“Performing the splits well can also be included in your conditioning program for many other forms of exercise or training,” McGirr says. Her six-week do-the-splits sequence can also be used as a post-training stretch for hamstrings and hip flexors.
This week is about lengthening and stretching the hip flexors and quadriceps. Find a comfortable floor space, either on soft carpet or a yoga mat, and sit upright. Bend the right leg in front and the left behind with the sole of your right foot touching the left knee. Gently lower your upper body backwards. The first progression of this stretch is to lean onto your elbows and the second progression is to lie flat on your back. You should feel a stretch through the left hip flexor/quad. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before swapping legs to stretch through the right hip flexor/quad.
This week focuses on a deep lunge position. The right foot should be facing forward with the right knee at a 90-degree angle. To minimise injury risk, ensure that the knee is directly over the toe. The back (or left) shin should be resting on the floor. You should feel a stretch here through the hip flexor/quad as you felt in last week’s stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and swap to the other side for another 30 seconds.
This week increases the lunge stretch. Staying in the position we practised last week and while keeping the knee on the floor, lift the lower leg up to increase the stretch in the hip flexor/quad. Repeat on the other side, holding both for 30 seconds each.
This week you are going to place your weight on the back knee as though you are kneeling and lengthen the front leg. Keeping hips square, gently lean over the front leg to stretch through the hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Back in the original lunge position with the back leg on the floor, lower the front leg to the floor in a ‘swan’ position. The front leg should be bent in front of the body as close to a right angle as possible with the back leg straight out behind. Over time, the goal is to lean the upper body forward over the front leg. Each time you do this stretch, you want to aim to hold it for 30 seconds on each side. Don’t deepen the stretch unless you have held it for 30 seconds twice on each side. This will be a good indicator of your progress so far!
If you feel you are ready to do the splits, grab a bunch of pillows and cushions to place under your legs and pelvis as you ease into your split; this will support your muscles as they adjust to the position – particularly if they’re not 100 per cent ready to floor it. Once your cushions are in place, get back into your lunge position and gently lengthen the front leg out into the splits. If as you near the floor you don’t feel a stretch or are up for a bigger challenge, slowly remove the pillows one at a time until you are adequately challenged (you shouldn’t feel as though you’re going to tear in half). You can also use your hands to support you.