How to Do a Painless Split
Doing a split looks easy when gymnasts or cheerleaders do it, but it’s harder than it appears for anyone who is not naturally flexible or who is new to flexibility training. Stretching out the inner thigh, hamstrings and calf muscles is necessary for a perfect split. This can take time, but approaching it with slow and consistent stretching can save you frustration, soreness and injury. Ask your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have health problems or concerns.
Choose the Type
There are three basic types of splits: left leg forward, right leg forward and side or straddle splits. Front splits are easier for most people, because anytime you stretch your legs you’re preparing them for front splits. Many people are more flexible in one leg or the other, so when preparing for front splits, start with your more flexible leg. Find out which leg is most comfortable in front by sitting on the floor with one leg extended straight out in front of you. Support yourself with one hand on either side of your hips and slowly try to extend your other leg out behind you. This is easier and safer than starting from a standing position and sliding to the floor.
Jump rope, run in place, jog slowly around your workout area or engage in five to 10 minutes of any other moderate aerobic activity before starting your flexibility training. Stretching is not enough of a warmup in and of itself. Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Increasing blood flow by raising your heart rate a little bit makes your muscles looser, which is important in flexibility training.
Stand with your feet together, and slowly bend from the hips. Go as far as you can, and hold that pose at least 20 seconds. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed. Reach for your toes, and hold that pose 20 seconds. Slowly flex your ankles, pointing your toes toward the ceiling, and reach for your toes again. For a front split, leave your flexible leg in front and rotate the other one around behind you, straightening it as much as you can. Support your weight on your hands. Stretch for a straddle split by moving your feet out to the sides as far as you can. Slowly lean forward between them until you can rest your stomach on the floor.
Doing the splits does not come naturally to most human beings. It should be mildly uncomfortable, but not actively painful. Do not bounce as you stretch, or try to force your body past the point of pain. Stop immediately if you feel sharp pains. Practice every day to ensure the best results, and never try a split without warming up thoroughly.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.