How to Get Your Back Leg Up When Leaping

Dancer in midair

Getting a full 180-degree split in the air requires both strength and flexibility. Not only must you have the flexibility to do a split, you also must be able to propel your body into a split quickly and effortlessly. One common problem that gymnasts, dancers and cheerleaders have with leaps is not getting their back leg up high enough. If the back leg does not reach a position where it’s parallel to the floor, your split leap won’t be as impressive, and you’ll lose points in your competitions.

Perform your splits daily. Warm up with about five to 10 minutes of cardio -- such as jumping jacks, skipping or jogging -- before getting into your splits. When your muscles are warm, they’ll be more responsive to stretching. While practicing your splits, concentrate on having good form: your feet should be lined up with your shoulders, and your shoulders and hips should be square. Hold your split with your right leg in front for one minute, and then do a split with your left leg front for the same amount of time. You can repeat the stretch three or more times.

Practice high leg kicks, or grands battements, with a resistance band. This exercise strengthens the same muscles you’ll need to get your back leg up during your leaps. Tie the ends of your resistance band together so that you have a loop. Slip both of your feet inside the loop and tighten the knot if necessary. There should not be much slack in the band even when your feet are close together. Working against the resistance of the band, kick your right leg behind you. Do three sets of five repetitions with each leg, making sure that you keep your leg completely straight throughout the kick. As you get stronger, you can work up to six sets of 15 grands battements.

Work on your split leaps from a shoulder stand. Wrap the middle of your resistance band around the soles of your feet. Holding the ends of the band in your hands, lie back and move into a shoulder stand, with your buttocks over your shoulders. Place your hands under your buttocks for support, and grab higher on the band to eliminate any slack. Move your feet apart to bring your legs into a split, with your right leg moving toward your face and your left leg moving away from you. Bring your feet back together to complete one repetition. Begin with four repetitions, and increase the number gradually until you can do 12.


While you practice your split leaps, think about pushing off the floor with your back leg. This extra push can help get your leg up higher while you’re in the air.


None of these exercises should cause pain. If you experience pain in your legs, hips, back or shoulders while doing these exercises, stop immediately and speak with your teacher or coach.