Split routine: how to do the splits
Performing the splits is an advanced exercise and not appropriate for everyone. Many elite sports require their athletes to be able to perform the splits during performance and therefore is crucial to their training program.
At Extensa, we strive to achieve results through effective and safe workouts. The best way to achieve flexibility is by combining strength and stretching exercises and challenging static and active balance.
BEFORE BEGINNING THE SPLIT ROUTINE:
- Make sure you do a proper warm-up
- Have a comfortable and well padded mat
- Please consult with your coach and/or teacher if this program is safe for your fitness or performance level.
- If you have any injuries or limitations, please consult with your medical professional for clearance before attempting this routine.
- Flexibility training needs to be performed often in order to achieve desired results. Be careful that the back line of the body does not become overstretched. Many elite sports incorporate a lot of hamstring stretching and combined with the split routine can lead to overstretching and in some cases injury.
- Our general recommendation is to perform the entire split routine 3 times per week. You can break the routine up and perform some exercises everyday. Speak with your coach/teacher as well as your sport conditioning coach and any other healthcare provider that is following your progress to integrate this routine safely into your training schedule.
THE EXTENSA SPLIT ROUTINE
STEP 1: KNEELING HIP FLEXOR
Modified hip flexor stretch with arm extensions to stretch the front line of the body a pelvic tilt.
- The back left knee is on the mat. The back left toes are curled underneath and the back left leg is slightly turned inwards in internal rotation.
- The pelvis is tucked under in a posterior tilt, with the gluteus and abdominal muscles actively engaged.
- The left arm reaches to the ceiling. Emphasis is on imagining lifting the body upwards in good posture by lengthening the vertebrae column. The right arm open to the side in line with the shoulder.
Repetitions and timing: Hold the position between 15-30 seconds
STEP 2: LOW LUNGE
The Low lunge targets the front line of the body with focus on the hip flexors and Quadriceps which are important opposing muscles when performing the splits.
- The fingertips are in contact with the mat (most of the weight should be on the front right foot and the ball of the back left foot)
- The hips are slightly lower than the front knee or as low as possible to the ground
- The chest is lifted upwards and the head is looking forward
- Modification option:
- Place the back knee on the mat if the position is too difficult to hold
- Option to alternate lifting and lowering the knee
Repetitions and timing: Hold the position between 15-30 seconds or alternated lifting and lowering the knee 8-16 times
STEP 3: KNEELING QUADRICEP STRETCH
The advanced quadricep stretch can put some stress on the patella and careful placement of the knee is important. The focus is on increasing flexibility through the quadriceps and challenging static balance.
- In the low lunge with the left back knee on the mat, reach the left arm behind and take the left ankle.
- Gently pull the left foot towards the body as much as your flexibility will allow and enough to feel a pull but not pain.
- Lift the upper body upright into a proper posture position (shoulders back and head looking forward)
- Transfer the body weight forward so that the weight of the back left leg is not directly on the patella (kneecap)
- Keep the right front knee behind the right front toes
Repetition and timing: Hold the stretch between 15-30 seconds
STEP 4: LUNGE WITH FRONT LEG EXTENSIONS
The front leg extension is an advanced movement. We recommend starting with the modification and progressing only once the proper technique can be achieved.
- In a low lunge with both hands placed side by side on the mat “inside” the front right leg
- Place the back left knee on the mat
- Begin to attempt to extend the right leg from the knee (keep the right quadricep in place)
- Focus on keeping the weight forward and staying in the lunge during the extension
Some people will only be capable of moving the foot forward but not actually extending the foot off the ground. That’s a good place to start and you can progress over time.
If you can fully extend the leg without shifting your weight backwards, then modify the exercise by lifting the back knee off the ground into a full low lunge.
Repetition and timings: Extend the front leg 6-12 times
STEP 5: PYRAMID STRETCH
The pyramid stretch is a basic active stretch and often seen in yoga classes.
- The feet are a little less than hip width apart with the front right foot placed in front of the body and the back left foot behind with the heel pressed into the mat
- The upper body is relaxed over the front leg and the fingers are touching the mat
- The front right knee is as straight as your flexibility will allow
- Focus is on keeping the weight equally distributed between both legs
Repetition and timing: Hold the stretch 15-30 seconds
STEP 6: STANDING SPLIT CIRCLES
The standing split circles are a combination of two exercises, the standing split and a “ronde de jambe” from ballet technique.
- In a standing split, keep the fingers or palms in contact with the mat and the back left leg extended up as high as possible
- Create a circle with the back left leg opening it out to the side and bringing it down beside the standing right leg
- Option to bend the standing or working leg if the exercise is too difficult
Repetitions and timing: Perform 6-12 circles in one direction and the same amount in the other direction
STEP 7: KNEELING HALF SPLIT
The kneeling half split is a great transition exercise and perfect to lead into a full split.
- Shift your weight to the back but avoid sitting on the back left heel.
- Keep the finger tips in contact with the mat and the back in a neutral position (as much as possible)
- The front right leg is as straight as you can get while keeping the back neutral
- Flex the right front foot
Repetition and timing: Hold the half split between 15-30 seconds
STEP 8: FULL FRONT SPLIT
The best way to enter the full front split is from the kneeling half split. Alignment is very important focus on keeping the hips facing forward (if you don’t you’ll end up in a diagonal or side split with your hips).
- Begin to extend the right leg as straight as possible while shifting the weight forward
- Straighten the back left leg as much as possible, keeping the knee and top of the foot facing the floor
- The hands are on either side of your body to brace and protect yourself
- Focus on a slow relaxed breath and sit as tall as possible
Repetition and timing: Hold the split for 15-30 seconds
Once you’ve completed the exercise routine on one side repeat the same sequence on the other side. Please be aware that flexibility is different for every body. Some bodies adapt quicker and with better results while others take time and don’t necessarily see dramatic increases. This routine is a general recommendation and for demonstration purposes only. We suggest either having your coach/teacher or sport conditioning coach adapt them properly for you or hire one of our Extensa master trainers to create a personalized routine.
Thank you to Roseline
A special thank you to Olympic Diver, Roseline Filion. Her expertise, grace and athleticism are displayed throughout the photos and make learning the movements that much easier.