Introduction: How to Stretch to Get Your Front Splits!
For many people, attempting front splits may seem intimidating. However, by implementing a consistent stretching routine, you will see gradual progress that will lead to safe and injury free success. You will not be able to train your muscles to perform the splits overnight, and depending on where you are starting, it may take months before you reach the ground. The goal is progress, not perfection. Safely and slowly training your muscles for the splits will prevent injury and provide you with long term flexibility that is easier to maintain than aggressive stretching. This routine should take you between fifteen to twenty minutes. The routine stretches the muscles and tendons in your hips, thighs, and the back of your legs. This includes your hip-flexors, glutes, and hamstrings. It is recommended to practice this routine three to four times a week. Always give yourself at least one day to rest your muscles before deep stretching the same muscle group. While performing the stretches, tightness and slight discomfort is an indicator that the stretch is working and that you do not need to push yourself deeper into the stretch. If you experience any sudden pains, sharp pains, or burning sensations, immediately discontinue the stretch. Always consult your primary care physician before starting a new exercise regime.
Yoga block/ books (optional)
A comfortable place to stretch
Step 1: Warm Up
It is important to stretch your muscles while they are warm and limber. A quick way to warm up your muscles is by performing 50 jumping jacks. Alternatively, you can perform this routine after your workout while you are already warm, but this is not required. A brisk walk will also warm up your muscles.
Step 2: Donkey Kicks
Kneel on your hands and knees. Bend one knee and bring it to your chest. While balancing on your hands and grounded knee, slowly extend the bent leg straight behind you until fully extended. Then slowly bring the knee back to chest. Keep your glutes and leg muscles tight as your straighten and retract your knee. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Step 3: Leg Lifts
While balancing on your hands and knees, extend one leg straight behind you with your toes barely touching the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles. Keep your extended leg straight and lift the leg as high as you can. While you lift your leg keep the muscles in your legs and glutes tight and flexed. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Step 4: Straight Kicks
Lie on your back. Bend one knee and firmly root it to the floor to provide stability. Straighten the opposite leg and slowly kick it back as far as you can. Slowly lower the leg to the floor while keeping it as straight as you can. Flex your thighs as you do this to keep the legs straight. If you need a deeper stretch, straighten the bent leg and firmly press your heel into the ground while your opposite leg kicks. This will give you a deeper stretch. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Step 5: Dynamic Straddles
While lying on your back straighten both lets and bring them together in the air. While flexing your thighs and keeping you legs muscles tight, let your legs fall open as far as they naturally will go. In quick and controlled movements, bring your legs back together. Cross one leg in front of the other as far as it will go, then open the legs again. Perform this activity 20 times alternating which ankle comes in front.
Step 6: Low Lunge Moving Stretch
Find a low lunge position where you touch your finger tips to the floor. Your front foot should be between your hands and you back knee should be resting on the floor. Your shoulders should be back and chest lifted. Slowly move your hips back as you straighten your front leg to stretch your hamstrings. Try to lower your nose towards your knee as your do this. Then shift your hips forwards and raise your chest and shoulders back to the low lunge position. Move forward and back 10 times on each side.
Step 7: Hold Low Lung
From your low lunge, walk you front leg away from your body so you can bring both hand to the inside of you front leg. You can hold this stretch with you palms on the floor, or you can lower onto your forearms if you need a deeper stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds on each side.
Step 8: Pyramid Pose
Stand up straight. Move one leg two steps in front of you and the other foot two steps behind you. Lower your torso down your front leg until to can place your hands on the floor. You can also place your hands onto yoga blocks or textbooks. Keep both you legs straight and both feet should be facing forward. You should feel a stretch in your front legs hamstrings and in your back legs calf. To make the stretch deeper, move your back leg farther away from you. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds on each side.
Step 9: Standing Split Kicks
From the pyramid pose, shift all of your weight onto your front leg and walk your hands in front of your foot for stability. While keeping your weight in your front leg and hands, lift your back leg so that your big toe is barely toughing the floor. Once you feel stable, slowly kick your back leg as high into the air as you can while keeping your toes pointed and leg straight. Lower the leg until the big toe barley touches the floor again. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Step 10: Butterfly Pose
Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet facing each other. Keep your back straight as you lean forward and grab your feet with your hands. Lean forward as you pull on your feet and bend your elbows. Try to rest your elbows onto your calfs muscles. Continue to lower your chest to your feet until your feel a deep stretch. Avoid rounding your back. Keeping your back straight keeps the stretch in your hips. Hold for 1 minute.
Step 11: Half Butterfly
From butterfly pose, straighten one leg in front on you and place the foot of your bent leg on the inside of your thigh. Make sure you place the foot above your straight leg's knee. Walk your hands forward on both side of your straight leg. Lower yourself down until you feel a deep stretch. Instead of bring your nose to your knee, think about bringing your chest to your thigh and look at the toes of your straight leg as your lower down. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
Step 12: Campfire
Sit on the ground from a cross legged position. Which ever leg is in front, gently lift it up and place it on top of the other leg. Your top ankle should be in line with your bottom knee. Your top knee should be in line with your bottom ankle. Walk your hands forward and try to lower rest your elbows on your front leg while keeping your back straight. Don't worry if your top knee doesn't rest on your bottom ankle. This level of flexibility will come with regular practice. Keep your hip bones rooted to the floor as you bend forward. You should feel the stretch in your hips and/or glutes depending on where your are tight. If you need a deeper stretch, try to lower your chest to your top leg and extend your arms straight out in front of you. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then switch which leg is on top and hold for another 30 seconds.
Step 13: Pigeon Pose
From campfire, take the leg that is on top and move it behind you and straighten it. Keep your front leg bent in a 90 degree angle with your shin creating a line in front of your torso. If you experience any discomfort in you knee, bend your knee more and bring your foot closer to your body. If you need to adjust further, move your knee so that it is in front of your torso rather of to the side. Once you can sit in pigeon in a comfortable position, sit up tall and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Walk your hands out and lower your lower onto forearms. For a deeper stretch, lower your chest to the ground and stretch our arms out in front of you.. Hold the pose for 30 seconds on each side.
Step 14: Slowly Lower Into Splits
From a low lunge, straighten your front leg and place your hands on the floor or on a block. Keep your front leg straight as slowly slide it forward as far as it will go. As your leg slides forwards, press your hands into the floor or the blocks and straighten you back to sit up tall. Once you have slid your front leg as far as you can forwards straighten your back leg. Hold the split for 30 seconds, then come out of the split for 30 seconds. Lower back into the split for another 30 seconds. Do this on each side at least once.
Don't force your body to reach the floor before you are ready. See the next step for variations that will help you get to the ground and suggestions for over-splits if you are already flat on the floor.
Step 15: Split Variations
No matter where you are in your split journey you can always make progress.
Use blocks and books for support and optimize progress.
If you need support while training your muscles to reach the floor, you can place yoga blocks or text books under your hands to provide height and support. You can also place a book or block under your front leg if you are getting close to the floor but still need support.
Once you reach the floor, you can change the split positions to provide a more thorough stretch. In open splits, your hip bones will be facing the side of your back leg. Picture three provided above depicts an open split. This will put more on the stretch in the hips. For some it is easier to reach the floor in open splits than in closed splits. If you are having trouble reaching the floor open your hips more and try practice open splits before closed splits.
Block and books for over-splits
Once you can sit comfortably in the splits for at least 30 seconds, you can start to place a block/book under your front leg, back leg, or both legs. As always move slowly and do not push a stretch past the feeling of tightness and slight discomfort. Discontinue the over-split if you feel a sharp, or sudden pain.