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HOW TO DO A SPLIT: Step-by-Step Guide

by sorin ciovica on June 18, 2024

Have you ever been awed by the flexibility of a ballet dancer or gymnast and thought, "I can't do that?" Have you tried to do a split casually and ended up falling over or pulling a muscle? Don't worry - this incredible feat of flexibility is within reach for almost anyone who's patient enough. By following a regimen of careful stretching, you too can eventually achieve the splits. Splits are crucial in gymnastics. Let's dive into what exactly a split is, why it's an important skill, how to do a split, and how you can improve your splits!


What is a Split?

A split is any front or side body position where the legs are extended apart as far as possible in opposite directions, ideally forming a 180º angle.


Types of Splits in Gymnastics

There are three types of splits in gymnastics:

  • Right Leg Split: Your right leg is in front, and your left leg is behind you. Sit with your chest up, shoulders down, and hips square (facing forward).
  • Left Leg Split: Your left leg is in front, and your right leg is behind you. Sit with your chest up, shoulders down, and hips square (facing forward).
  • Middle Split: Both legs are out to the side. You can either lie flat with your stomach on the ground or sit up straight.


Why is a Split Important?

Having a flexible split can improve your gymnastics skills, enhancing your leaps, jumps, and any gymnastics skill where you split your legs. Learn more about how to improve your flexibility in gymnastics.


How to Do a Split

How to Do a Split: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Start on Both Knees Begin by kneeling on a mat or a comfortable surface.

Step 2: Bring One Leg Out in Front Extend your more comfortable leg (your “good leg”) out in front of you.

Step 3: Put Your Hands on the Floor Place your hands on either side of your front leg for support.

Step 4: Slide Down into Your Split Slowly slide down into your split as far as you can go without pain.

Step 5: Hold Your Split Beginners typically hold for 10 seconds, intermediate gymnasts for 30 seconds, and advanced gymnasts for 60 seconds.




Ways to Improve Your Splits

  1. Active Flexibility: Perform kicks forwards, sideways, and backwards – 10 each direction.
  2. Static Flexibility: Hold your splits regularly.
  3. Self-Massage/Foam Rolling: Foam roll your hamstrings, quads, and calves daily to increase flexibility.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles relaxed and flexible.

Split Progressions

  • Half Split: Start with a partial split until you feel slight tension.
  • 3/4 Split: Progress to a 3/4 split as you become more flexible.
  • Full Split: Aim for a full split with your legs flat on the floor. Tools like booster blocks, pillows, or straps can help support your stretches.

Tips for a Perfect Split

  • Take it Slow: Only go as far as you can without pain to avoid injury.
  • Proper Form: Ensure your bottom knee is touching the ground, your back leg is facing under, and your front knee is pointing upwards. Keep your chest up and shoulders down.
  • Practice Regularly: Consistency is key to improving your flexibility and achieving the splits.


Key Muscles Involved in a Gymnastics Split

  • Hamstrings: Crucial for straight leg positions.
  • Hip Flexors: Essential for extending the rear leg in front splits.
  • Quadriceps: Allow for deeper splits.
  • Adductors: Enable wide leg openings in side splits.
  • Glutes: Support the pelvis and help maintain balance.
  • Calves: Necessary for a pointed toe position.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Skipping Warm-Up: Always warm up to prevent muscle strain.
  • Incorrect Form: Ensure hips are square and facing forward.
  • Forcing the Stretch: Stretch to mild discomfort, not pain, to avoid injury.

Take a look at the home gymnastics equipment we love and recommend for practicing gymnastics at home. Use a soft mat or AirTrack Mat to prevent injury. 


Effective Exercises for Mastering the Split

Hamstring Stretches:

  • Seated Forward Bend: Sit with legs extended, reach for your toes.
  • Standing Forward Fold: Stand with feet together, bend forward at the hips.

Hip Flexor Stretches:

  • Lunge Stretch: Push hips forward in a lunge position.
  • Butterfly Stretch: Sit with feet together, press knees towards the floor.

Quadriceps Stretches:

  • Standing Quad Stretch: Pull foot towards buttocks while standing.
  • Lying Quad Stretch: Pull top foot towards buttocks while lying on your side.

Adductor Stretches:

  • Side Lunge: Shift weight to one side, bend knee.
  • Frog Stretch: On all fours, spread knees wide, push hips back.

Glute Stretches:

  • Pigeon Pose: From plank, bring one knee forward, extend other leg back.
  • Figure Four Stretch: Lie on back, cross one ankle over opposite knee, pull leg towards you.

Calf Stretches:

  • Downward Dog: From plank, lift hips, press heels down.
  • Wall Calf Stretch: Place hands on wall, step one foot back, press heel down.


Frequently Asked Questions About Splits

Q: What is a Split in gymnastics? A: A split is a position where the legs are stretched out to the sides forming a line with the torso, requiring flexibility and strength in the legs and hips.

Q: How can I improve my flexibility to achieve a perfect split? A: Incorporate regular stretching exercises targeting your legs, hips, and lower back. Consistent practice, patience, and proper warm-up are key.

Q: What are some tips for beginners to work towards doing a split? A: Gradually increase flexibility through stretching exercises, listen to your body, and seek guidance from a coach for proper techniques.

Q: Are there specific exercises that can help me achieve a split faster? A: Yes, exercises like lunges, hamstring stretches, butterfly stretches, and side splits can help improve flexibility.

Q: How long does it take to master the split? A: It varies based on individual flexibility, practice, and physical condition. Some may achieve a split in weeks, others may take months.

Q: How can I make my splits perfect? A: Ensure hips are square, knees pointing up, and toes pointed. Practice active flexibility drills and hold splits with good form.

Q: Can anyone do splits? A: Yes, with improved flexibility through consistent practice.

Q: Is it bad to be pushed down in a split? A: Yes, aggressive stretching can cause soft tissue tears.

Q: Which split is the hardest to achieve? A: The middle split is typically the most difficult due to the muscle groups involved.

Q: Are splits good to do when you’re older? A: Yes, splits improve joint health, flexibility, and balance, beneficial as we age.

Q: Is strength training better than flexibility training? A: Both are important; strength training supports flexibility and vice versa.