How to perform a split leap in gymnastics

Updated February 21, 2017

The split leap is a basic gymnastics move used in both beginning and upper levels of the sport. Judged upon style, arm position, degree of split of the legs and height, there is no room for error. With the judges taking deductions for the slightest infractions, you’ll need a good foundation to perfect stellar split leaps.

Perform your splits on the mat. If you can’t do a full split on the floor, you won’t do one in the air. Stretch until you can comfortably sit in full splits and then have a teammate pick up your front and back leg, alternately. Elite-level gymnasts often have 12-inch over splits.

Build up your leg muscles. To generate the power and lift needed to leap in the air and do the splits at the same time, your legs, especially your calves and quadriceps must be strong and flexible.

Step or run into a split leap. The forward body momentum is not as important as the momentum of your front leg. By stepping quickly or running, the leg you will extend in front is already in motion. Performing a split leap from a standing position is much more difficult.

Keep your hips squared. The biggest mistake most beginning gymnasts make is to rotate the hip of their leading leg outward to increase the split but in doing so they throw their landing off-balance. To test for square hips, do the splits on the floor and bend your back foot upwards at the knee. Your foot should stay perfectly in line with your body, if it tilts to the side; your hips are not square.

Land on your leading leg. For a soft controlled landing, touch down on the ball of your foot and step through with your other leg. Resist bending your knee too much upon landing. By turning your landing foot slightly outwards, you will control the step-out.


Use the correct gymnastics arm position during the leap. The arm opposite your leading leg will extend directly forward and your other arm will extend straight out to the side.

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