If you are involved in dance, cheerleading, gymnastics or martial arts, you know the importance of flexibility. There are two kinds of splits and both require flexibility in different sets of muscles. For front splits, you must stretch your hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings; for the side splits, you must stretch your adductors or inner thigh muscles. To increase the effectiveness of your stretching, work the muscle you are focusing on before actively stretching it. Include three stretching periods -- short, medium and long -- each separated by a brief rest. Stretch frequently throughout the week. As with all stretches, when working for the splits, be sure that you are completely warmed up and listen to your body. You should feel a gentle stretch in the targeted muscles, but you should not stretch to the point of pain. By following these suggestions, you will see definite improvements in your splits by the end of the first week.
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Warm up with 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity. Choose a form of cardio that works your quadriceps, such as bicycling or jogging.
Activate your hamstring muscles. Lay on your back with your legs straight and feet flexed. Push your heels down into the floor, so that your buttocks rise about 1/2 inch off the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Kneel on the floor and place both hands under your shoulders in front of you. Move your right foot in between your hands and shift your weight forward towards your right foot. If this position does not stretch the front of your left thigh, place both hands on your right knee and allow your weight to sink down towards the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles to hold your pelvis in proper alignment. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
Shift your weight backwards, so that your hips are above your left knee, and straighten your right leg. Move your upper body towards your right leg. Keep your back long and your right leg straight. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
Return to the previous position and hold it for 30 seconds. Straighten the right leg again and hold that stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat both stretches for 60 seconds.
Slide down into your front split, keeping your hands on either side of your body for support. Hold the split for 60 seconds. Repeat the entire process with the left leg.
Warm up with 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity.
Activate your inner thigh muscles. Lay on your back and lift your legs perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your legs straight, slowly open and close your legs, sideways, 16 times. As your perform these scissors, you can either point or flex your feet.
Find a spot by a wall. Lay on your back with your head pointing away from the wall. Scoot your bum forwards until it touches the wall. Straighten your legs along the wall. Open your legs sideways as far as they will comfortably open. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Use your hands to bring your legs back together and relax for 15 seconds. Repeat for 30 seconds and then for 60 seconds, with a 15 second break between each repetition. If you have difficulty feeling a stretch, you can use your hands to gently push your legs towards the floor.
Move away from the wall and slide into your centre split. Use your hands for support. Hold the split for 60 seconds.
Tips and warnings
- If you study ballet, practice your splits turned out and in parallel.
- As you stretch, remember to breathe and concentrate on relaxing into the stretch.
- Do not force your body into an uncomfortable position in the hopes of getting your splits faster. You will significantly increase your chance of injury.
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