While scientific research supports the notion that women are generally more flexible than men, it is a myth that performing a split is only achievable for women. With daily practice and stretching exercises designed to gradually increase the range of motion of the hip, pelvis and leg joints, most healthy men will be able to achieve a full front split in time. However, as with women, how long it takes will depend on a range of factors, including age and natural levels of flexibility.
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Warm up your muscles and ligaments to encourage greater (and safer) flexibility by performing an aerobic activity such as jogging or skipping for at least five minutes.
Starting from a standing position with both legs together, step forward with your right leg into a front lunge so that your front and back legs are bent at 90-degree angles at the knee. Your front foot should be flat on the floor, and your back knee and the top of your back foot should be resting on the floor.
Check that your hips are square and pointing forward.
Slowly slide your front foot along the floor to straighten the front leg. Transfer the weight of your front foot onto the heels so that the toes point toward the ceiling. Place one hand on either side of your front knee to support your weight.
Breathe deeply and evenly. Consciously relax the muscles throughout your whole body.
On an exhale, slowly edge your front foot forward a centimetre or two. Keep your
hips square and pointing forward.
Hold this position for 20 seconds, breathing deeply and evenly.
Continue to edge your foot forward a centimetre at a time, until you feel you have reached your maximum stretch.
Change direction and repeat steps 2 through 8 with the left leg forward.
Repeat this exercise three or four times on each leg daily, gradually bringing your pelvis closer to the ground until you achieve a front split.
Tips and warnings
- Be patient. Depending on the physiological make-up of your body and your starting level of flexibility, it may take a year or more of daily training before you are able to perform a full split. Focus on gradually increasing your flexibility rather than on being able to perform a split in the shortest amount of time possible.
- For best results, incorporate the above stretching exercises into a more extensive and varied stretching routine that targets the muscles in the hips, pelvis and legs.
- Make a conscious effort to relax while stretching. Relaxing both the muscle(s) being stretched and the surrounding muscles helps to achieve a greater stretch and increase flexibility.
- Consult with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime. The above stretches may not be suitable for everyone.
- Do not skip the warm-up stage. Aerobic activity pumps more oxygenated blood to your muscles, while the rise in body temperature increases range of motion. Attempting to stretch cold muscles increases the likelihood of cramps and injury.
- Never force a stretch, as this can cause injury. Be precise, gentle and listen to your body. It is normal to experience a little discomfort in the muscles and ligaments when performing a stretch, but sudden, sharp or severe pain could be a sign of injury. If pain occurs during a stretch, stop immediately and gently ease yourself out of the stretch.
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