Stretching to the splits
How to: Achieve the splits
The splits seems to be the ultimate marker of flexibility for many. From aspiring dancers, to practicing Yogi's or just regular folk who want to work towards a flexibility goal- achieving the splits takes commitment and dedication - just like any other practice!
Working towards your splits?
They key to reaching this level of flexibility is doing a little bit of work, often. You never want to force the muscles, or push beyond your stretching limits.
The Stretch Reflex
Your body has an array of reflexes – notably the Stretch Reflex – in place in order to protect itself and avoid injuries such as muscular tears. The Stretch Reflex works on a basis of contracting (shortening) the muscles in order to compensate for overlengthening.
In order to avoid activating this reflex, you need to slowly move in and out of stretches and ensure the muscles, ligaments and joints involved in the stretches are adequately warmed up before attempting deeper stretching or flexibility training.
Target Areas + Key Muscles
To access your splits you need to focus on two major areas of opening - lengthening in the hamstrings and openness in the hip flexors.
You will also want to increase the general flexibility and space in the lower back, gluteals and adductors to help facilitate the movement.
Breathing + Easing Into It
In order to move into the splits, you want to focus on moving slowly and breathing. By easing in and out of the stretches, SLOWLY, you enable the muscles to get adjusted to the stretch and inhibit the stretch reflex from kicking in and shortening to muscle to avoid over lengthening.
Aim to hold each stretch for a minimum of 5-8 full breaths. This will allow the body to adjust and lengthen in the posture.
The stretches should never feel painful, or too intense - if you feel like you can't breath, feel sick, or notice any sharp pain, it is best to ease back and stay in a more comfortable place until you can edge a little further next time.
Music: Phase // Jack Garratt
Forward Fold/Hamstring Stretch
Key Focus Points: Keep the weight forward towards the mid/balls of the feet, rather than back in the heels and keep the knees soft with a slight bend.
High Hip Flexor Stretch
Key Focus Points: Keep the pelvis neutral – tailbone slightly tucked under – to find a deeper stretch into the psoas.
Low Hip Flexor Stretch
Key Focus Points: Transfer the weight further forward with a deeper bend in the front knee and allow the pelvis to roll down towards the floor.
Low Lizard Pose
Key Focus Points: Wriggle the front foot slightly open to allow more space to lower down. If the elbows or forearms are available, lower to reach towards the ground.
-Add Hip Extension
Key Focus Points: If you feel comfortable in the first pose, tuck the back toes and extend the back knee to find a long line from hip to heel.
Deep Fold Hamstring Stretch
Key Focus Points: As you lift the hips up and extend the front leg, try to keep the hips square and level pointy directly to the floor.
Split Stance Hamstring Stretch
Key Focus Points: With the legs about a strides distance apart and remaining parallel, always work with the knee soft to start and slowly focus on finding extension in the front leg. Rest the hands on the thighs, shin or floor depending on your range.
-Reach hands forward to increase stretch
Key Focus Points: If you hands are reaching to ground, rock the weight forward slightly and reach the hands further in front of the legs - as you extend further, make sure you counter stretch by grounding the back heel.
Key Focus Points: Slowly ease your way down and try not to force, push or bounce. Use your hands to gently lift the pelvis up and back down to ease the muscles out and let them get adjusted to the deep stretch. If your comfortable, try adding a fold over the front leg.
Tried this flexibility guide? Let us know in the comments below or on our social channels!