How to Improve Standing Splits

The standing splits appear in dance classes and yoga classes, where they are known as Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana. These splits require you to perform a split vertically, with one foot on the floor and the other foot pointed toward the ceiling. Standing splits challenge your hamstring and hip flexor flexibility. In dance classes, instructors often use them to help dancers improve the height of their arabesques.

Do a full-body warm up with at least five minutes of cardio exercise such as jogging, jumping jacks or brisk walking. Then, do some gentle hamstring and hip flexor stretches to gain some mobility in your hamstrings before moving on to the intense standing splits. One good dynamic warm-up option is leg swings. Stand sideways to a counter top and place one hand on the counter for balance. Swing your outside leg forward and backward, gradually increasing the height of the swing. Perform 10 or 12 swings with each leg.

Perform the splits against a wall. One of the difficulties in the standing splits is that gravity does not help open your hips as it does in the normal front splits. Performing the standing splits against a wall can provide you with some leverage and can also support the back leg, making it less demanding strength-wise. Begin with your back to a wall, your heels touching the wall. Bend over and put your hands on the ground in front of you. Your hands should be about 3 feet from the wall to begin. Bend your left knee and stretch your left leg up against the wall. Walk your hands back toward your feet as you lengthen your leg farther up the wall. Keep walking your hands until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg and the front of your left leg. Breathe evenly as you hold the stretch for about one minute before switching legs.

Focus on the lines of energy. At times, focusing on the direction of the stretch can release muscles that are preventing further progress. In the standing splits, feel your supporting leg pushing into the floor while your raised leg lifts toward the ceiling. While you can keep your hands on the floor for stability, once you are comfortable in the pose, push into the floor with the supporting leg as your stability.

Perform the standing splits with a resistance band. This helps build the strength necessary to extend your leg toward the ceiling. Tie one end of your resistance band around your right ankle. Place the other end under your left foot, and stand on it. Move into your standing split, away from the wall. Lift your right leg as high as possible, against the resistance of the band. As you lift your leg, engage your abdominal muscles so your pelvis does not move and your lower back does not arch. Repeat up to 16 times with each leg.

Practice regularly. Incorporate the standing splits at the end of all of your workouts. Repeat each leg two or three times. Over time and with continued effort you will see improvement.

Items you will need

  • Resistance band

Tips

  • When you do the standing splits, keep your hips square. Both hips should be the same distance from the floor and your shoulders. Many people have a tendency to open their hips, twisting them in the direction of the raised leg.
  • In yoga, this pose is typically performed with no external rotation in the hips. Ballet dancers can turn out both legs to get closer to the line they will need for an arabesque.
  • Be realistic about your expectations. Getting a full split in the legs is difficult and requires a considerable amount of time and effort. As you work, keep a positive attitude, noting how much flexibility you’ve gained, not how much farther you have to go.

Warning

  • Do not perform this stretch if you have an injured hamstring or groin. This stretch should not be performed if you have extremely tight hamstrings. Increase the amount of flexibility in your hamstrings before moving on to this stretch. Also, this pose is not suitable for people with high blood pressure or with a lower-back injury.
 

About the Author

Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.