Achieving a full split is effortless for some and extremely challenging for others. If you find yourself on the latter end of the spectrum, a slow, gentle approach that gradually lengthens the muscles in the quadriceps, hamstrings and hip flexors for front splits and the groin muscles for side splits will enable you to eventually achieve full splits. It's very easy to injure yourself if you force your body into the splits, so use props and be patient. Additionally, don't forget to work on the flexibility of all your body's muscle groups.
Assume a low lunge position with your back knee on a padded surface or yoga mat. Begin with both knees at 90-degree angles.
Position a yoga block on the floor either side of your body underneath your shoulders. Grasp the blocks with your hands. The blocks will help support some of your body weight so you do not put too much pressure on inflexible muscles, risking a strain. If you are just beginning to train yourself to do the splits, position the blocks vertically; if you are already advanced, you may not need the blocks at all.
Walk your front foot forward a few inches and stop. Stay here for a few deep breaths. Keep your hips facing forward. According to the Gymnastics Revolution website, the proper way to perform a front split is with the hips squared.
Continue to walk your front foot forward until you get to a point where you feel pressure, but never stretch your muscles to the point of pain. If you are on a yoga mat, place your front heel on a towel or blanket on the ground in front of your yoga mat so that you can easily slide the foot forward. You can also put on a pair of socks to create less friction between the floor and your heel, but be careful to move your front foot forward with control to prevent injury.
Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, keeping your hips pointing straight ahead. Switch sides, working into the stretch on the other side in the same gradual manner.
Socks or small towel or blanket
Always warm up before performing static stretches such as the splits. Take a brisk walk or jog for five to 10 minutes, or perform static stretches after a longer workout.
Dynamic stretches preceding static stretches can be effective for warming up the specific muscles involved in the splits. Perform repetitions of front and side leg swings, high kicks and front and side lunges.
Sit on the floor or a yoga mat. Keep your feet bare so that your heels have more traction on the ground or your mat. This will allow you to move deeper into the stretch.
Open your legs to the sides as wide as they will go. Sit up with a straight spine, keeping your shoulders aligned over your hips.
Place one hand on the ground in front of you and one hand on the ground in back of you and shift your hips forward as much as you can without overstretching your groin muscles. Keep your heels on the floor where they are.
Bring both hands back in front of you and, keeping your spine straight, begin to walk your fingertips forward as far as they will go without causing pain. Stay here for 30 seconds, then see if you can walk your fingertips forward even farther. Hold the stretch for another 30 to 60 seconds.
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Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta. She studied creative writing at the American University of Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland. She also received personal trainer certification from NASM and her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaWorks.