Horse stance is short for “horse-riding stance” and it’s basically a really wide squat. Here’s a follow along video I made to motivate you to limber up and hold horse stance together with me!
Why are we holding it?
- In Stretching Scientifically and Flexibility Express, Thomas Kurz uses the horse-stance as the main tool for achieving the straddle splits.
- In martial arts, they may hold it at only a fixed width, but for our purpose of getting the splits, we gradually widen the stance. (Think of it as a progression: Wide Squats that keep widening toward Middle Splits)
- By maintaining this position, you will develop both strength and flexibility in your thighs, hips and lower back. As we get more comfortable holding it at a certain width and depth, we widen the stance gradually over time.
- The best part of this “Squats to Splits” progression is that many people are familiar with the squat and this builds strength at the same time (not just passive flexibility). Weakness of the adductors is the main obstacle to doing straddle splits and the horse stance will strengthen those muscles tremendously so you could hold your entire bodyweight up in this position.
- For the month of February, I started a Horse Stance motivational month on reddit’s /r/flexibility.
Form for the horse stance:
All the good cues for squatting apply here.
- Toes point forward (or at max, 10-15 deg turn out)
- Chest up. Upright as much as possible.
- Stick ass out. (Anterior Pelvic Tilt)
- Breathing: At all stages, no matter how low, high, wide, narrow your stance, you must do calm, deep breathing with your belly.
How deep should I squat? When should I go wider?
In the beginning, don’t worry about trying to go as deep as possible. Just work on a decent horse stance, sometimes dropping lower, sometimes going higher. When you could find that you could maintain your thighs parallel to the ground comfortably, then you could slightly widen your stance and with practice, build yourself up to going deeper again.
The following is to give you choices. You don’t always have to hold the horse stance statically. You could squat for reps, do them weighted, and so on. If you don’t know what to choose, then just start with the first option below to keep things simple.
I have no horse but I must ride
- Four days a week or more, accumulate 5 mins total time in horse stance in one session.
- Suggested work to rest ratio 1 : 1.5 (e.g., 30sec hold, 45sec rest)
- If you choose to do it more often than 4x/week, great, but if you need a rest day, take it.
Am I flogging a dead horse here?
- Everyday do 2 – 3 sets of weighted horse stance squats, 10 reps per set, 2320 tempo, hold last rep deep for 10s seconds.
- Use only a light weight (10lbs/5kg)
- Afterwards, accumulate 5 mins of horse stance in one session.
- Suggested work to rest ratio 1 : 1.5.
So a horse walks into a bar…
- AM: Pre-breakfast, do 40 – 50 reps of horse stance squats, start slow and work deeper as you loosen up.
- PM: Every leg day do 3 – 5 sets of weighted horse stance squats, 10 reps per set hold last rep for 10s seconds. Use a weight that allows you go deeper in the squats, 10-20kg should be sufficient for most.
- PM: Everyday using your maximum-width horse stance accumulate 6 mins total time in horse stance in one session. Suggested work to rest ratio 1 : 1.5
Post session for all levels:
Spend 3 – 5 mins rolling your piriformis and glutes with a ball and then stretching it, DO NOT SKIP THIS.
- Get a lacrosse ball or tennis ball or foam roller and roll your ass over it like this.
- Stretch it like this.
Bonus Videos by Emmet Louis:
Emmet made these videos for the horse stance challenge as well which have great info in them
- Horse stance for side splits
- Weighted horse stance squats
- Alternating push press in horse. This is one of the genius exercises from Flexibility Express.
For this month of February, I am hosting a horse stance motivational month on reddit’s /r/flexibility. The first main post is here. If you’re a redditor, feel free to join us! Either way, I hope you enjoy your strength and flexibility gains through this deceptively simple exercise!