This is a living document. It has been updated many times and will continually keep being updated. I made it to work in conjunction with the folks over at /r/flexibility since they are down to do this with me. I urge you to use this and any other splits routine such as this or this. I have a love for yoga, gymnastics and bodyweight training. For that reason, you’ll see this Splits Routine is a hodge-podge of stretches compiled from all those influences.
Recommended: Take photos (or video) of your straddle, pancake and left/right front splits so you have “before” and “after” photos. Sometimes you may think you haven’t progressed but then you see the photo and realize you have! Also, a photo of your seated pike stretch for good measure. (You know, the one where you’re sitting with your legs straight and together and trying to touch your toes? Yea that one.)
Will you be able to hit the splits in 30-90 days? I don’t know. Every body is different. Only one way to find out, right?
- The key to your success is consistency!
- Stretch every single day. Dedicate as much time as you can.
- But you must take a rest day or two or three when you need it.
- If you’re not familiar with a stretch, follow the linked videos. After a week you’ll have memorized it and fly through the routine.
- Don’t have much time? Okay, then do as much as you can. Even 30 seconds of each stretch is better than nothing.
- How badly do you want it? WHY do you want the splits? Your reason must be good enough to motivate you! (I want it because it with the added flexibility, fun moves such as the “flying pigeon” and “press to handstand” will become more easily attainable.)
This is not a competition. You’re doing this for yourself, not for anybody else. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that things happen on their own time. Nature has its own plans for when you are able to do certain things. You can’t force yourself to get there ahead of schedule, unless you want to hurt yourself and that’s the last thing we want. Pay special respect to your body. If you need a rest day or two, take it! But don’t slack off (remind yourself why you’re doing this!). The “challenge” is for motivating each other more than anything else! Anything that helps get your butt off the seat will help, and I hope this it it.
Safety First! PAIN? PANICKING? HYPERVENTILATING?
- If you are in pain, panicking, or cannot breath properly, YOU ARE TOO DEEP, raise yourself back up a little!
- If you feel you need a day off cause you’re feeling sore, or that your connective tissue needs to recover, then take a day off!
- If your knees are not feeling good from the middle splits, do the butterfly stretch instead and lean forward.
Now.. onto the Splits Routine!
1. Warm Up (5-10 minutes)
To save time, you could do this routine right after your workout cause then you’ll be warm and ready to go. But if you’re not warmed up, then go for a quick jog around the block or jump rope or anything that’ll help you get very warm or hot because it helps a lot to be warm (close your windows and let it sizzle a little).
Personally, so far I like following this sun salutations video cause it warms up many of the same things we need to stretch for the splits. It won’t be long before you memorize this sequence anyway.
2. Leg Swings (<2 minutes)
Every swing should be in control. Keep the back straight and the standing leg firm. Increase the swing as you open up more.
3. Front Splits (~10-20 minutes)
The front splits requires flexible calves, hamstrings and hip flexors. You must stretch those muscles individually first before going into the full front splits for maximum range. So here are a few of my favorite stretches that tackle those real well…
Hamstrings and Calves:
- 1 minute Standing Splits Hamstring Floss per leg (flex quads for 2-5 seconds and relax)
- If you can’t touch the ground when straightening the leg, move your hands forward
- 1 minute Classic Wall Calf Stretch
- More aggressive: Toes Elevated Forward Fold
Choose ONE appropriate for your level and hold for 1-2 minutes. If your main goal is the front splits, stretching the hip flexors need to be emphasized even more than hamstrings.
- Low Lunge
- Note: the cues in this video can be applied to high lunges as well.
- Low Lunge with foot-bind
- Couch Stretch for each leg
After you’ve stretched your hip flexors and hamstrings individually…
- Hold Front Splits for 2-4 minutes for the left leg (if you stay in the splits as long as her in the video, that’s a solid 4 minutes)
- Hold Front Splits for 2-4 minutes for the right leg (if you stay in the splits as long as her in the video, that’s a solid 4 minutes)
Tip: If your splits are really high up, put two chairs next to you to help you stay balanced. This works incredibly well. Then when you’re much lower you can use yoga blocks or just keep your arms up in the air!
4. Straddle Splits (~10 minutes)
For the straddle splits, first you want to open up the area by moving dynamically in frog pose which will open you up passively as I demonstrate in the video below. Then, you need to open up the groin and build active strength in the thighs and knees by holding horse stance.
- Go through my Dynamic Frog Pose Series and Horse Stance sets. (3 sets of 1 minute each)
- Horse stance Tip: Put a stick on your thighs and stay low enough so the stick won’t roll down.
When you can hold a 5 step horse stance (7 is preferred) with your hips below the knees, then you should start holding a straight-legged middle split. Being able to hold the horse stance prepares your knees and muscles adequately for the endeavor.
- Hold Straddle Split for 1-2 minutes total (if you are very comfortable with horse stance)
5. Pancake Splits (~2-4 minutes)
If your straddle split is very poor or nonexistent, skip pancake splits until you improve upon the straddle for now. Otherwise…
- Straddle your legs and reach forward for 2 minutes. Pancake Split for 2 minutes by trying to reach forward and push an object forward while breathing.
- Tip: Before you reach forward, Put your hand under the butt cheeks and pull it back so you sit on your seat bones and can pour forward from the hips with a flat back. If the hips stay backwards, you don’t get as good of a stretch.
- Partner: Someone can pull you forward with a flat back or you could tug on a strap/rope in front of you.
- If you have a decent, part-way pancake do this advanced Ballistic Pancake Splits Routine
6. Advanced; For those near the full splits
For the Front Splits and Straddle Splits, the goal is to be UPRIGHT with your hands NOT touching the floor so that your hips and legs can handle your entire bodyweight. If you’re in the front or middle splits and you could handle your entire bodyweight by easily balancing yourself with your hands up and your back upright but you feel you’ve reached a limit and it’s not going anywhere anymore, then hold a light weight in your hands to help drive you down further. This is probably the simplest and most effective suggestion to help you breakthrough any plateau.
Some more examples of loaded progressive stretching: