If you are new to dance, gymnastics, cheerleading or martial arts, take a slow and gradual approach to developing your splits, and use stretches that are appropriate for beginners. Frequent and consistent stretching that targets the relevant muscles of your upper legs helps you achieve maximum flexibility where you need it most for a front or side split. Always warm up for 10 minutes before stretching, or stretch after a rigorous workout when your muscles are already warm, supple and receptive. As a beginner, be particularly careful to use proper technique, and pull back from a stretch if you experience pain. Listen to your body, know your limits and be aware that overstretching can lead to serious injury.
Modified Hurdler's Stretch
The modified hurdler's stretch targets the hamstrings, which run along the backside of your thighs. Sit on a mat or towel with your legs extended in front of you, your knees facing upward and your feet flexed. Bend your left knee and let it drop toward the the floor as you bring the sole of your left foot to rest along your inner right thigh. Align your head with your spine, press your shoulders downward and lengthen your right leg. Engage your abdominal muscles and hinge forward slightly from your hips. When you experience tension behind your right thigh, hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, relax, then repeat the stretch three or four times before continuing on the left. For maximum benefit, keep your back long and your working knee straight throughout the exercise.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
The standing quadriceps stretch is among the most basic stretches for the muscles that run along the top of your thigh. Stand to the left of a sturdy chair and grasp the back of the chair with your right hand for support. Align your head over your hips and your hips over your feet. Bend your left leg at the knee and grasp your left ankle in your left hand. Engage your abdominal muscles and draw your ankle toward your buttocks as you gently, gradually attempt to align your left knee alongside your right knee by squeezing your inner thighs together. When you feel tension in your thigh, hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, release and repeat three to four times before continuing on the left. Breathe freely and regularly throughout the exercise, and allow the knee of your standing leg to remain slightly bent to prevent overextension. If you experience any knee pain, pull back from the stretch immediately.
To achieve greater flexibility in the groin area without tensing your back, neck and shoulders, use a standing inner thigh stretch. Stand to the left of a sturdy chair and place your right foot on the chair, aligning your right knee directly over your right ankle. Inhale, then hinge forward at the hips and round your back over your left leg as you exhale. Keeping your left knee straight, relax your upper body and allow gravity to pull you downward until you feel tension along the inner right thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, breathe in, then deepen the stretch as you exhale. Allow your pelvis to tilt backward slightly to intensify the stretch. Repeat the stretch three or four times before continuing on the left.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The kneeling hip flexor stretch is one of a variety of basic stretches that can help increase range of motion in your hip joints. Kneel on a mat or towel with your right knee on the mat and your left knee raised in front of you. Adjust the position of your left leg so the knee aligns directly over the foot, then rest your left hand on your left thigh for stability. Align your head with your spine, keep your chin level, engage your abdominal muscles and hinge forward from your hips, transferring your weight to your front leg. When you feel a stretch along your right thigh close to the hip, hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, draw back and repeat the stretch three or four times before continuing on the left.
- "Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition"; Bob Anderson, et al.; 2010
- American Council on Exercise: Modified Hurdler's Stretch
- “Stretching for Dummies”; LaReine Chabut, et al.; 2007
- American Council on Exercise: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch