Can You Exercise Your Body to Be Able to Do a Split in a Week?

If you can't do the splits now, you probably won't be able to do them next week. But what you can do in a week is start building the habits that will safely improve your flexibility and help you work your way toward that goal of doing full splits.

Everybody can make progress towards doing splits. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Tip

Not everybody is able to do the splits, whether it's due to the bony anatomy of your pelvis or the amount of diligence needed to develop the right amount of flexibility. Everybody can make progress toward this goal, though — it's just going to take you more tha n a week to get there.

How to Do the Splits

It might be tempting to think that in order to do the splits, your only option is to drop repeatedly into a split — or as far into it as you can get — and stay there, suffering, until your flexibility improves. But that's about as effective as saying that "the beatings will continue until morale improves."

Pushing your flexibility too far, too fast can actually injure you and set back your journey toward doing the splits. And even if it doesn't outright hurt you, repeatedly failing to hit a big goal can be demoralizing.

So, like most big fitness goals, learning how to do the splits is a matter of breaking that big ambition into smaller, measurable intermediate goals. Think of it as setting yourself up for success: When you're making real, measurable progress toward your goals on a regular basis, it helps inspire you to keep going and succeed even more.

As an example, here are the muscles and areas that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommends stretching as you work toward being able to do the splits:

  • Lower back
  • Glutes
  • Groin/inner thigh
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Quadriceps

Note that "Practice how to do the splits" doesn't appear on the list at all. Instead, they've broken down the flexibility you need to do the splits into all the individual components that, when taken together, give you the all-over lower body flexibility that it takes to safely do the splits.

How to Stretch Safely

The University of Utah Health Department is also explicit in its advice to start slowly and stretch your muscle groups individually — conditioning your body to improve flexibility over time instead of trying to force yourself into the splits quickly.

That parallels the established guidelines for stretching, even if you're aiming for a goal less dramatic than doing the splits. "If you feel pain, you've stretched too far," write the experts at the Mayo Clinic. Instead, you should stretch slowly to the point of mild tension in your muscles — not pain.

Once you're there, don't bounce. Instead, relax and breathe normally as you hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Then repeat the stretch another two to four times for optimal results.

Tip

How can you improve your flexibility? Through regular practice, just as you'd improve any other aspect of your physical fitness. For optimal results, the Mayo Clinic recommends stretching two to three times a week. However, there is no body of evidence to indicate that stretching more often is bad for you — and even if you're not actively working toward doing the splits, stretching still feels good and can improve your quality of life.

Always Warm Up First

Conveniently, that two to three times a week recommendation is roughly the minimum number of times you must work out to meet the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity, which recommend twice-weekly strength training and a set quota of aerobic activity. So you can simply add your stretching routine to the end of your workouts, when your muscles are already warm and limber.

If you want to stretch independently of your other workouts, you'll need to warm up before you stretch — just as you'd warm up before a cardiovascular workout or strength-training session. The rationale is basically the same: When you warm up, you're giving your body a chance to increase circulation and literally warm your muscles, making them more flexible. This increases the benefit of your time spent stretching, while also reducing your risk of injury.

Ideally, your stretching warm-up should consist of five to 10 minutes of gentle physical activity that works the muscles you're about to stretch. If you're training your lower-body flexibility to do the splits, you could walk, jog, jump on a small rebounder trampoline, go for a bike ride, dance around the house — and so on.

Stretches for the Splits

Which stretches are most beneficial when you want to work toward doing the splits? Start with the following and if, at some point, you find that you're flexible enough that they don't challenge you, consider introducing more challenging versions to encourage flexibility in the same muscle groups. You can also try the splits every couple of weeks, using photos or other measurements to track your progress over time.

Stretch 1: Lower Back

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Bring first one knee, then the other, up to your chest and hold it there.
  3. For a more intense stretch, bring both knees up to your chest at once.

Stretch 2: Glute Stretch

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, and let your right knee open out to the side.
  3. Gently draw your left leg toward your chest, bringing your right ankle, shin and knee along with you.
  4. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Stretch 3: Inner Thigh

  1. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your left knee and let your hips naturally shift to the rear as you drop your weight down and to the left, as if you were doing a single-leg squat on that side.
  3. At the same time, keep your right knee straight. This will let your body naturally move to the left and create a stretch in your right inner thigh.
  4. As you get more flexible, move your right leg farther out to the side to increase the stretch. And, of course, be sure to repeat this stretch on the other side.

Stretch 4: Hamstrings

  1. Lie flat on your back, knees bent.
  2. Straighten one leg and move it to point straight up — or as close as you can get without bending that knee.
  3. Make sure to keep both hips on the ground as you gently pull that leg toward your chest. You should feel a gentle flex in your hamstrings.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Stretch 5: Quadriceps

  1. Stand next to a wall or sturdy piece of furniture you can use for support if necessary.
  2. Stand on your left leg and bent your right knee, so you can grasp your right foot or ankle with your right hand.
  3. Keep your right knee pointing down and close to your left leg as you draw your right foot up toward your buttock on that side.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Stretch 6: Hip Flexors

  1. Stand in a split stance: left leg forward, right leg back, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend both knees slightly, dropping your weight, then tuck your pelvis forward underneath you. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right hip.
  3. For a more intense stretch, take a wider split stance (more distance between your feet) or bend your back knee a bit more, or both.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Stretch 7: Calves

  1. Stand facing a wall so that you can, if necessary, put your hands on it for support.
  2. Keep your left leg close to the wall and take a large step back with your right leg.
  3. Keep your right leg straight and press that heel to the floor as you bend your left knee, letting your weight sink until you feel a stretch in your right calf.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
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