How To Do the Splits For Beginners: Step-by-Step

how to do the splits

Training for the splits can take months or even years of practice. However, you only need to know a hand full of stretches to get started. This step-by-step guide for beginners will teach you everything need to know about the splits and how to do them.

Overview

  1. Stretches to prepare you for doing the splits
  2. How to do the splits for beginners
  3. How long to hold a stretch for splits
  4. Things to avoid when learning the splits

Stretches to Prepare You for the Splits

There are several variations of the splits that you can learn to do: the front splits and side splits. Learn more about the different types of splits here and which one is easier to start with.

When training for the splits, you must stretch and strengthen your hip flexors, adductors, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. Here are five simple stretches that you can do to prepare yourself for doing the splits.


How to do the Splits For Beginners – 5 Easy Stretches That You Can Do Anywhere

Make sure to always do a warm up before you stretch. Warm up by doing a light jog or yoga exercises for 5-10 minutes. This will help blood circulate through your body. When your body temperature rises, your mobility will increase making each stretch more effective and easier to do.

Performing static stretches without a warm up increases your risk of injury. It is also more difficult to do stretches properly when your body is stiff.

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Youtube Channel: Journey to Mobility

Runner’s Lunge on Knee

The Runner’s Lunge is typically the stretch you start in when preparing to do the front splits.

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Step forward with your right leg with your left leg extended behind you.
  • Lower your knee to the ground while keeping your front knee directly above your ankle. You should feel a stretch in your left hip flexor.
  • Think about driving your left hip flexor through the ground to deepen this stretch.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times on each side.

Bent Over Hamstring Stretch

Transition from the Runner’s Lunge on Knee to this hamstring stretch by straightening your front leg. This stretch also helps you get into the splits position.

  • From the Runner’s Lunge on Knee, straighten your front leg and sit back onto your back heel.
  • Keep your back flat as you reach forward.
  • Think about drawing your tummy to your thigh rather than reaching for the toe.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times on each side.

Deep Side Lunge

The side lunge is an effective exercise for strengthening your quadriceps, hips and adductor muscles, in particular the adductor longus, adductor brevis and adductor magnus (1). Strengthening these muscles will give you more control in the inner thighs to help you lower down into the splits.

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Step to the right into a side lunge with your knee directly above your ankle.
  • Place your left hand on the ground. Use your right hand to actively push your knee out. You should feel the stretch in the inner left thigh and right hip flexor.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Walk your hands to the other side and repeat 2-3 times on each side.

Pigeon Pose

The Pigeon Pose is a stretch that I would recommend doing everyday if you want to get your splits. This pose stretches the hip flexors, opens up muscles in the gluteus minimus and maximus, as well as the piriformis and psoas muscles (2). This stretch helps you practice keeping your hips square.

  • Start on all fours.
  • Bring your right knee through with your ankle resting behind the left wrist. Your front leg should be bent at a 45 to 90 degree angle, depending on your skeletal frame and level of flexibility.
  • Extend the left leg back, resting the top of the foot flat on the ground.
  • Your right ankle up should not be under the left hip. Make adjustments by scooching your left leg back more.
  • Both hips should be square or in line with each other.
  • Place your hands on the ground, lower down onto your elbows or all the way down.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times on each side.

Pigeon with Leg Hold

The Pigeon pose has many variations for all levels of flexibility. This variation is a bit more challenging. You should feel the stretch more in your hip flexors.

  • Start by doing the Pigeon pose with your right leg in front. Bend the back leg so that your toe is pointed up to the ceiling.
  • Reach back to grab the left leg with your left hand.
  • Pull the left leg towards your body as you kick back against your hand.
  • Actively push your left hip back down to the ground if you notice a lift.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times on each side.

Note that if you cannot reach the ground in any of these stretches, use yoga blocks to correct your form.

Erin Motz, a yoga instructor for over 13 years says “go for symmetry before depth, the depth will come naturally afterwards so don’t worry about going as far down as you can. Your hips should be even. You want to make sure that your hip bones are one next to the other” (1). As I learned from my own flexibility mistakes, form is key if you want to see progress even if you have to start again by using blocks.


How To Do the Front Splits

Once your body is warm and you’ve completed the stretches above you may choose to safely attempt the splits. To do so, start in a runner’s lunge with your knee on a soft surface (I like doing this on a fluffy carpet). Slowly inch your front leg forward with both hands on a yoga block for support. Lower yourself hips down as far as you can comfortably. Make sure that both hips are in line if you are working towards a true front split. Do not force yourself in the stretch if you don’t feel comfortable. Hold for 20-30 seconds as you breath and relax. Wearing socks may make it easier to slide.

When doing the front splits it’s normal to have a “good side” and a “bad side”. Although it’s easier to get the splits on your good side first, make sure you train both sides equally. I prefer doing the splits on my bad side first so that the good side feels even easier!

As a beginner, using equipment really helps. You can place books or pillows under the back thigh while you are in the splits to sit in this position. Again, yoga blocks will help you get your splits faster – use them!

Follow Along Front Splits for Beginners

How To Do the Side Splits

The side splits is commonly known as the middle splits or straddle splits. A full side split is getting your inner thighs to be flat on the floor. To get into this stretch, slowly slide your legs outwards on both sides. Use the ground to support you as you slide down into the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds while breathing. Again, wearing socks will make it much easier to slide. Use yoga blocks if you are unable to touch the ground.


How Long to Hold a Stretch For Splits

In general, you should hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat each stretch two to three times (3). Perform stretches on both legs (5-6 days a week) to see improvements in flexibility over time.


Things to Avoid when Learning How to Do the Splits For Beginners

Naturally, our brain tries to protect us from injury. If you force yourself into a stretch too quickly your muscles will resist. It’s important to get into stretches slowly so that your muscles are ready. Here are some things you should avoid when your stretch for the splits.

  • Do not force yourself into a stretch, too much or too quickly.
  • Avoid bouncing as you stretch, this causes micro tears and injures the tissues.
  • Always breathe, oxygen needs to travel to your muscles.

If you are recovering from an injury, make sure that your therapist to safely back to your desired sport.

Takeaway

Learning to do the splits will be easier for some people than it is for others. Although there are techniques to help you get your splits faster, there’s no shortcut to stretching consistently everyday.

PS – Here’s a Pinterest-friendly image if you want to save this routine!

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