When I was extremely inflexible, I always wanted just being able to sit comfortably in a straddle and reach forward. I remember doing a partner stretch with a friend and having to hold onto her as support. Being in that position was very uncomfortable, I felt like my body limited and I kept wondering why I can’t get my pancake stretch. After getting my splits in 5 months, I added a few stretches for the groin area and I saw huge improvements in my pancake stretch. Here are the stretches I added to my pancake stretch routine (for beginners)!
- My Pancake Stretch Progression
- Pancake Stretch Benefits
- Stretching Tips for Inflexible People
- Pancake Stretch Routine for Beginners
My Pancake Stretch Progression
When I first started stretching, my straddle was around 90 degrees and I would be leaning back to use my hands as support. I was never able to touch my toes growing up -while standing or in a seated position. Originally, I thought it was because my back was stiff but after I started stretching my hamstrings and hips regularly, I saw huge improvements in just being able to sit cross-legged on the ground and in a straddle.
Now, I am about 1-2 inches away from the ground in the pancake stretch and with a weight on my back, I am able to touch my chest to the ground! I go into a lot more detail about my pancake progression and personal results in this post.
Pancake Stretch Benefits
Stretching helps keep your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. When we sit and stand all day, our muscles physically shorten which leads to pains in our hips and lower back . Practicing the pancake stretch helps to increase the range of motion in your hamstrings, hips, groin and lower back to allow you to move better when doing everyday activities.
Stretching Tips for Inflexible People
Here are few important points you should be aware of when starting to stretch for the pancake:
- Always focus on form before depth
- Actively stretch for 60-120 seconds (think about which muscles you are engaging and push just a little past your level of comfort)
- Focus on breathing and “sinking into” into each stretch on the exhale
- You will see improvements in flexibility the more time you spend stretching each week (once a week vs. 5 days a week)
- Take progress pictures or videos at the end of your stretch
At-Home Pancake Stretch Routine for Beginners
Do this pancake stretch routine 4 to 6 times a week after a 15-20 minute warm-up. Personally, I just added these stretches into my night splits routine to open up muscles in the groin area that I wouldn’t normally stretch.
For a beginner, you do not need to add weights. It would help to use yoga blocks for modifications. If you are more flexible, try adding some weighted exercises to strengthen your adductor muscles. This would help you hinge forward a little deeper in the stretch.
1) Garland Pose with Twist
The Garland pose with twist or yoga squat with twist is one of my favourite stretches for opening up the hips, groin and lower back. Use your elbow to actively push against the inside of your knees to open up the hips as you lift your chest up towards the ceiling.
- Squat down with a straight spine, shoulders away from your ears.
- Place one hand on the ground. Lift the other arm up towards the ceiling and look upwards. Feel your chest open up.
- With the hand on the ground, keep pressing your elbow against the inside of the knee to increase the stretch in your hips and groin area.
- Alternate sides for 30-45 seconds.
- When you are done both sides, place both hands on the ground and can open your knees outwards as you shift from side-to-side to reset your hips.
2) Forward Fold
Forward fold is a common warm-up stretch and often practiced in yoga. This stretch helps to release tension in your hamstrings, hips and calves. It is important to keep your back as flat as possible (as with most stretches), to really maximize the stretch in those muscles. You don’t want to be using your back to get you closer to the ground.
- Stand with your legs a little wider than hip-width apart.
- Bend at your hips towards the ground. Keep your back as flat as possible. If you can just reach your thighs or shins, just stay there.
- Focus on your breathing, on each exhale, reach your stomach a little close to your thigh rather than reaching for the ground. Using a mirror would help you keep your form in check here!
- Breathe and hold for 30 seconds.
3) Froggy Stretch Variations
The Froggy stretch is a basic stretch for your hips and inner thighs. What I love about this stretch is that there are so many variations that you can play around with to find all the areas that may be tight for you. I do this stretch often for both the pancake stretch and side splits.
- Start with a yoga mat or thick rug to prevent pain in your knees.
- Lay facing the ground with your knees apart at 90 degrees. Your knees should be aligned with your hips and your ankles aligned to your knees. Use your hands to hold yourself up in this position.
- Keep your core engaged and back flat. Your stomach should not be sinking down towards the ground.
- Shift your hips from side-to-side, front and back – really opening up all of the muscles in your hips.
- Actively press your knees against the ground for 45-60 seconds in the centre position.
Beginner Froggy Stretch Variations
If you have access to a yoga block or towel, you can try out the following variations for beginners. Make sure that your hips and legs remain square at 90 degrees and your core is engaged for ALL variations.
- Yoga block variation: Place a yoga block under one knee. You should feel the stretch deepen on one side. Actively press your elevated knee for 45-60 seconds and repeat with the other knee.
- Towel variation: Place a towel under one knee, slide the knee out as far as you can and then contract your muscles to pull your knee in towards your body. Repeat for 5 repetitions on both sides.
4) Straddle Leg Reach
As much as I hated stretches that involved reaching for my leg, stretches in a straddle position are amazing for achieving your pancake.
- Sit on the ground in a straddle position.
- Turn your torso so that you are facing your right leg.
- Reach forward (parallel to the ground), with a back instead of reaching for your toes. Be sure to check in the mirror to see if your back is arching. If you can grab your foot, you can gently use your foot to pull your body forward.
- Repeat for 20 repetitions on each leg.
5) Ballistic Pancake Reach
To get your pancake stretch, you need to practice actively reaching a little further each time. I usually record a video doing a ballistic pancake reach at the end of my routine to use as progress.
- Sit on the ground in a straddle position. If you is not comfortable, you may want to sit on a yoga block.
- Reach your arms forward as far as you can for your pancake. Reach for a yoga block in front of you and put it a little further each time or simply, pick a spot on the ground and reach past it.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat for 3 repetitions.
The pancake stretch a very difficult pose to achieve for people who are inflexible (myself included). This pancake stretch routine for beginners is a combination of a few of my favourite stretches for the pancake. Gaining flexibility takes time so always be kind to yourself for all of your effort and keep going!
See More of my Flexibility Progress:
- Pancake Stretch Progression
- My Front Splits Journey (5 months)
- My Side Splits Progress in 2 weeks
- Back Bending Journey (Before Pictures) – Currently working on this!
P.S. Here’s a Pinterest-friendly image if you’d like to save this routine!