Leg Stretches (Preparation for Splits)
Please Note: You may have noticed that these stretches were presented
on the Stretches page. They are repeated here since this stretch
is the proper preparation for your body prior to attempting the
Stand with the feet
double shoulder width wide, with the feet parallel to each other.
Bend forward from the hips, keep the legs straight, and let your
body hang. Let your head and neck relax. This will stretch your
back and hamstring muscles. Alternatively, you can place your hands
on the ground: this puts less weight and strain on your legs and
back. Important: Keep your knees straight, and your hips level.
Grab both ankles,
and gently pull yourself down. Keep your knees straight, and your
back as straight as you can. Relax your neck muscles, do not try
to keep your head up.
Now, reach over and
hold your left ankle, as shown in the picture on the left. Be careful
not to elevate your hip. Keep your knees straight, and your feet
parallel. Make sure to keep the hips level. Hold the position, and
feel the stretch in your leg and back. At first you may feel the
stretch in your leg, and as it loosens up, you may feel the stretch
in your back. Then, as the back loosens, you will feel your leg
again in a new way. You are stretching deeper and deeper into your
leg muscles. Release slowly, and move over and hold onto your right
ankle. Repeat the stretch for the right side.
After stretching both hamstring muscles with the above stretches,
place both hands on the floor in front of you. Important: Keep the
legs straight, and the toes pulled back towards you. Slowly release
the tension in your groin muscles and let your legs slide out to
the sides. Push from the heels. Keep the front of the feet in contact
with the floor. Note that the body weight is held up by the arms.
You can release more weight into your legs as your are able to.
DO NOT hold your breath. Go slow. It is easy to tear a muscle or
tendon in this position. Get out of the position slowly if you feel
a tear, pain or discomfort that does not feel like stretching.
After holding the above position for
a few moments (ultimately, minutes) walk your feet together into
the squat position, pictured below, to let the legs recover.
After letting the
legs recover, you can straighten the legs, place your hands on the
ground, and walk them into the splits again. You will find that
if you alternate splits with squats, you will be able to get lower
and lower into the stretch.
WARNING: Do not roll
back onto the heels, as in the pictures below. The picture on the
left shows the wrong position from the front, the picture on the
right shows the wrong position from above. The incorrect position
places undue strain on the ligaments of the knees, and you can damage
them permanently by stretching this way. Keep the feet on the ground
as in the pictures above. Also, the groin muscles are not stretched
very much in the position below. The stretch occurs more in the
hamstrings. There may be the appearance that one is lower in the
split, but it is not really the case. Also, notice that the hips
and shoulders are uneven in the picture on the right, a common mistake
that is hard to see by yourself. Ask a friend or family member to
observe you from above and behind to correct this mistake.
This picture shows the hips too far
forward in the splits, ahead of the heels. This also gives the appearance
of being lower in the split, but that is not the case.
This is the correct
position, with the hips centered over the heels, and the hips even
with each other:
Keep allowing the
legs to extend to your sides, with the feet pulled back and the
legs straight. When your groin touches the floor, you can come onto
the elbows as in the picture below. Relax your gluteal muscles (buttocks).
You may have to keep a little tension in the legs to keep the knees
If you are comfortable
in the above position, you can rest your body on the floor as demonstrated
below. In this picture, the groin, inner legs, and chest are all
touching the floor, and attention is placed on relaxing all the
tension out of the body. This is a very advanced stretch, and takes
time to perfect.
Below is a picture
of the author demonstrating a double jump front kick. The ability
to do this karate technique is made possible by the split stretch
(and lots of practice).
is possible to injure onself in any physical activity. Consult
your physician if in doubt about your physical condition
before embarking on a stretching program. The author of
howtostretch.com accepts no liability for any injuries sustained
while practicing any of the stretches described within.