Stretching is one of the best things you can do for your physical health, and a split is a great goal to work toward. Contrary to popular belief, you’re never too old to learn how to do a split. As long as you stretch safely and don’t push yourself too hard, you can improve your flexibility and eventually master the splits.
Benefits of Stretching for the Splits
There are a wide variety of stretches you can practice as you learn to do a split, and all of them have health benefits. Here are some of the best benefits of stretching:
- Better joint health: When you stretch, you move your joints through their full range of motion, which prevents stiffness. This can help with your mobility and decrease your risk of injury when you exercise.
- Better balance: Your balance will probably improve as you learn to do the splits. Many of the stretches that help you accomplish the splits require good balance and motor control, so you’ll develop the skill over time.
- Less stress and tension: Stress reduces blood flow throughout your body, which can result in tension. Stretching promotes blood flow to your muscles, which helps you relax and loosen up. The physical relaxation can also help you fight mental or emotional stress, leaving you with a clearer and calmer mind.
How to Do the Splits
It takes most people at least a couple months to do a split. You should plan to stretch at least three or four days per week for 15 to 20 minutes per session. Before you stretch, you should always warm up your muscles. You don’t have to do an intense workout, but you should take a walk, go for a short jog, or do some jumping jacks before stretching.
A split requires flexibility in your hips and in your hamstrings. One of the best hamstring stretches is a forward fold, which you can perform by standing with your feet hip-width apart and folding your torso over your legs. Bring your chest as close to your legs as you can, and hold the position for about 20 seconds.
You can also work toward the splits with a kneeling hamstring stretch. Kneel on one knee with your other leg stretched straight out in front of you, and lower your torso over your front leg. You should hold this stretch for about 30 seconds on each side.
A runner’s lunge is a great stretch for improving your hip flexibility. To perform this stretch, begin in a lunge position with your back leg straight and your front knee bent in a 90-degree angle. Then, press your elbows to the floor and lower your hips toward the ground. As your hip flexibility improves, try to slide your back leg farther behind you.
While you learn to do the splits, it’s important to take your time and listen to your body. Don’t force yourself into the splits if you’re not ready, and don’t hold any stretches that feel painful. There’s a difference between feeling your muscles stretch and feeling them strain, and forcing yourself into the splits can cause a serious injury.
Over time, you’ll notice that you can get deeper into your stretches. Eventually, you’ll accomplish the splits. As you stretch, you should feel yourself becoming more flexible and more mobile, and your muscles and joints may start to feel better than ever.