The splits are seen as the benchmark of flexibility and for many they mark an achievement in physical capability. But to be able to perform the splits you will need to be patient. Everyone is built differently so the amount of time it takes to be able to perform the splits will change from person to person. But everyone, presuming they have the required range of motion in the hip joints, will begin to see progress if they perform a consistent and proper stretching routine.
Problems when performing splits.
There are two types of splits. Front splits and side splits. In the front split, one leg is stretched out in front of you and the other stretched behind. With the side splits, both legs are stretched to the side.
A common problem with the side splits is hip joint pain. Usually this is because the split is being executed improperly. Tilting the pelvis forward may help this.
Knee pain is another common problem in both the side and front split. Performing a different variation of the split may relieve the pain.
The split is a passive-static stretch, meaning that you hold the position. Static stretches require warm muscles. You should never attempt a static stretch without raising your body temperature. If you go into a static stretch cold, you could cause serious injury.
The following is a list of recommended stretches to help you achieve the splits. Remember all these stretches are passive stretches and should not be attempted with cold muscles. As with all stretches, do not stretch to the point of intense pain. A stretch is more effective when you take it to a tolerable amount of discomfort. If you over stretch yourself you may find that you will pull or tear a muscle.
Knee bent stretch.
Get into a kneeling position. From there, put one foot in front of you onto a mat or step. Bend your leg 90-degrees so that your foot is flat on the mat. Keeping your hips straight, move your other leg backwards, bending your knee backwards, until you form a mini split. Push your hips forward, until you feel slight resistance, working for a 180-degree angle from knee to knee. Keep your chest straight up and your hands on your front knee.
As with all stretches, do not bounce this stretch or work beyond your pain threshold. Remember to alternate the stretch for both legs.
Front leg stretch.
Start again from the kneeling position. This time put one leg straight in front of you onto the mat or step. Move your body back until your heel is on the mat. You back leg should be at a 90-degree angle and your hips should be straight, not bent. Keeping your front leg straight, try and lean forward until you feel resistance.
Again, remember not to bounce with this stretch and alternate the stretch for both legs.
Kneeling lunge stretch.
Begin by kneeling on one leg, making sure your front knee doesn't extend over the toe. Square your hips with your back knee flat on the floor. With both hands on the floor and your shoulders straight, gently stretch forward, until you feel slight resistance. Do not bounce this stretch and hold for about 20 seconds.
Single leg stretch.
Lie on your back and raise one leg into the air. Grasp just above your ankle with both hands. Gently pull your leg towards you, keeping your lower leg slightly bent. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds and don't forget to breathe.
Straight leg stretch.
Start from a standing position. Put one leg on the mat or step in front of you. Keeping both legs and your hips straight, lean forward until you feel resistance. Do not lift your back foot; keep it flat to the ground.
Working this stretch to your mid-range of resistance is the best way to build your flexibility and strength.
The front split.
When you attempt the front split, make sure your torso is facing straight and not to the side. Your toes should be pointed and both your legs should be straight and turned slightly outward. Also make sure your chest is up and not leaning forward.
If you are not flexible enough to do the splits with your hands touching the floor, try doing the splits between two objects. Performing the splits between two mats or springboards, will give you something to put your hands on. This way, you will be able to do the stretch with the proper hip and torso position. This is a really good way for a beginner to perfect their posture.
Correcting hip position.
To make sure your hips are square, you can attempt to do a split against the wall. Your back leg should be at a 90-degree angle, with your toes pointing towards the ceiling and your back knee almost touching the wall. This will help your hips get into the proper square position.
You can also have a friend help you by holding your back leg at a 90-degree angle and helping you keep your foot pointed towards the ceiling.
Put these stretches into your daily routine and pretty soon you will start to see results. Take it slow, trust your body and stretch often. Although you want to be able to do the splits, try to enjoy the stretching. Try to focus on the stretches, relax and not dwell on the splits.