How to: do the front splits

By Katy Nielsen

FLEXIBILITY IS important for preventing injury and improving athleticism. While many people have the potential to do the splits, not everyone can get into a full split position, according to Sheila Markin, former professional dancer and choreographer. Ultimately, it depends on how you are built.

“Stretching every day can really help you,” Markin said. “One of the best things it does is prevent you from getting injured.”

The front split is named according to which leg is extended to the front. Most people are more flexible on one side than the other, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle to perform both front splits.

There are stretches anyone can do to improve flexibility and get closer to extending into a full split. Three such stretches are outlined here.

1) Kneeling lunge stretch

Start the stretch by kneeling on one leg while keeping your shoulders square with your hips.  Make sure your knee doesn’t extend across your toe.  Move your body forward. You will feel a stretch in your groin muscle. Place your hands on the floor to keep balanced and hold the stretch for 20

to 30 seconds.

“What I learned is you have to relax down,” Markin said. “There is a tendency to be very tense, but you have to consciously relax and let your body sink down into the position and little by little.”

2) Reverse lunge stretch

From the kneeling lunge position, move your weight to your back leg. Keep your front leg straight and try to point your toes.  Slowly lean forward and touch your head to your knee. If you can’t touch your knee, stretch as far as possible. Try to keep your back foot flat on the ground.  Again, use your hands to stabilize your body and stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

3) Start this stretch by lying on your back. Raise one leg above you and hold your thigh with both hands. You will want to slightly bend the lower leg, especially when you are doing this stretch for the first few times. To get a deeper stretch, pull your raised leg toward you and maintain the position for 20 to 30 seconds.

4) Start the stretch from a sitting position and move your left or right foot, whichever is more comfortable, in front of you. Push your weight over your hips and try to hold the position. Markin said you do not want to bounce, so if you find yourself bouncing, come out of the stretch right away. With time,  patience and practice, you will find yourself able to hold the stretches longer with greater leg extension.