Being able to safely do the middle splits is not only a great party trick, it’s also beneficial for anyone who is active in sports, yoga, dance or fitness. Having flexibility in the areas of your hips, thighs and groin can prevent injury and reduce pain in the back and legs. Opening your hips also has a calming and anxiety-relieving effect. Regular flexibility training also balances the body since most of us usually focus on strength training. The middle splits may seem impossible at first, but with time, practice and patience, you can achieve them by doing the following stretches regularly.
It is important to warm up before doing any deep stretching. Whether you jog in place or do some gently dynamic stretching, getting your circulation going before holding a static stretch will help you relax and feel less pain. Start by holding each stretch for one minute and work your way up to holding each one for five minutes.
1. Butterfly– Sit upright with your legs bent and the soles of your feet together. Pull your heels in towards you. Relax your hips allowing your knees to fall towards the floor. Hold onto your ankles as you slowly lean forward. If you are flexible enough, walk your hands out on the ground in front of you until your chest is over your feet. Rest your head on your hands if you can.
2. Half Squat– Stand with your legs turned out a little wider than shoulder width apart. Fold forward to place your hands on the ground. Bend your right knee and squat down on the right side while extending your left leg straight out to your side. Avoid rolling onto the inside edge of your right foot by pressing your right elbow against the inside of your right leg. Point your toes on the left foot. If this is too intense of a stretch, keep more of your weight on your hands as you lean forward and work your way back.
3. Frog- Get down onto all fours. Separate your knees as far as possible keeping your feet pointing back. Carefully walk your hands forward, lowering your torso to the ground. Allow your thighs to slide open and your hips to fall towards the ground without sitting back towards your heels. You may gently rock back and forth at first to loosen up your hips. Depending on how open your hips are, you will either be holding yourself up on your hands, your forearms or lying all the way down.
4. Wall Straddle– Lie down with your hips against a wall and your legs straight up against it. Start separating your legs into a wide straddle position. Keep your heels on the wall and let gravity pull your legs down. Remember to only open as wide as you need to feel minor sensation. You want to be able to hold the position for a full minute before pushing yourself further. For an extra stretch, place your hands on your inner thighs and gently press down.
5. Pancake Fold– Sit upright on the ground in a straddle position. With your legs spread as far apart as possible, reach from your lower back as you lean forward. Walk your hands on the ground for support. Your goal is to fold forward flattening out your torso like a pancake on the ground. If you are flexible enough, you can hold onto either ankle or foot with your hands and rest one side of your face on the ground.
As with all deep stretching, stretching for the middle splits is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one. Learn to sit through some discomfort as you breathe deeply and in time, you will feel and see the benefits of your perseverance.
Do you have a regular stretch routine you like to do along with your workouts?
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Photo: Crystal Chin