A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Center Split for Gymnastics

Young woman in sportswear stretching against white background
Doing a proper center spllit is an importand fundamental gymnastics move. Life-Foto / Getty Images

Learning a center split is just as important as a front split to your gymnastics. You’ll use a center split into straddle jumps, side leaps, press to handstands, stalders, flairs on pommel horse, and scales.

Here’s how to get a great center split, with stretches for all the different muscles you’ll use.

of 06

Butterfly Stretch

© 2008 Paula Tribble
  • From a seated position, touch your feet together and slowly bring your knees apart.
  • Move your heels in towards your body as much as possible, while at the same time pushing your knees gently down toward the floor.
  • Maintain good posture by keeping your back straight up and down.
  • To increase the stretch, lean your body forward as far as you can, keeping you back straight and reaching beyond your feet.
  • Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds at a time.
of 06

Pancake Stretch

© 2008 Paula Tribble
  • From a seated position, straddle your legs as wide as is comfortable.
  • Keep your legs straight and your toes pointed.
  • Lean forward as far as you can, keeping your back straight and stretching outward as much as possible.
  • Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds at a time.
of 06

Beginner Center Split: Both Knees Bent

© 2008 Paula Tribble
  • Start in a kneeling position, with your hands on the floor.
  • Move your knees out as far as possible from your body, forming a straight line from one knee to the other.
  • Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and shift your weight from your hands to your elbows.
  • Gently continue to move your knees out, moving your body as close to the ground as possible.
  • Your goal: For your hips to be completely flat, or on the ground.
  • Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds.
of 06

Beginner Center Split: One Knee Bent

© 2008 Paula Tribble

Once you feel comfortable doing the previous stretch with both legs bent, try it with only one leg bent.

  • Your body should form a straight line from the bent knee to the toe of the straight leg.
  • Point your toes – it will help you to practice good form now in your stretching.
  • Switch which leg is straight. Do each side for 30-60 seconds.
of 06

Full Center Split

© 2008 Paula Tribble

Now try the same stretch with both legs straight.

  • Be sure your body is perpendicular to your legs – you don’t want your hips to be far back or leaning forward.
  • Keep your knees straight and toes pointed.
  • Have a friend gently push on your legs to help you get closer to the ground.
  • If you’re really flexible, try an oversplit with your leg up on a mat, or even on a friend!
of 06

Sit Up in Your Split

© 2008 Paula Tribble

If you can do a full split on the ground leaning forward, it’s time to try it in a seated position. This will help you learn how to roll your hips up as you would in a straddle jump.