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

Learning splits benefits your gymnastics routines

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

Knowing how to do a center split is just as important as learning to do a front split for use in your gymnastics routines. You will use a center split during straddle jumps, side leaps, press to handstands, stalders, flairs on the pommel horse, and scales. Here is how to get into a great center split, starting with stretches for all of the different muscles that you will use.

01
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Butterfly Stretch

2008 Paula Tribble

The butterfly stretch works your inner thighs, lower back, hips, and groin area. The process:

  • From a seated position, touch your feet together and slowly bring your knees apart.
  • Move your heels in toward 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 your back straight and reaching beyond your feet.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
02
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Pancake Stretch

Pancake Stretch

2008 Paula Tribble

The pancake stretch works your hips and lower back. It's done like this:

  • Get into a seated position on the floor. 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 to 60 seconds at a time.
03
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Beginner Center Split: Both Knees Bent

Beginner Center Split: Both Knees Bent

Paula Tribble

Next up is the beginner center split:

  • Start in a kneeling position, with your hands on the floor.
  • Move your knees out as far as possible away 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 while moving your body as close to the ground as possible. Your goal is for your hips to be completely flat or on the ground.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
04
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Beginner Center Split: One Knee Bent

Beginner Center Split: One Knee Bent

2008 Paula Tribble

When 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 even during stretching.
  • Switch which leg is straight.
  • Do each side for 30 to 60 seconds.
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Full Center Split

Full Center Split

2008 Paula Tribble

Now try the same stretch with both legs straight:

  • Keep your body perpendicular to your legs. You do not want your hips to be far back or leaning forward.
  • Keep your knees straight and toes pointed.
  • Have a friend gently push down on your legs to help you get closer to the ground.
  • If you are really flexible, try an oversplit with your leg up on a mat or even on a friend.
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Sit Up in Your Split

Sit Up in Your Split

2008 Paula Tribble

If you can do a full split on the ground leaning forward, it is 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.