Learn How to Do a Split: Get Started With Stretches

African American woman stretching on yoga mat
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Getting Started

Gymnast splits
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A split is one of those moves that is really easy for some people and much harder for others. But almost anyone can do a split! Even if you’re as tight as can be, though, you’ll still be able to master it if you work hard at your stretching.

A great way to get (or improve) your split is to move through a series of different stretches, from simple to advanced. If you are a beginner, you’ll probably want to master the easier stretches first before moving on to full split stretches.

Be sure to do each stretch on both sides – you’ll want a good split on both your right leg and your left leg in order to be a great gymnast.

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Both Knees Bent Stretch

  • From a kneeling position, put one foot in front of you on a mat, step, or another object about a foot or more off the ground.
  • Bend your leg to 90 degrees, and place your foot flat on the mat.
  • Keeping your hips facing the mat, move your other leg backward, bending your knee behind you, until you form a “mini-split” from knee to knee.
  • Push your hips forward as much as possible, working towards 180 degrees from knee to knee.
  • Keep your chest up and your hands on your front knee.
  • Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds at a time.

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Front Leg Straight Stretch

  • From a kneeling position, put one leg up straight in front of you onto the mat.
  • Move your body back, so only your heel is on the mat.
  • Your back leg should be at a 90-degree angle, and your hips should be “square” – they should be facing the mat, not turned one way or the other.
  • Keeping your front leg straight, lean forward as far as possible.
  • Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds at a time.

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Both Legs Straight Stretch

  • From a standing position, put one leg on the mat in front of you.
  • Keeping both legs straight and your hips square, lean forward as far as possible.
  • Your back foot should be planted on the ground, with your foot straight or turned slightly out.

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Full Split

Move to the floor and try a full split. In your split, be sure that:

  • Your hips are square with your body. Your torso should be facing straight, not to the side, even if squaring your hips means you can’t go down as far
  • Both of your legs are straight and turned slightly outward
  • Your toes are pointed
  • Your chest is up, not leaning forward


Beginner Hint: If you aren’t yet flexible enough to do a split with your hands comfortably on the floor, try your split between two objects – mats, springboards (as shown above), or even books can give you something to put your hands on. Then you’ll be able to do the stretch without leaning forward with your body.

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Square Out Your Split

To make sure your hips are square, try doing your split against a wall. Your back knee should be almost touching the wall, and your back leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle upward. Be sure that your back foot is pointing straight to the ceiling.

You can also do this stretch with a friend holding your leg and helping you to keep your foot pointing straight up.

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Oversplits

If you can already do a square split on the floor, it's time to put your foot up on a mat. This stretches your legs even further into an oversplit – or a split more than 180 degrees.

For even more of a stretch, do your split between two mats or two springboards.

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Ring Leap Stretch

Another progression for women is to work towards a ring leap. To do this, arch backwards and bring your back leg up towards your head. A friend can help you with this by pulling on your arms and supporting your leg to help you keep it in position.

Your foot should come towards your head in a straight line, not at an angle (see photo above).